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  • Writer's pictureMatt Okuhara

Takashima Castle

The first display of 2022 was at Takashima Castle on the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.

Takashima Castle was once a significant fortress in the Suwa Province of feudal Japan with a unique history. Sometimes referred to as ‘the floating castle’ it was demolished during the Meiji Restoration. Among other reasons, the new government wanted army bases to replace the old samurai fortification and did not want potential outposts for rebels and those keen to return to the samurai system.

However, the once enclosed fortress and walls soon became the cultural centre of Meiji era Suwa City. This resort town still has many onsen and festivals that proudly display its heritage as a place to relax and enjoy the Japanese way of life.

For generations the wide open spaces and well maintained public parks remained; whilst the city developed around the castle.

The Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps regularly take part in events at Takashima. Every year an event is held in the castle grounds, that celebrates the history of the city and the cultural significance of the lake and nearby shrines.

The team had to travel to the castle and meet up in the adjacent cultural centre. Here we could prepare our armour and ready the powder for the guns.

Once we were ready, we deployed into the display area: a wide open space and stage that sits in the presence of the castle. Interestingly the opening shot of the display was fired by a gun from the Suwa clan. This firearm was also used in the Battle of the Wada Valley in 1864. We know this because one of our gunners has a significant connection not only to the Suwa Clan but also the city in general.

This shot was followed by the ashigaru and samurai gunners firing in different sequences and completed with some rotating fire.

A short but very enjoyable exhibition of matchlock samurai in action. Click here to see the full demonstration.

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