Matsumoto Castle
Japan
Matsumoto's black "Crow Castle",  was built in 1595 and is
one of four castles still in their original condition that have
been designated as National Treasures of Japan.  We will see
two of the others, Himeji and Hikone Castles.
Japanese castles, built of wood and plaster, are the nation's
finest works of public art, in my opinion.  Matsumoto first  
hooked me on the castles when I saw it back in 1984.
The castle is entered by crossing the red bridge, paying a fee,
and taking off your shoes.  It has a very spartan interior,
which is typical.  With wooden castles, the Japanese theory
was that, even in battle, fire would not be used, since an
attacker's objective must be to capture the intact castle as a
prize.  During real warfare, many of the castles were often
torched, and we will see several modern replicas.       
Matsumoto Castle was extremely lucky, escaping both World
War II bombing, and the earlier destruction of castles by the
Japanese themselves, as a revolt against symbols of feudalism.
Built very low and close to its moat, this distinctive black
castle can be reached by train from Tokyo.
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the
Intrepid Berkeley Explorer's free streaming video of this trip,
"Castles of the Rising Sun", by clicking on:
http://www.adventurepics.com/IBE/video1.aspx?
VF=RisingSun.wmv