Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Caisha. Caisha Wonders, “Why do castles have moats?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Caisha!

If you could visit any time in history, which would you pick? Would you watch gladiators fight in Ancient Rome? How about painting beside Michelangelo during the Renaissance? Would you go to the future? We’d love to go back and see castles in the Middle Ages!

When most people think of castles, they imagine huge walls surrounded by moats. They see flags flying from high towers and horses running across the bridge. Many castles looked just like that! Some of them are even still standing today. However, they don’t all look like what many imagine. One unique castle is the Japanese Matsumoto Castle, also known as “Crow Castle.”

Have you seen castles in movies and TV shows? If so, you may think they were all made of stone. However, that’s not the case! Crow Castle was made mostly of plaster and wood. It‘s one of the oldest Japanese castles still standing. The building looks much different from the castles many people imagine.

Are you WONDERing where Matsumoto Castle got its nickname? Some might assume many crows call it home. However, the castle only housed people. You won’t even find crows outside the castle! Japanese crows mostly live in larger cities. Instead, Crow Castle is so nicknamed because of its resemblance to the bird. Its exterior walls are black with accents of white.

A ruler named Lord Yasunaga ordered the castle built in 1593. He wanted the castle to be black to intimidate any invading enemies. This was a common tactic among castle builders. They did a lot to protect their great structures. Most often, they built castles in places that would be hard to get to. That’s why many castles stand near mountains or bodies of water. Crow Castle was built at the center of several mountains and had three moats. It was very well protected.

Crow Castle was guarded from the inside, as well. For centuries, it was home to groups of samurai. These Japanese warriors were known for their honor and courage. They protected Matsumoto Castle as well as other Japanese castles.

Today, visitors can tour the three towers of Crow Castle. The most visited spots include a museum, a hidden floor, and an ancient shrine. This shrine was dedicated to a goddess. An old story says the goddess offered to protect the castle. In return, she asked for a monthly offering of 600 kilograms of rice. To this day, keepers of the castle bring rice to her shrine on the 26th day of each month. Many believe this has helped the castle remain standing over the centuries.

Surrounded by the city of Matsumoto, Crow Castle is one of Japan’s most popular tourist spots. It’s one of the four castles the nation has named a National Treasure. Would you like to visit Crow Castle? Is there another castle you’d like to see? Castles are still closely protected today, but many allow tourists to enter. Just be careful not to be mistaken for an invading army!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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