Matsumae is the only castle town in Hokkaido and, for the 400 years after the founding of the Matsumae Clan, prospered as the center of politics, economy and culture in Hokkaido. Things came to an end in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 though and ruins all over the town are all that is left to remind of the past. Nowadays, the main Matsumae Park and its 10,000 cherry trees of 250 varieties are the most famous local attraction.
Matsumae Castle as was was built in 1854 and is the northernmost castle in the Japanese style. A reconstructed castle tower is now used as a museum and displays various historical items including a Matsumae Byobu Screen depicting Matsumae town as it used to look and a document about the clan’s vessels.
The Matsumae Clan Residence is another, outdoor museum representing the mid-19th century version of the town and contains 14 buildings including the Tokugawa governmental office and a shipping agency equipped with humanoid dolls.