Matsumoto: A Special City in Japan

Traveling can be a form of de-stressing and relaxation. After working for hours every single day, it can get quite boring and mundane over time. Not only that but the stress that one gets from work and also from other sources can pile up after a certain time. While sleeping and exercise can be a way in order to reduce the amount of stress that one has, they may sometimes not be enough for a person to fully recover and energize. Hence, a lot of people reward themselves and opt to travel once in a while to refresh the mind and the senses. While some people may opt to travel to European countries, there are also others who wish to explore nations in Asia. This is because different parts of Asia have their own culture and heritage to share to the world.

One of the most visited countries in Asia is Japan. Some tourists prefer to tour the Land of the Sun due to its rich culture and heritage. Others like how unique and extraordinary the Japanese people are, with the otaku and Harajuku craze. Mostly though, people travel to Japan to see the magnificent views that the country has to offer. Japan is composed of several cities that offer distinct experiences and among them is the city of Matsumoto.

A Matsumoto Guide: Map and Weather

Located in the region of Chūbu, Matsumoto is the second biggest city in the center part of Nagano Prefecture with a population of approximately 241,102 people based on a survey dated 1st of October in the year 2016. The total area of the city is 978.47 km2 or 377.79 mi2 with a population density of 246 persons for every square kilometer. Surrounded by mountains, the city of Matsumoto is famous for its beautiful and magnificent views. It is 124 kilometers away from central Tokyo but is still accessible for tourists by train and bus.

Looking at a map, Matsumoto is almost at the exact center of Japan. The mayor that supervises the city is Akira Sugenoya. As for the climate in Matsumoto, it has both hot summers and cold winters. There is much precipitation with a hotter Realfeel temperature during the summer months while it is much drier during winter. Considered as the third sunniest city in the country, the summer season is longer than the winter season in Matsumoto. Snow may fall in the city area on certain days during winter, but this is not frequent.

Although the city is usually sunny, there is still rainy season though this only lasts for about a month from mid-June to mid-July. For tourists who are unfamiliar with the place, there are tourist information centers in the city that would be more than willing to guide visitors, with one located on the 3rd floor of the JR Matsumoto Station building just in front of the ticket gate. It is open from 9 am to 5:45 pm though they are closed from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.

Things to Do in Matsumoto: Points of Interest, Alps, and Hotels

There are various places in the city of Matsumoto that are popular and for the right reasons. Probably the number one most famous and most visited place in the city is the Matsumoto Castle or the Matsumotojō in Japanese. It is among the “most complete” castles in the country and is considered as one of the most beautiful as well. Considered a “hirajiro,” it is a castle constructed on plains instead of on a hill or on a mountain like the way other castles were built. Another feature of this castle is it houses a secondary donjon and a turret as well that connects to the main keep. Just looking at the castle itself, the structure gives off that grandiose vibe to it.

Both the main castle keep and the secondary donjon were constructed from the year 1592 to the year 1614. Because it was not yet entirely peaceful at the time, these structures were well-fortified to keep away the enemies. When military threats had finally stopped in the year 1635, a third turret and another for moon-viewing were built in addition to the existing structures in the castle. The interior of the castle also offers that authentic feel as it is made of wood, unlike other castles that were reconstructed using ferroconcrete. Additional features of the Matsumoto Castle are the steep wooden stairs, openings for archers to shoot arrows at enemies, openings to drop stones should there be any invaders, and an observation deck at the topmost floor of the main keep where visitors can have a scenic view of the surrounding city.

Matsumoto Castle is most popular during the spring season when cherry blossoms bloom. Strolling around the castle grounds and the park is most romantic when accompanied by the blooming cherry blossoms. On top of that, several somei yoshino cherry trees along the outer castle moat also add to that relaxing and romantic feel when they bloom in mid-April. Admission to the castle is only 610 yen. Just a 10-minute walk from the castle is the Nakamichi District, where preserved, old buildings stand. Some of these buildings serve as small shops, restaurants, or ryokans, where visitors can have a nice respite.

