Another one-night stop, this time to see the Matsumoto Castle, also known as the Crow Castle due to its black exterior. Built on a plain in the 16th century, it was surrounded by moats and gatehouses for protection.
April 2 – Castle at Night
When we reached Matsumoto, another town in Nagano prefecture, it was late afternoon. After checking in to our hotel, a block away, we returned to the station to buy tickets for our future trip to Miyajima. All of our credit cards, two each, were rejected. Stumped, we finally tried charging one ticket each and the charges went through. Security measures must be rejecting the purchase of multiple tickets.
While I was tempted to sign up for a massage, instead I enticed Nancy and Alana to take a taxi up to the Matsumoto Castle for night photos. It was beautiful. We virtually had the place to ourselves. With nearby streets deserted, we didn’t even try to find a cab; it took only 15 minutes to walk back. We stopped for another tasty Japanese dinner on the way, avoiding the restaurant serving horsemeat.
April 3 – Crow Castle
I had a delightful morning walk with Dori and Martyn before breakfast, taking a loop up past the castle and discovering Nawate, a street lined with shops, on our way back. Initially located between the river and the castle moat, horse carriages were not allowed; it is still vehicle-free. Later, as Nancy and I were wondering about all the frog sculptures, a shopkeeper handed us a slip of paper explaining that it’s some sort of word play on the multiple meanings of the Japanese word “kaeru” meaning buy, go home safely, or frog, depending on which characters are used.
After our walk, we met our group in the lobby and walked back up to the castle for a one-hour tour of the inside. We took off our shoes and walked in our socks across the dark, cold, smooth wood floors. We were shown a hidden third floor, not visible from the outside, that was used for storage, a closing window grate that enabled the samurai to block return fire after they used their firearms, and various display cases, mostly of weaponry. The steps up to the top floors are quite steep.
We had a few hours to wander around town. Nancy spotted a café called Sweet that turned out to be so yummy that we flagged down the rest of our travelers and let them know about it. Started about a century ago, in Seattle, this bakery has been in the same family for four generations. We had the lunch special, a half sandwich of curried chicken, another half with the best egg salad I’ve eaten away from home, a small salad, and a refreshing fruit dish with grapefruit. After that it was back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head onto our next stop.