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Visit Matsumoto, the spa town in the Japanese Alps
Overlooked by nine peaks over 3000m, Matsumoto and its castle is a true natural fortress. Nestled in a valley in the center of the Japanese Alps, the city's location allows visitors to explore the Alpine chain's riches.
Matsumoto, A beautiful destination
The scenery is breathtaking, and it is easy to get lost in the beauty of the Japanese Alps reflecting in a lake in the mountain mist, or in admiration of the cherry blossoms. Matsumoto is the pearl of the Japanese Alps.
With Nagano or Takayama for neighbors, perched on the plateau of Utsukushigahara (literally "beautiful meadow"), Matsumoto offers an attractive itinerary. Between the beautiful hiking trails in the Alpine National Park (near Mount Norikuradake), hot springs (no less than 16) rich in minerals and renowned for their health benefits, as well as its culinary specialties (the sake of the region is produced from the finest grains of rice in Japan). Matsumoto is an essential place to recharge your batteries.
- Find out more: Best hikes in the Japanese Alps
The Black Castle of Matsumoto
But what stands out the most in Matsumoto is the imposing Matsumoto-jo, also known by the Japanese as "raven", because of its black color. Its keep offers a magnificent view in any season. It is the oldest of its kind in Japan with six floors and five levels, and its architecture is typical of the Sengoku era (1477-1573), a troubled time marked by civil wars and the building of many castles in Japan. This castle is one of the rare original castles in Japan, unlike many which have been rebuilt in modern times.
A fort city, Matsumoto, was also an industrial city, which can still be seen in Nakamichi's neighborhood with its typical warehouses of the Meiji era.
Many of these warehouses, kura, can be visited, now converted into galleries, shops and restaurants. The city's pedestrian streets offer a pleasant walk through the city center, lined with many cafes.
What to do in Matsumoto?
Matsumoto is an excellent stopover when discovering the Japanese Alps. Here are some unmissable activities if you are passing through the city:
- Matsumoto Castle. Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873
- Matsumoto City Art Museum. A museum dedicated to the work of Yayoi Kusama, a contemporary Japanese artist whose reputation is well established. Address: 4-2-22 Central, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0811
- Shopping in the old Nawate-dori street, along the Metoba river, as well as in Nakamachi street.
- Hiking: From Matsumoto, you can go to Kamikochi: many hiking trails start from this valley. For novices, a pleasant walk along the Azusa River, passing by the Kappa bridge, is a must. For experienced hikers, the ascent of Mount Yari (3180 meters), or even Mount Yakedake (2455 meters) is a must.
- Onsen: the city and its surroundings are home to many establishments (mostly in ryokan) so allow enough time to take advantage of the region's hot springs.
Among the must-see places, we recommend visiting the onsen "Asama", located in the city center. In the heights of the city, the establishment "Shirahone" and its milky waters are very famous. To enjoy the warm waters while admiring the Japanese Alps, go to the onsen "Yakushidaira Akanejuku" in the hot spring village of Gakenoyu.
How to get to Matsumoto?
- By train: Matsumoto does not have a shinkansen station. Only the JR Shinonoi line serves the city's train station, which is 2.5 hours from Shinjuku (Tokyo), 50 minutes from Nagano, and 2 hours from Nagoya with Limited Express trains.
- By plane: Matsumoto has a small airport, which receives local flights from Fukuoka, Kobe, Sapporo (as well as Osaka seasonally).
- By car: One of the easiest ways to get to Matsumoto and get around is by car. To get there, you can easily rent a car from Tokyo, or Nagano. It is also possible to hire a car at Matsumoto Station.
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