Another tourist destination is the Daio Wasabi Farm or the Daiō Wasabi Nōjō in Japanese. Located in rural Azumino City, which is quite near to Matsumoto, the Daio Wasabi Farm is among the biggest wasabi farms in the country. Because wasabi cultivation is only possible under primeval conditions, the fields are shielded from the harsh rays of the sun by black tarp sheets during the summer season starting from May to October. There are walking trails for visitors wherein they can view the old-fashioned, wooden water wheels just beside the river. Short tours on inflatable boats are also available for a period of time. Products related to wasabi like fresh wasabi, wasabi paste, wasabi soba noodles, and wasabi juice to name a few can also be bought from shops inside the farm.

If art is what one is looking for, then head on to the Japan Ukiyoe Museum or the Nihon Ukiyoe Hakubutsukan in Japanese. Based on the name itself, the museum showcases the huge collection of ukiyoe or woodblock prints of the Sakai family. Sakai Yoshiaki, one of the richest merchants during his time, began collecting ukiyoe among other art pieces almost 300 years ago. Through the years, his descendants continued his legacy and developed his collection. It has now grown to more than 100,000 pieces, which has made it among the biggest private art collections in the world.

Matsumoto is also quite popular for another reason, which is the Northern Japan Alps. Tourists from all over the world flock to Matsumoto in order to visit the three main destinations that the area has to offer, namely, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kamikochi, and Mount Norikuradake. For the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the main attractions are the Tateyama Mountain Range, which has glorious scenery; Murodo, which is the highest point along the route; and the Kurobe Dam, which is the tallest dam in the country. In addition, alpine flowers are in full bloom during the summer and autumn season, along with the vivid autumn leaves that accentuate the overall view. There are also hiking and walking trails for those who would like a bit of exercise.

For Kamikochi, the main attractions are the Kappabashi or the Kappa Bridge, the Taisho Pond, the Tashiro Pond, the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel, the Weston Monument, the Takezawa Marsh, and the Myojin Pond. The place gets particularly busy during the summer holidays, which usually starts from mid-July to August. Hence, it is suggested that one visit the place before July, probably in March or April. As for Norikuradake, the top attractions in the area include the Shirahone Onsen, which is a hot spring town that is famous for its milky water; the Norikura Kogen, which is a magnificent highland located at the base of Norikuradake; and Mount Norikuradake, which is among the tallest peaks in the Northern Alps.

Because of the many tourist destinations in Matsumoto, there is a multitude of hotels all over the city. It is recommended to book accommodations early especially when there are upcoming events such as the Saito Kinen Festival or the Cherry Blossom season. Among the most well-known hotels in the area is the Richmond Hotel, located in the center of the city. Other options include Buena Vista, Kagetsu, Tokyu REI, Toyoko Inn, and Ikedaya.

Other Things Matsumoto-Related: A Forest and A Drugstore

While Matsumoto is technically a city in Japan, there are also other well-known things that are named Matsumoto and may come up when researching about the city online. One is a forest known as Aokigahara. Also known as the Suicide Forest or the Sea of Trees, Aokigahara was made popular due to the novel entitled “Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees)” written by Seichō Matsumoto in the year 1960. The place is popular for being the suicide site in the country. A huge amount of people had already committed suicide in the forest. This has led to Japanese officials putting a sign in the area encouraging locals to seek help instead of taking their own lives.

Another thing that is Matsumoto-related is the largest drugstore chain in the country known as Matsumoto Kiyoshi. The drugstore chain offers not just medicine of great quality but also beauty products. These items were sourced both locally and internationally. Women usually drop by the store to check out cosmetics and other related skincare and beauty items.

Matsumoto is definitely a ringer in Japan. Whether it is the city, the forest, or even just the drugstore, the visit would definitely be worthwhile as there is a plethora of products and services being offered. There are a lot of things that can be done and experiences to attain in Matsumoto. Checking them all out upon visiting Japan would most certainly be worth the trip, the time, and the effort.