I have always dreamed of walking into a real live castle, one that has been used by actually people and not one you find at Disney. So when the opportunity came for me to not only see a Japanese castle, but to actually go inside, I couldn't wait. Of course I had my own vision of what I would find inside the castle....cold floors, sectioned off rooms, thrones, armor, and maps on tables. This was not the case and it was a wonderful surprise.
I was nervous about getting good pictures when we arrived because the fog was still resting on the water and there was a haze covering the castle. The path to the castle ran around a large moat that contained a few koi fish. By the time we reached the gate to enter the castle grounds, the fog was beginning to stir and leave it's cozy resting place. I couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief.
After entering the large wooden gate with steel fixtures, we walked through a garden with perfectly pruned bushes and flowers protected from the harsh winter weather. If you look at the picture on the right, you'll see some Christmas tree like shapes. These are not light up Christmas trees for the night, but protective coverings for the bushes and trees in that area.
After we rounded the corner, we were met with this amazing 4 story castle. One of the many things I love about Japanese structures is their attention to detail and their fine woodworking craftsmanship. Each wood pillar is perfectly spaced for efficiency and to appeal to the eye.
Before walking into the castle, we were asked to take off our shoes and store them in a baggie while we walked around inside. We were also offered inside slippers to enjoy while we toured the inner grounds. We all quickly slipped on our slippers and ventured inside. There were steep wooden stairs to climb so we ended up holding our slippers in hand most of the time.
One we entered the castle, I quickly learned that this was not going to be one of the medieval style castle you see in movies. There were no cold stone floors, sectioned off rooms, or thrones for the king/emperor to sit on. The castle was floor to ceiling wood. The whole castle, inside and out, consists of hemlock, spruce, and fir trees. It is beautiful to look at and has a fresh clean smell. The floors were completely open and empty. It is currently laid out to be a bit of a museum but there are no room dividers on each floor which I found interesting.
I do not read Japanese yet but I was able to appreciate the items on display. There were several areas where you could see the evolution of the tools they used to defend their castle and town. My boys were fascinated with the armor and primitive guns they used.
After touring the inside of the castle, it was time to hit the gift store and the yummy treats (I'll save that for another post). Then my amazingly understanding husband took the three kiddos around the grounds while I got a few more pictures to add to our collection and hopefully our walls. The beauty of Japan is everywhere but I am truly enjoying every moment of it.
I especially love the red/orange color they use for their Tori gates and bridges. It just pops on the grey and black building materials they use. Stunning!
Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture
One of Japan's many National Treasures.