A Steep Climb

A Steep Climb

Warriors in full battle armor running at speed – the image that comes to mind in the Musha Bashira, one of the outside passages of this ancient castle, designed to accommodate their girth with extra width and set below the floor – but suddenly they turn, confronted by an offset route and a steep set of stairs that are difficult negotiate even under ideal circumstances. Castles, even those constructed during more peaceful times, were built with both offensive and defensive positions in mind. Many early castles were built on high walls (see Kumamoto) or in locations designed to reduce the opportunity for attack. Other castles, like Matsumoto, were built in anticipation of gun warfare (with appropriate gun slots and thick walls) but were never used due to the end of civil wars at the start of the Edo period. Matsumoto’s primary defense is its moat, (which photographs beautifully in more peaceful times) as well as the de rigueur hidden floor. Inside, the halls and stairs are offset, designed to slow down intruders. Most challenging now, for the visitor, are the extremely steep stairs, especially as they are negotiated in stocking feet. Each staircase is progressively steeper until you reach the final one, which is at about a 70% angle AND has uneven steps that are of differing sizes. Today, the view from the top of the Japanese Alps and the city of Matsumoto make the climb worthwhile, even though dangerous. This castle also has a rare moon viewing room; the story goes that you can see the moon three times: once in the sky, once in the water and once in your cup of sake (six times if the sake is strong!).

Castle, Moat and Mountains

Silk Tassles and internal screens

The “Crow” up close

Some of the Easy stairs

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