Matsumae Castle




In 1849 the The Tokugawa government commanded Matsumae Takahiro to build a castle to enhance the defenses of the area. It was completed in 1854. The location of Matsumae Castle on the Southwesternmost tip of Hokkaido was a vital point for controlling the passage between Hokkaido and Honshu. At the time, the Matsumae did not have the funds to build a new castle at Mt. Hakodate, the recommended site, so they decided to fortify the home of Matsumae Takahiro at Fukuyama instead.

During the Boshin War in 1868, the remnants of the Tokugawa Government that took control of Goryokaku in Hakodate also attacked and defeated Matsumae Castle.

In 1941, the main keep was designated a National Treasure, but it burned down in a fire that spread from the town hall in 1949. It was rebuilt in 1959. Matsumae Castle is considered to be the last of the traditional Japanese castles.

Visit Notes

not personally visited. All pictures donated by Vic A.

  • main keep
  • main keep
  • Karamete Gate
  • Karamete Gate
  • Honmaru Gomon gate
  • Honmaru Gomon Gate
  • Tenjinzaka Gate
  • moat and main keep
  • Sannomaru Bailey
  • Outside the Karametemon Gate
  • Matsumae Clan Mansion reconstruction
  • Honmaru Palace Entrance
  • Map

Castle Profile
English Name Matsumae Castle
Japanese Name 松前城
Alternate Names Fukuyama-jo
Founder Matsumae Takahiro
Year Founded 1849
Castle Type Flatland
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Top 100 Castles, has Important Cultural Properties, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Main Keep Structure 3 levels, 3 stories
Year Reconstructed 1959 (concrete)
Artifacts Honmaru Gomon
Features main keep, gates, turrets, palace, water moats, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Kikonai Sta. (Esashi Line), 1.5 hr. by Hakodate bus; Hakodate Sta (Hakodate Line), 3 hr. bus
Visitor Information
Time Required
Location Matsumae, Hokkaido
Coordinates 41° 25' 47.53" N, 140° 6' 30.38" E
Loading map...
Added to Jcastle 2006
Admin Year Visited Viewer Contributed

(12 votes)
Add your comment welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.



one month ago
Score 0++
This is a difficult castle to reach. And in the end, in truth, not worth the visit. It’s nicely situated geographically right at the coastline with nice views of the seafront, and it houses a relatively small museum. Its grounds are nice if it’s cherry blossom season. Other than that, not worth the visit if you have to make special efforts to get there

Matthew WardGunshi

13 months ago
Score 0++
According to the Japanese Wiki page, the city has decided to reconstruct the main keep in wood, finishing by 2035. It's another one of those cases where the concrete main keep has deteriorated and is falling below earthquake standards. They considered whether to reinforce it or rebuild it in wood, and chose the latter.


13 months ago
Score 0++
I hope so. I remember something about that. 2035 is long enough away though for me not to hold my breath. They might yet change their minds.


76 months ago
Score 2++

y concerns that Matsumaejō would not justify the difficulty in reaching this out-of-the-way part of Hokkaidō proved completely unfounded. Matsumaejō is a small but interesting site with ishigaki (stone ramparts) and several structures and baileys. The surrounding town has a great atmosphere and the temples surrounding the castle are the oldest in Hokkaidō. A historical "theme park" called Matsumae-han Yashiki is located uphill from the castle and is also worth a visit. It's easy to spend a whole day in Matsumae. Matsumaejō is a hirayamajiro (hilltop castle). A small out of the way town in Hokkaidō, Matsumae remained a traditional picture of Japanese town life up until 1949 when a conflagration swept the town, destroying most of it, along with Matsumae Castle's donjon which was an original construction of the Edo Period, one of only a baker's dozen left after the Pacific War. The town has since rebuilt but with buildings that stylistically remind us of the town's golden age in the Mid-Edo Period. Matsumae once had a population of a few tens of thousands, but it was surpassed by Hakodate as Hokkaidō's largest settlement, and whilst Hakodate date became a busy international shipping port, Matsumae's population dwindled to 7,000. This album includes the tombs of the feudal lords of Matsumae and Kouzenji temple. The Necropolis of the Lords of Matsumae:

Mausoleums to the Daimyo of the Matsumae Clan in Hokkaido. Hokkaido has been permanently settled by Japanese since at least the early 16th century. The Matsumae were granted a fiefdom here by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590. They were put in charge with dealing with the Ainu, indigenous to Hokkaido. During the Edo Period the Matsumae were probably the most independent feudal lords in Japan. Due to the colder climate they were exempt from paying tribute through rice taxation to the Shogunate, and their distance from Edo (Tokyo) meant that they were exempt also from the alternate attendance system which required lords to travel regularly between their homelands and Edo where they would leave their families (as collateral)


88 months ago
Score 1++
The reportedly 10,000 thousand cherry trees of 250 varieties would be spectacular when in flower. They were well signed with images & history of the varieties. Unfortunately not in bloom for me. The castle itself is a small concrete reconstruction, with a small museum inside. Bus runs about every 2 hours to/from Kikonai (Bustop #1) current cost was 1250yen. There are JR & also non-jr (Isarabi) trains between Kikonai & Hakodate. Hakodate Tourism information at station can give you a schedule with which services train/bus line up for transfers. If you are willing to catch the 7:04 local Isarabi train (1150yen) from Hakodate to Kikonai (arrive 8:04) and bus (depart 9:05 from stop #1) you can be there by 10:34am. Otherwise there is 10:38 bus from Hakodate (stop #6) that will get you there at 13:39pm . (Last option to return is a bus/train combo leaving Matsue at 18:10 arriving Kikonai 19:39 & train dep. to Hakodate at 20:21 arrives Hakodate at 21:25pm)


111 months ago
Score 0++
This morning i went to this castle. From Hakodate to Kikonai with the train and then with the bus to Matsumae. For the train i have the JR-PASS and one way drive with the bus is 1250¥. The honmaru gomon and the reconstructed gates are nice but the tenshukaku being in concrete is a let down. I went to several other sites in the city. I'm certain that the place must be very beautiful with the sakura in full bloom. There are some very special specimens in the castle park.

Frank T.Gunshi

156 months ago
Score 0++
This is the only traditional Japanese castle in all of Hokkaido, but not easy to get to without private transportation. The road from Hakodate can be long and winding if there's traffic since there's no way to pass. Otherwise, the coast road is not bad. Matsumae is a nice little town, but there's not much else this far down the coast.


158 months ago
Score 0++
Kris, thanks for your comments. I also updated the link.

Anonymous user #1

158 months ago
Score 0++
By the way, the link is broken. Try Matsumae city had a very good English-language pamphlet too. I have photos of Matsumae keep, Honmaru gates, Karamete outer gate, Tenjinzaka gate and others if you would like.