Depending on different sources and opinions, the ranking of the great castles differ. Apart from Himeji and Kumamoto castle, I personally would recommend Matsumoto Castle (松本城) as one of the “Must Visit” places if you are into castles. Located in Nagano, Matsumoto Castle earned its name as the “Crow castle” because of its elegant black built-up exteriors.
If you visit in winter, you might even see the castle grounds surrounded by snow, making it even more breathtaking. An additional plus is when you get a sunny day, which means we can capture the contrast of the blue sky along with the castle and some snow. I visited the castle in February this year hoping to capture this view but unfortunately, I wasn’t super lucky. Some snow had already melted (at least they are still some remaining) and it was nice bright sunny day. If you are lucky, you might even be able to get a picture of the samurai who is working hard to promote the place. The samurai actually posed for me with the castle as the background when I went there (I was so happy).
Most of the buses coming to Matsumoto city will stop at JR Matsumoto station. From there, you just need to walk for around 20 minutes to reach the castle. There are some signs along the way, so one should not get lost. There is also a small museum located near the entrance of the castle. Do check out the place too as your ticket fee to the castle also includes the payment to the museum too. And you can get a different view of the castle too.
I heard that Matsumoto castle can get really crowded in April because of the sakura season. However, when I went there in February, it wasn’t crowded at all. Probably because of the cold weather, there were less people visiting this area. Due to this reason, we discovered that there were not so many restaurants open as well, which is the only negative part of the trip. Anyway, if you love castles, why not pay Matsumoto castle a visit?