Living in Nagano for 10 years, I have visited Matsumoto Castle many times, but Wednesday was the first time I ever took the kids. Initially, we thought we would just take them for a walk around the castle grounds, outside the moat. There we could enjoy the day’s sunny weather and let our daughters — age 5 and 2, and our son, age 1 — see the oldest extant castle in the country.
That wasn’t enough for our fave-year-old, though. She wanted to go inside and climb up to the top. “The stairs are really steep!” I told her. “Are you sure you want to climb all the way up there?” She was determined. So, in we went. All five of us! It cost ¥600 for adults and ¥300 for children, but being younger than elementary school age, our little ones got in for free.
The stairs in the castle are built at a 60 degree angle, and are located in varying spots from floor to floor. This was done to make it difficult for invaders in armor to get to the necks of the daimyo or any other important people at the top. They are a challenge for anyone to climb, and an impossibility for our 2- and 1-year olds to manage. They had to be carried, since a single step on these stairs are about chest height for these little ones. At last, something my son is NOT able to climb up on!
But they made it to the top and enjoyed the view. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that day, and not too many tourists either. Those who were there seemed more interested in the antics of our kids than in the castle they were visiting!
When it came time to head back down, we found that carrying the kids up those those stairs is easier than carrying them down. Let’s just put it this way: it is now two days after the fact and my leg muscles are still a bit sore. But it was a good trip. The kids had a great time.