Matsushiro Castle 松代城
Founder Takeda Shingen
Year 1560
Type Flatland
Condition Other Buildings
Alternate Name Kaizu-jo
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles
Location Nagano City, Nagano Pref.
Map Google Map
Access Nagano Sta.; 30 min. bus for Matsushiro.
Website Sanada Treasures Museum
Visited October 16, 2008; December 3, 2016
Visitor Info. Castle Park is open 9am-5pm; free admission. The Sanada treasures museum is 300 yen, Sanada Palace 200 yen and a ticket to both of them plus the Martial and Literary Arts museum is 500 yen | Time Required: 45 mins
Notes The castle itself is probably 3 stars. It's worth visiting for the well preserved stone walls and reconstructed gates. Including the castle town and all the samurai homes I would rate this a 5 star destination. The Yokota Residence is one of the best preserved samurai homes in Japan. The Higuchi and Maejima residences also preserve the entire layout of the samurai home including gates, storehouses and gardens. It is rare enough to have one such place much less to have several in one town. The Sanada Palace and grounds likewise are a treasure with several buildings also preserved. You could easily spend the whole day in Matsushiro. I recommend renting a bicycle and tour around to not only the samurai homes but the Chokokuji Temple, Bell Tower, school and merchant homes too. If you rent an electric bicycle or took the bus you could probably visit the Kawanakajima Battlefield as well but I doubt you'd have time for everything in Matsushiro too. Including the battlefield I spent a full day here and had to rush the museum and Sanada Palace before they closed and still did not see some of the town that I would have liked to even on my own bicycle. Matsushiro is also somewhat remote with few high buildings or significant urbanization to help it preserve the rustic Edo Period atmosphere.
History Takeda Shingen built the first castle on this site around 1560 as he battled with Uesugi Kenshin for control of the northern Shinano area. It was called Kaizu-jo and is the site of the famous Battle of Kawanakajima. After Shingen's death, lordship of the castle changed hands several times until 1622 when Sanada Nobuyuki became lord. Sanada Yukimichi, the third generation of Sanada lords, changed the name to Matsushiro Castle. The castle buildings were dismantled during the Meiji Period so there are no original structures left. The gates and walls you see today have been reconstructed faithfully using techniques and styles appropriate for the time and location.
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  • furinkazan on My Page    May 17, 2017 at 10:43 PM
    Today i went first to the Zenkôji in Nagano. Its reputation is well deserved. From there i went to the Kawanakajima battlefield. I used an Alpico 1-day ticket. For 1400¥ you may use several buses to Zenkôji from Nagano station and the bus 30, from bus stop 3, bound for Matsushiro. If you go only to Matsushiro, it isn't interesting. The one way ride is 650¥. This ticket is available at the Alpico information office, next busstop 7, Zenkôji exit of the Nagano station. After Kawanakajima i went to the castle. The busstop now is Matsushiro station. The station is still there. It gave me a strange feeling, since i got off the train there 8 years ago. The castle grounds are well preserved. There are lots of information panels. This time the weather was outstanding and i enjoyed strolling around. After that i visited the Sanada residence, which was closed for repairs 8 years ago. You can buy a multi-ticket, which give you, for 500¥, access to this building, to the Sanada treasures museum and the Bunbu school. In the Sanada residence i encountered a guide, who didn't spoke english. Nevertheless she insisted to guide me. I almost understood everything, but some times i didn't. So when a young visitor came along, the guide grabbed him as translator. His english was as good as mine japanese, but he stayed with us and together we saw some parts of the building that are off limits for visitors. Then i visited the treasure museum. Sadly you aren't allowed to take pictures, but at the end you can put an armor on for free. I went on to the Shirai yashiki, which was also closed 8 years ago. From there i went to the Bunbu school. I saw 2 men practising iaidô. I continued to the Zozan jinja and the Yamadera Jozan yashiki. Here the lady gave me a little tour of the building. She spoke a little bit english. I went on to the Yokata yashiki (200¥ fee, the others are free). From there i got at the bell tower. It was already 5pm. I didn’t went to the other yashiki. The opening hours are from 9am to 5pm. The places are well signposted. This is a great site to visit.
  • Davve    August 01, 2015 at 11:00 PM
    There is one important thing to note if you want to visit Matsushiro. The Yashiro line was discontinued and the tracks were pulled up a few years ago, so there is no longer any train that goes there. There is a bus that drops off at the old station. The clerks in the Nagano station office were very helpful when I visited last year. The castle itself is more of a small fort than a castle, but all of the other historic properties in the town make it very worth visiting.
