During our latest holiday in Japan, we visited Matsumoto. Matsumoto is in Nagano Prefecture and it is mostly famous for Matusmoto-jo, one of Japan’s most beautiful original castles. The city is also a good base for trips into the Japanese Alps.
The castle is really picturesque and it makes for great pictures!
The area around the station is very modern.
But the area around the castle, in the centre, is really nice and it has a traditional look.
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most complete and beautiful among Japan’s original castles.
It is unique for having both a secondary donjon and a turret adjoined to its main keep.
It is surrounded by a beautiful moat.
It is not as majestic as Himeji Castle, and it is much smaller, but I liked it a lot. The mountains in the background make it look impressive even if it’s not very big.
Matsumoto-jo’s main keep and its smaller, second donjon were built from 1592 to 1614. Both these structures were well-fortified. In 1635, when military threats had ceased, a third, barely defended turret and another for moon viewing were added to the castle.
The wooden interior provides an authentic experience unlike that felt at many other castles that have been rebuilt. The rooms inside are like a museum where you can see ancient weapons.
Interesting features of the castle include steep wooden stairs, openings to drop stones onto invaders, openings for archers, as well as an observation deck at the top with nice views over the city.
In spring, Matsumoto Castle is a popular cherry blossom spot. Along the outer castle moat are hundreds of cherry trees that provide lovely views when they are in full bloom around mid-April each year.
The best pictures are the ones we took at sunset.
And after sunset, when the castle, all lit up, gets reflected on the moat!
Not far from the castle, Nakamachi-dori is a street lined with several nicely preserved old buildings, including a number of warehouse-type buildings with white painted walls, a characteristic of former merchant districts.
Some of them house small shops, restaurants, and ryokan.
Unfortunately, almost all the shops were already closed when we visited.
It is very quiet, but it is a pleasant town for a night.
We just ate food from depachikas – nothing new. But I did get to eat a delicious onigiri filled with tuna and mayo!
And some yummy tonkatsu sandwiches!
In Matsumoto, we decided to stay near the castle, as we wanted to take pictures at night and we knew it would be cold! So we stayed at Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu. It is amazing!
While we check-in, they serve us some hot green tea (apple juice for the girls) and sweets. That was a nice touch as it was really cold outside!
They also give us a free upgrade and we get a huge room on the second floor! It had 3 rooms! When we arrived, we used the room as “day room”, so we had a table and we could sit around. After dinner, the room was prepared for the night and the futons were laid down for us to sleep in.
And a beautiful bathroom. With plenty of amenities!
They even had cute pajamas for the girls!
The hotel also has a beautiful onsen that we take advantage of before going to sleep. It is really cold outside!! For more information on how to take a bath at an onsen, read my post on Onsen Etiquette.
I highly recommend Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu for its friendly service, beautiful rooms, perfect onsen and its perfect location, just 5 minutes away on foot from the castle and Nakamachi!
HOW TO GET AROUND IN MATSUMOTO
Central Matsumoto can be explored on foot. The castle is about a 15 minute walk from Matsumoto Station.
The Town Sneakers are four tourist-oriented loop bus lines, which cost 200 yen per ride or 500 yen per day (the one day pass also includes a 10% discount on admission to Matsumoto Castle). Buses on each of the loop lines operate approximately every 30 minutes. Besides the “Town Sneaker” buses, there also exists a regular network of city buses.
To get from Matsumoto Station to Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu we took a normal city bus – #200.
RESOURCES ON MSM
TRAVEL IN JAPAN:
HOW TO GET THERE
By JR limited express train
JR “Azusa” and “Super Azusa” limited express trains require just over 2.5 hours for the journey between Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station and Matsumoto.
By JR local trains
By local trains, the one-way journey between Tokyo (Shinjuku Station) and Matsumoto along the JR Chuo Line takes about five hours, typically requires about three transfers of trains.
By highway bus
Highway buses operate hourly between Tokyo (Shinjuku Bus Terminal) and Matsumoto (Matsumoto Bus Terminal near Matsumoto Station). The one-way trip takes just over three hours.
We took a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya and then a local train from there to Matsumoto. The journey itself was very nice. We passed through mountains, rivers and valleys covered with snow!