Coming to Japan I said that there were three things I wanted to do: spend some days in Tokyo, hike up Mt. Fuji and visit Matsumoto-jō. Matsumoto is a bit out of the way if you do not happen to be in Nagano Prefecture, but I recommend it for anyone visiting Japan.
So we leave Hotaka and return to Matsumoto city to seek out Matsumoto-jo. Matsumoto Castle is Japan’s oldest existing castle and stands almost exactly as it was originally built over 400 years ago.
We pass the ticket booth(¥600)at the south entrance, go through a heavy wooden gate and enter the castle grounds to get our first clear view of Matsumoto. The black and white, building stands elegantly alone surrounded by a small lake and manicured garden.
It’s only once inside Matsumoto that you realize this was a military structure. The massive wood beams and pillars, small windows, steep stairs almost perpendicular to the floor, and wide hallways so that fully-armored samurai could run around were all built as defensive measures. Anyone who has seen an epic Japanese film can appreciate why one would want to do as much as possible to keep out hordes of angry enemy samurai.