Bren Coles

Written by Bren Coles

Modified & Updated: 02 Jun 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Matsumae Castle, located in the town of Matsumae in Hokkaido, Japan, is a fascinating historical landmark that draws thousands of visitors each year. This impressive castle, with its rich history and unique architecture, offers a glimpse into feudal Japan and the warrior culture that prevailed during that time.

Built in the early 17th century, Matsumae Castle is one of the few existing castles in Japan from the Edo period. It served as the stronghold of the Matsumae clan, who were entrusted with defending the northern territories of Japan. Today, the castle stands as a symbol of their power and influence.

With its commanding presence and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, Matsumae Castle is not just a historical landmark. It also serves as a reminder of the resilience and tenacity of the people who built it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Matsumae Castle, the oldest in Hokkaido, was built to defend against Ainu attacks and offers stunning cherry blossom views. It’s a symbol of resilience and legacy, showcasing feudal Japan’s history.
  • Visitors can explore Matsumae Castle’s rich history, climb its tower for panoramic views, and experience the famous cherry blossom festival. Its preservation is a collective effort, highlighting its cultural significance.
Table of Contents

Matsumae Castle is the oldest remaining castle in Hokkaido.

With its construction dating back to the early 17th century, Matsumae Castle holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving castle in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

It was built as a stronghold against Ainu attacks.

Matsumae Castle was strategically constructed by the Matsumae clan as a defense against Ainu attacks during the Edo period. The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido.

The castle was originally made of wood.

Just like many other traditional Japanese castles, Matsumae Castle was initially constructed using wood as its primary material. Over the years, it has undergone repairs and restorations to preserve its authenticity.

The castle features a unique design.

Matsumae Castle is known for its distinctive black and white color scheme. The black sections of the castle’s walls are made of wooden boards coated with lacquer, while the white sections are made of plaster.

It is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossom trees.

During spring, the castle grounds come alive with the vibrant colors of cherry blossoms. The sight of the blossoms in full bloom against the backdrop of the castle creates a picturesque scene that attracts numerous visitors.

Matsumae Castle offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Visitors who climb to the top of the castle tower are rewarded with breathtaking views of Matsumae Town and the surrounding natural landscapes, including the Sea of Japan.

The castle has a museum showcasing its history.

Inside the castle grounds, there is a museum that houses various artifacts and exhibits related to the history of Matsumae Castle and the Matsumae clan.

Matsumae Castle played a role in maintaining trade relations.

During the Edo period, Matsumae Castle served as a center for trade between the Japanese and the neighboring Ainu tribes. It played a crucial role in facilitating diplomatic and economic interactions between the two cultures.

The castle underwent major renovations in the 19th century.

In the late 1800s, Matsumae Castle underwent significant renovations, adding a second and third gate to enhance its defensive capabilities. The castle was also reinforced with stone walls during this time.

The Matsumae clan had control over the entirety of Hokkaido.

At its peak, the Matsumae clan ruled over the entire island of Hokkaido. Matsumae Castle served as their seat of power and symbol of authority.

Matsumae Castle survived a devastating fire.

In 1949, a fire broke out and destroyed a large portion of the castle. However, efforts were made to restore and rebuild the castle, resulting in the preserved structure seen today.

It is a designated National Historic Site.

Matsumae Castle has been recognized as a National Historic Site by the Japanese government, highlighting its cultural and historical significance.

The castle is open to the public.

Today, visitors can explore the castle grounds, climb to the top of the tower, and immerse themselves in the rich history and architecture of Matsumae Castle.

The surrounding Matsumae Park is a popular tourist attraction.

In addition to the castle, the surrounding Matsumae Park is known for its beautiful gardens, cherry trees, and cultural events, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

It is a symbol of resilience and legacy.

Despite facing numerous challenges throughout its history, Matsumae Castle stands as a testament to the resilience and legacy of the Matsumae clan and their enduring influence in Hokkaido.

The castle offers a glimpse into feudal Japan.

Exploring Matsumae Castle allows visitors to step back in time and gain insights into the feudal era of Japan, experiencing firsthand the architectural and cultural aspects of that period.

Matsumae Castle hosts a yearly cherry blossom festival.

Every spring, the castle becomes the focal point of the famous Matsumae Sakura Festival, attracting thousands of visitors who come to witness the breathtaking beauty of the cherry blossoms.

The castle’s preservation is a collective effort.

Maintaining and preserving Matsumae Castle is not the work of a single entity. It involves the collaboration of local government, historical societies, and dedicated volunteers who strive to protect this historical treasure.

Matsumae Castle, with its rich history, stunning architecture, and panoramic views, stands as a symbol of Hokkaido’s past and cultural heritage. The castle’s significance extends beyond its physical structure, serving as a gateway to understanding the history of the Matsumae clan and their interactions with the Ainu people.

As visitors explore the castle grounds and museum, they can delve into the past, imagining the samurais who once walked its halls and the bustling trade that took place within its walls. Matsumae Castle is a testament to the resilience and enduring legacy of the Matsumae clan, and it continues to captivate and educate visitors from around the world.


In conclusion, Matsumae Castle is a fascinating landmark that holds a rich historical significance in Japan. Its unique location, architectural design, and cultural heritage make it a must-visit destination for history buffs and travelers alike. From its role as a defensive fortress to its transformation into a beautiful cherry blossom paradise, Matsumae Castle offers visitors a glimpse into Japan’s feudal past.As you explore the castle grounds, you’ll be captivated by the well-preserved structures, picturesque gardens, and the panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Whether you’re interested in Japanese history, architecture, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Matsumae Castle has something for everyone.So, if you’re planning a trip to Japan, make sure to include Matsumae Castle in your itinerary. Immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty and discover the intriguing facts that make this landmark truly unique. Your visit to Matsumae Castle will be a journey back in time and an experience you’ll never forget.


Q: When was Matsumae Castle built?

A: Matsumae Castle was built in 1606 by the Matsumae clan, who ruled the Matsumae Domain in Hokkaido, Japan.

Q: What is the significance of Matsumae Castle?

A: Matsumae Castle played a crucial role as a defensive fortress during the Edo period and served as the political and economic center of the Matsumae Domain.

Q: Can I visit the interior of Matsumae Castle?

A: Unfortunately, the interior of Matsumae Castle is not accessible to the public. However, visitors can explore the castle grounds, including the surrounding park and gardens.

Q: When is the best time to visit Matsumae Castle?

A: The best time to visit Matsumae Castle is during the cherry blossom season, which typically occurs in late April to early May. The castle’s gardens are adorned with beautiful cherry blossoms, creating a picturesque and magical atmosphere.

Q: Are there any events or festivals held at Matsumae Castle?

A: Yes, there are several events and festivals held at Matsumae Castle throughout the year, including the Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival in late April and the Matsumae Castle Festival in early September. These events showcase traditional performances, local food stalls, and cultural demonstrations.

Q: Is there an entrance fee to visit Matsumae Castle?

A: No, there is no entrance fee to visit Matsumae Castle or its surrounding park. Visitors can enjoy the beauty and historical significance of the castle grounds free of charge.

Matsumae Castle's intriguing history and stunning architecture make it a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese culture. If you enjoyed learning about this fascinating landmark, why not explore other captivating sites? Discover the grandeur of Japanese castles like Himeji, uncover surprising facts about Hokkaido's unique landscape, or take a virtual journey to Italy's historic Leaning Tower of Pisa. Each destination holds its own set of wonders waiting to be unveiled, so embark on your next adventure and let curiosity be your guide!

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