It is a good thing that Crash Aunt is such a go getter when it comes to getting out and exploring this amazing country that we are living in. I am pretty content to hang out and explore the local area, and by local area I mean my bed, my couch, and my backyard. Fortunately, she really loves doing the research and finding cool places for us to explore. To be totally honest, sometimes these places are not very exciting, and other times they are super cool.
Matsumoto Castle was definitely one of those super cool things.
The castle can be found in the city of Matsumoto which is pretty close to Nagano, where the Olympics were held in 1998 and is also on my list of places to visit. It is a pretty small city with a number of tasty restaurants, and mostly small buildings that we have come to really enjoy as we travel around Japan. The castle rises up above the rest of the city like the beacon that it was likely supposed to be with five stories for you to explore.
Even in the winter the grounds have a beautiful simplicity that is very much Japanese. You can tell that they are meticulously maintained and provide a peaceful beauty that I have not really experienced in the states. As you can see from the pictures, it is surrounded by a large moat that had a couple of swans swimming in it, and worked wonderfully as a reflection pond.
Inside the grounds of the castle our kids got to meet a ninja, a samurai, and a geisha that walk the grounds and keep it entertaining for the kids. You are not allowed to wear street shoes in the castle so you have to put on slippers before climbing the stairs and exploring. I was proud of all of my kids for climbing up the really steep stairs all the way to the top.
On each level of the castle they had plenty of signs explaining all of the different memorabilia they had there which was really nice because oftentimes it is only in Japanese. The kids loved seeing all of the cool guns and swords and a samurai suit. It was also really interesting to see how the castle had been adapted from the time when bows and arrows were used to the time when guns and rifles were utilized.
It is also crazy when you consider that the vast majority of the structure was made with wood, granted they are massively huge beams and supports, but it is still wood that kept this structure safe for so long. As I mentioned before, they even let you climb all the way to the top and look out on what the ruler of the castle would have seen. It was such an amazing experience to learn more about this fascinating culture.
This is such a unique opportunity that we have to learn about another culture, and I am glad we are taking advantage of it. At the same time, it makes me wonder what awesome experiences I was missing out on back in the states because I didn’t look hard enough. I am convinced that there are fascinating things to expose your kids to if you just look hard enough.