  • Kris    February 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM
    I have been meaning to say this since last winter; I love the gates at this castle. They really are amazing reconstructions. If you go here at closing time you can see the staff close the main gates. It really does look like they are shutting up the castle for the night and the accompanying music to the creaking of the gates makes it look like something out of a movie or video game.
  • rebolforces on My Page    May 22, 2011 at 07:19 PM
    Nice ruins with good views in most directions. Amazing locals drove me around town to see the other sites, including the world war 2 tunnels that were dug to hide the royal family
  • Kris on My Page    November 14, 2010 at 11:56 PM
    A friend (Uesugi fan) and myself (Takeda fan) went to Nagano and did Zenkouji, Mastsushiro and Kawanakajima Kosenjo. We caught the bus from Nagano station – perhaps easier than the trains – though it says the last stop is Matsushiro you should get off a few stops earlier at Matsushiro Ekimae. This is the same bus you can use to get to the Kawanakajima battlefield. (Actually, I got very excited in a nerdy way because the number on the bus ticket if you get on at the Kosenjo stop is '8' and it is at Hachimanbara.... ) The castle grounds were very nice to walk around, there were hardly any people, and the view of the blue mountains in the distance was refreshing. The 100Meijo stamp was in a building to the side of the moat. I had a fantastic time; if you go here definitely go to the nearby battlefield too. I would have liked to have done the old houses as well but ran out of time.
  • Raymond    September 12, 2009 at 11:19 AM
    I visited this castle in early September along with some other castles in Nagano. This castle is a bit out of the way to visit because you have to transfer to another train line from the Shinano Line at Yashiro Station. There is a one-carriage train every hour or so. It’s a nice little castle that has been restored. Both gates are reconstructed, and it also has another small gate built into an earthen wall. There is no museum at this castle and entry is free. There are hardly any tourists which is a bonus.
  • furinkazan    August 04, 2009 at 01:54 AM
    It is a very nice site, even when it is a rainy day. The honmaru has plenty of sakura, so when i was there in last april, these gave a very beautiful sight. From there i walked to Hachimanbara(+/-4km)to see the place of the fourth battle of Kawanakajima(1561).
  • Webmaster    October 27, 2008 at 04:51 PM
    To be very specific, yes, Yamamoto Kansuke was responsible for the actual construction of the castle under Takeda's direction. In every Japanese book I have however, they give Takeda Shingen as the founder and owner so that I was I have provided as well.
  • Anonymous    October 26, 2008 at 06:13 PM
    Actually Yamamoto Kansuke, who served Takeda Shingen, built the castle. Kōsaka Danjo, another senior Takeda retainer, was its first commander.
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Nagano City, Nagano Pref.
Matsushiro Castle views
Taikomon Gate Taikomon gate
Taikomon Gate Taikomon Gate
Taikomon Gate Taikomon Gate, Koraimon
Taikomon Gate earthworks and Taikomon Gate
Earthworks Inner moat
Inner moat Uzumimon Gate
Uzumimon Gate Earthen embankment
Outer moat and Ninomaru Honmaru stone walls
Honmaru stone walls and inner moat Bridge over the Inner Moat
Ninomaru and earthen embankment Entrance to the Ninomaru
Inner Moat Ninomaru bailey
Ishibamon gate Yaguramon of the Taikomon Masugata
Walls of the Taikomon Taikomon Yagura Gate
Inui Yagura foundation Stone stairs
Stone stairs Inui Yagura foundation
View of the Kita Akazumon Gate Kita Akazmon Gate
Kita Akazmon gate Kita Akazumon Gate
Koraimon Gate of the Kita Akazumon Kita Akazumon Gate
Honmaru Stone Walls Inner moat and honmaru stone walls
Map Castle conception
Yazawa Residence Gatehouse Matsushiro Bell Tower
Chokokuji Temple. Maejima Residence front gate
Maejima Residence Yamadera Jozan's gatehouse
Baba Residence gatehouse Yokota Residence Gatehouse
Yokota Residence Yokota Residence
Garden of the Yokota Residence Inside the Yokota Residence
Map of the Yokota Residence Higuchi Residence
Nagaya house for servants Higuchi Residence
Higuchi Residence Map of the Higuchi Residence
Sanada Residence Part of the Sanada Residence
Inside the Sanada Residence Outer wall of the Sanada Residence
Typical castle town road Sanada Kageyu Residence Gate
Shirai Residence Gatehouse Oyamada Residence.