Matsumoto-jo Castle, also known as the "Crow Castle" (karasu-jo) because of its black exterior, is one of Japan's premier historic castles. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture and is within easy reach of Tokyo by road or rail.
The keep (tenshukaku), which was completed in the late 16th century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.
Matsumoto-jo Castle is a flatland castle (hirajiro) because it is not built on a hilltop or amid rivers, but on a plain. Its complete defences would have included an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats and gatehouses.
In 1872, following the Meiji Restoration, the site, like many former daimyos' castles, was sold at auction for redevelopment. However, when news broke that the keep was going to be demolished, an influential figure from Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryuzo, along with residents from Matsumoto started a campaign to save the building. Their efforts were rewarded when the tower was acquired by the city government.
In the late Meiji-era the keep started to lean to one side. An old picture (24) clearly shows how the keep looked like then. It was because of neglect coupled with a structural defect, but a lot of people believed the story of Tada Kasuke's curse.
A local high school principal, Kobayashi Unari, decided to renovate the castle and appealed for funds. The castle underwent "the great Meiji renovation" between 1903-1913. It underwent another renovation "the great Showa renovation" in the period 1950-1955.
In 1990, the Kuromon-Ninomon (second gate of the Black Gate) and sodebei (side wall) were reconstructed. The square drum gate was reconstructed in 1999.
Matsumoto Castle was damaged in a 5.4 magnitude earthquake on June 30, 2011. The quake caused around 10 cracks in the inner wall of the main tower.
There is a plan for restoring the soto-bori(outer moat) which was reclaimed for a residential zone.