Matsumoto Gun Collection

Matsumoto Castle is one of the oldest remaining castles of Japan. Built in the Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period, it has stood the test of time and still remains one of Japan’s most splendid heritage sites.
It has been designated as a historic site and National Treasure of Japan since the 1930’s, and its impressive landscape offers a stunning view of the Northern Japanese Alps.

A lot of culturally significant collections are stored within the castle’s domain as well. Some examples include invaluable illustrations from the Edo period of the castle town surrounding Matsumoto Castle, the famous treasures of the Toda clan, and a ton of historical documents, photographs and blueprints of the castle.
But the one collection we will be focussing on for now, is the so-called Akahane collection.

The Akahane collection is a collection of matchlock guns and equipment donated to Matsumoto castle by Akahane Michihige, a local citizen who built this collection with his wife Kayoko over a period of more than 3 decades, before donating it all in 1991. The collection hold over 140 items, the most impressive of which are some of the matchlocks which are said to have been of significant use during the battle for Osaka Castle in 1615. This battle ended the Warring States Period and brought forth a period of long-lasting peace in feudal Japan.

z tanuki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Not a lot of this collection is available to the general public. Frequent events are organised by the Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps on site, where they use these matchlock guns to exhibit their skills. However, the display space in the castle itself is limited to the castle tower, and the website of Matsumoto castle offers a mere 17 pictures of matchlocks and equipment.

I have come into contact with this collection through a video on Youtube, uploaded by the Shogunate, a channel which focusses on Japanese history pertaining mostly to the Warring States period. Recently they had a guest speaker in their video, talking about the use of guns in feudal Japan. A fact which is often forgotten when talking about the classical ideas of what a samurai warrior is supposed to look like.

Looking into this collection, I was led to the website of Matsumoto Castle, with a short paragraph of explanation about this collection, and a handful of photos. Looking for other sources in both English and Japanese, led me to little more than travelogues of visits to the castle. Hence my suspicion that this collection has not been digitised more than some simple photographs, which is a shame.

The reason I am currently looking into this collection, is that I have chosen it as the topic for my Digital Cultural Heritage course paper. I will look into strategies of digitising this specific collection for online accessability and digital preservation. I thought it was an interesting enough collection to write a blogpost about as well.

So if you’re interested in feudal Japanese history, be sure to check out the Shogunate; and if you’re interested in this collection, add Matsumoto Castle to your bucket list. I know I have!

Thank you for reading, I hope I inspired you to check out the collection and I will see you in the next post!


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