Springtime in Matsumoto

Springtime in Matsumoto

We did manage to have a taste of spring weather and the cherry blossoms during a recent trip to Japan. One of the ways that the Japanese celebrate the cherry blossoms is by lighting up their gardens and famous places during this time. We caught the last night of the “light-up” at Matsumoto castle, where the entire castle is surrounded by rows of cherry trees and also freshly budding weeping willows (or something like a weeping willow). Matsumoto castle is one of the 12 “original” castles in Japan and it’s quite nice. We visited inside the next day, including a climb to the top for those who are agile enough to take on the many sets of steep stairs. This is a beautiful castle which is kept in excellent shape. The location is a little unusual, in that it was not build specifically to defend a strategic position – it’s in the low lands and, as one of the last castles built, it was more for governing than war. The most notable difference this makes is the lack of high walls. The castle sits rather low, and, in fact, is barely visible across town from the 10th story of our hotel (we had to ask where it was and we could only see the very top when it was pointed out between some tall buildings). This is quite different from some of the other famous castles (Himeji, Kumamoto) that we’d been to, where the defensive position was a key consideration in the castles placement and construction. The definition of “original” also is a little oblique, since all castles have are made of materials that require regular replacement and renovation. We’ve never been able to get a clear definition of what makes a castle an original vs. a reconstruction. Whatever its provenance, though, the castle is beautiful on a cool spring night as the cherry blossoms finish off their short season.

The Castle & Moat

Through the Cherry Blossoms

Castle Reflections

Cherry Blossoms Light up the Moat

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