Matsumoto city in Nagano Prefecture has a population of about 240,000 and was developed as a castle town during the Edo period.
The city is easily accessible via Tokyo, Nagano, and Nagoya using the JR Pass. From Tokyo, it takes about two and a half hours via the JR Azusa train to reach Matsumoto Station. From Nagano Station, it takes about 50 minutes and from Nagoya to Matsumoto it takes two hours via the JR Shinano train.
5 Things to Do in Matsumoto City, Japan
1. Visit Matsumoto Castle
The main attraction is Matsumoto Castle. It’s one of only twelve original castles in Japan and one in five designated as a National Treasure.
Matsumoto Castle was completed in 1594 and is over 400 years old. During the Meiji Restoration in 1872, the castle was going to be demolished. But a local resident bought the castle and saved it from being destroyed.
The preserved wooden castle has 6 floors with an observation deck at the top.
The interior is an authentic experience. There are steep wooden stairs and historical artifacts including samurai armor and muskets.
Matsumoto Castle is a popular place to see cherry blossoms. There are around 300 cherry trees around the castle that bloom around mid-April.
2. Stroll the Nakamachi District
After visiting the castle, it’s nice to explore the nicely preserved shopping streets of the historic Nakamachi District. During the Edo period, this area was a prosperous merchant town with sake breweries and kimono shops. It was part of the road connecting Zenkoji Temple in Nagano to Matsumoto.
There were many fires in the 18th and 19th centuries, so the current buildings have clay walls in the Kura style with white and black patterns.
Nawate Street runs parallel to Nakamachi Street and is equally as interesting. It is a preserved stone paved street with a frog theme. Frog in Japanese is kaeru, which also means to return home, so it signifies returning home after visiting Matsumoto Castle.
3. Enjoy the Matsumoto City Museum of Art
The Matsumoto City Museum of Art was built in 2002 and features local artists, including Kusama Yayoi, who was born in Matsumoto in 1929. The museum is devoted to her works and even has an outdoor exhibit near the entrance.
4. Buy Matsumoto Temari
Matsumoto Temari are hand-made balls of woven silk yarn. It is a 200-year-old folk craft from this area and they take around four to five hours to make. While walking in Matsumoto, you’ll notice the manhole covers display images of Matsumoto Temari.
5. Try Fresh Wasabi at a Wasabi Farm
The Daio Wasabi Farm is one of the largest wasabi farms in Japan. There are walking trails between the fields and wasabi products you can try and buy, such as wasabi sausages, beer, juice, ice cream, and chocolate.
The Wasabi Farm is about 30 minutes from Matsumoto via the JR Oito Line.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!