Matsumoto was developing as a thriving center of trade in addition to being an administrative town. According to a book of travelog published in 1844, it was said in 1830 that one thousand pack loads on horseback came in and went out from Matsumoto everyday. Celebrating such prosperity, the traditional festival for the ichigami, a deity of the marketplace, was more actively held each January 11 in the Honmachi district of the town. As this deity, Ebisu by name, was the protectorate of business, throngs of people came to see this festival from everywhere.
This picture scroll, some details of which are shown here, was done in 1834 by an artist from Edo, Ran Shinsai, and depicts the spectacle of a line of worshippers carrying the mikoshi, or portable shrine, of the ichigami from its sanctuary of the Fukashi Shrine in Miyamura district (at the top) to the temporary shrine in the Honmachi district (at the bottom) on the day before the festival.
In 1869, as the result of the Meiji Restoration, the Lord of Matsumoto Castle, Toda Mitsuhisa, turned his authority over his land and people to the Imperial Court, and his position was changed from daimyo- to governor of Matsumoto. Then in 1871, Toda resigned as governor of the domain, and left Matsumoto to live in Tokyo.
Matsumoto Castle, was placed under the jurisdiction of the newly formed national government in Tokyo, and the donjon complex, the First Circle and most of the Second Circle (the southern and western portions) became a national possession. Various structures of the outer circles including keeps, gates and walls, were destroyed, and the donjon complex was sold. As can be seen from a local samurai record (photo on lower right), the demolition of gates and walls was carried out in the very short period between November and December of 1871.
The systematic construction work of Matsumoto Castle and the surrounding castle town took place from the end of the 16th century until the beginning of the 17th century．This map reconstructs the conditions of the castle and the castle town depicted by an anonymous artist with an inaccurate scale on a modern city map of Matsumoto as of 1992．The information available from the former is given in color and in bold letters.
The central area surrounded by moats, stone walls and earthenworks represents the enclosure of the castle, divided into three circles: Honmaru, Ni-no-maru and San-no-maru, extending in this order from the innermost portion. The Second and Third Circles were reserved for important samurai officals, while lower raking samurai including footmen lived outside the enclosure, that is, a part of the castle town. The castle town was composed of these samurai, the townsmen and religious institions.
Here is an imaginary bird's-eye view of the entire castle enclosure from around 1725. On the lower left, was the magnificent front gate called Otemon with a square-shaped courtyard and a second gate. The First Circle and the Second Circle were located behind, where the towering donjon complex, three palaces, a garden and various storehouses can be see.
The Third Circle was the residence quarter of about ninety important samurai and was surrounded by the Sobori moat, all-encompassing and extending for 2.2 kilometers. In the foreground of the front gate, there was a bridge covered with hardpacked earth which traversed the moat. There were four entrances, set up at the fringe of the Third Circle, each bearing umadashi (horse stand), in order to ensure a strict defense of the enclosure.
The First Circle (Honmaru) and Second Circle (Ni-no-maru) of Matsumoto castle were important enclosures containing not only the Main Donjon complex but also the palaces, which included the residence of the Lord of Matsumoto and his government headquarters. The First Circle contained the Main Donjon and four connected buildings. The front gate of this enclosure was another dubble-gated square-shaped one called Kuromon, or Black Gate, located at the southeast.
A portion of the stone wall extending to the west, protruded a bit toward the south to enable archers to shoot from the flank at enemies attacking the Black Gate.
The U-shaped Second Circle encompassed the First Circle beyond the moat. Within the enclosure of the Second Circle were Ni-no-maru Palace on the east side, Kosanji Palace and storehouses on the south side, with a long rice granary and small gunpowder storehouses on the west side. The front gate to this enclosure was a third double-gated square with Taiko-mon, or Drum Tower Gate, facing to the east side.
Matsumoto Castle was built on a flat region abundant in springs. The main structures of defense consisted of the moats and ramparts which completely surrounded the First, Second and Third Circles of the castle. The surface of these moats filled with water occupied a total area of 140,000 square meters, though at present it is reduced to 30,000.
Initially all ramparts constructed at the inner side of moats were made of earth, but those ramparts of the First Circle and those close to the gates of other circles were later replaced with stone walls.
The inner moat at the foot of the donjon, which for the most part retains its original shape, has a width of 58 meters at the widest place, and a depth of 3.2 meters at the deepest point.