Last Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Matsumae Castle

Cherry Blossoms & the Frontier of Ezo

Donny Kimball
11 min readApr 22, 2023

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Found in Matsumae gun, Matsumae Castle is enveloped by cherry trees. Inside, you’ll find artifacts from the Matsumae clan as well as reference library with all sorts of historical documents from the age of the samurai.

Lately, the many spots for cherry blossoms in northern Japan’s Tohoku region have been getting more and more attention. Perhaps partially due to my incessant promotion of places like the ever-amazing Hirosaki Park, I am now seeing a lot more foreign faces joining in the cherry blossom hunt up north. Alas, while these locations may be a little more famous than they once were, there is still an excessive treasure trove of unknown allures to be uncovered. Today, we are going to take a look at just one of these hidden destinations, Matsumae Castle and surrounding area.

Haven’t heard of Matsumae before? Well, I doubt you’re alone in that regard. You see, despite being considered to be one of the top 100 spots for the cherry blossoms during the spring, Matsumae barely (if ever) pops up on the radar, at least insomuch as foreign tourists are concerned. Heck, even I only found out about Matsumae recently in 2022 when I was doing research for my article on Hakodate. Unfortunately, due to my dual role as a creator cum freelance digital marketer, I was not able to cross it off of the list during that initial outing.

Luckily, I recently had a chance to head back up to the southern tip of Hokkaido and finally make my way to Matsumae. While I had my expectations set pretty high before the outing, the former castle town really managed to blow my mind. That said, Matsumae is indeed a commitment. Due to how the connections work out, you’ll need to budget for ample travel time. Luckily though, this does afford you the chance to bundle Matsumae with some other great locations up in Tohoku and/or Hokkaido.

Before we dive into the logistics though, allow me to first quickly explain why one would want to go through all of the suffering involved in actually getting to Matsumae. Historically, this northern locale was the final outpost and node of influence that the Tokugawa shogunate had in what is now present-day Hokkaido. Back then during the Edo period (1603–1868), Japan’s largest prefecture wasn’t actually yet part of the nation. Instead, what we know as Hokkaido was actually lumped together with Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands to form what was called Ezo.

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Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media. https://donnykimball.com/