Known throughout the world as fierce warriors and master swordsmen, samurai are synonymous with both Japan and Matsumoto. What is less well-known is that many of them were also skilled in gunnery, following the introduction of western style firearms to Japan in 1543. Twice a year, Matsumoto Castle hosts gunnery displays performed by a dedicated local group, in full samurai regalia. It’s a thrilling event that makes use of the castle’s historic grounds in bringing its celebrated history back to life with resounding noise, color and drama.
Introducing Matsumoto Gun Corps
Formed in 1990, Matsumoto Gun Corps was brought together under the leadership of Nishibori Taichou, who remains the leader of the group until this day. For over thirty years ago the group has continued to practice “Hojutsu” or “Way of the Gun” with their performances attracting large audiences to Matsumoto City and displays all over Japan.
The group maintains a large collection of old matchlock guns, collected by a former resident to Matsumoto who donated his collection. Made during Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868), the firearms are both functional yet ornate, reflecting the preoccupation during that era for elegant designs. Many weapons are still in working condition thanks to the dedicated Matsumoto Gun Corps, the members of which maintain, preserve and restore the firearms. Visitors who choose to enter Matsumoto Castle will see some of the matchlock weapons on display.
A Vivid Display of Samurai Formations Using Western Gunnery
Known throughout the world for their skill as swordsmen, samurai were equally adept with modern weapons including firearms at the very height of feudal Japan! During the samurai gunnery display, armed formations in full costume will reenact how the samurai utilized the weapons in warfare and the tactics they used in integrating (what was then) modern weaponry into their attacks.
For any visitor to Matsumoto, this is the definition of a must-see event! While Matsumoto Gun Corps performs all over Japan, it is their displays set against the backdrop of the historic castle that are without doubt their most impressive performances. For those who can’t make it, there is a second chance to see a similar performance at Suwa’s Takashima Castle – but take it from us, this is the event you want to see!
Stand-out From the Crowd & Meet the Samurai
During the event, the group will perform training exercises and gun-firing demonstrations. For any visitor wanting a more immersive experience, our local partners offer the chance to meet participants, handle some of the firearms yourself, try on armor, take photos and learn more about this fascinating period of Japanese history.
Matsumoto Experience offers you the chance to meet with members of the troop and put your questions directly to them – including the only British member of group! A great experience for Japanese history and military buffs and samurai fanboys and girls. If that’s you, this is one experience that is sure to leave you with some of your best memories of Japan.
Want to Experience Even More?
For the true fanboys and fangirls, you can take your experience to the next level by meeting a practicing samurai master. Led by a local guide who will first accompany you on a guided tour of the castle, before meeting the master who will instruct you in “katana” (sword) techniques and the art of combat. A truly immersive experience, this is a unique chance to feel part of Matsumoto’s celebrated samurai heritage.
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