Famed for its 16th-century castle, Matsumoto lies at the gateway to the scenic landscapes of the Japanese Alps. Its atmospheric old town is clustered with traditional wooden shopfronts and it boasts the world’s most extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints.
Things to do in Matsumoto
One of the most magnificent of Japan’s surviving castles is that of Matsumoto, which is built on the plains rather than a hill or mountain. Explore its heavily fortified keep and iconic black exterior, then wander through the wooden interior that features openings for archers and drop stones to ward off invaders.
A short stroll from the castle takes you to the historic street of Nakamachi-dori, where old shopfronts are occupied by traditional handicraft stores and soba noodle restaurants. Admire the crisscrossed detailing on the facades and mingle with the locals over a glass of sake in the Japanese-style pubs.
Visit the Daio Wasabi Farm, which is one of the largest of its kind in Japan, where everything from wasabi ice cream to wasabi sausages is on sale. Follow the walking trails that wind between its fields and old-fashioned wooden water wheels, then pay your respects at the shrine of the farm’s protector, the ancient hero Hachimen Daio.
If you’re interested in traditional Japanese arts, visit the Japan Ukiyoe Museum where woodblock prints from the vast Sakai family collection are on display. It boasts more than 100,000 pieces collected over the last 300 years, as well as a short film detailing the art of ukiyoe.
Getting around Matsumoto
Matsumoto is 2.5 hours by train from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, with buses making the journey in around three hours. Central Matsumoto can easily be explored on foot and there are four tourist loop bus routes known as the “Town Sneakers”.