Nestled within the heart of Nagano Prefecture lies the historic city of Matsumoto, a town steeped in rich cultural heritage and surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes. With so much to see and explore, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 fun things to do in Matsumoto. Whether you’re an admirer of art, history, architecture, or nature, Matsumoto has something for everyone.
Explore Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle, also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, is a stunning piece of architecture and a must-visit destination in Matsumoto. Built in 1595 during the Sengoku period, the castle has a fascinating history that visitors can learn about through guided tours and activities.
History of Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle has withstood centuries of earthquakes, fires, and warfare, making it one of the most impressive and well-preserved castles in all of Japan. The castle was originally built by the powerful daimyo, Ishikawa Kazumasa, during the late 16th century. It was designed to be a formidable fortress, with thick walls and a moat surrounding it. The castle played an important role in the battles of the Sengoku period, and was later used as a military base during the Meiji Restoration.
Despite its military history, Matsumoto Castle has also been a cultural center throughout its existence. During the Edo period, the castle was used for cultural events such as tea ceremonies and poetry readings. Today, the castle is a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world who come to admire its beauty and learn about its rich history.
Guided Tours and Activities
If you want to learn more about the castle’s history, be sure to join a guided tour, which is available in English and Japanese. The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who can provide insight into the castle’s construction, architecture, and historical significance. You’ll learn about the different parts of the castle, including the main keep, the turrets, and the gates.
In addition to the guided tours, there are also a variety of activities available at Matsumoto Castle. If you’re interested in Japanese culture, you can participate in hands-on activities such as samurai sword making and ninja training. These activities allow you to experience what life was like for the castle’s original occupants and get a sense of the skills and techniques they used in battle.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, you can simply stroll through the castle’s beautiful garden, which is especially lovely during cherry blossom season. The garden features a variety of plants and trees, including cherry blossoms, azaleas, and Japanese maples. There are also several ponds and streams, as well as a teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of traditional Japanese tea.
No matter what your interests are, Matsumoto Castle has something to offer. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture enthusiast, or simply looking for a beautiful place to relax and enjoy nature, this stunning castle is a must-visit destination in Matsumoto.
Visit the Matsumoto City Museum of Art
The Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a haven for art lovers, featuring a wide variety of fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions that showcase some of the finest works of art from around Japan and the world.
Located in the heart of Matsumoto City, the museum is housed in a beautiful modern building that was designed by the renowned architect, Arata Isozaki. The building’s unique design is based on the concept of “light and shadow,” which creates a stunning visual effect both inside and outside the museum.
The museum’s permanent collection contains over 300 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. Among the highlights are works by noted Japanese artists such as Kazuo Shiraga, Yayoi Kusama, and Toshiro Odate.
One of the most popular exhibits in the permanent collection is the “Japanese Art” section, which features a stunning array of traditional Japanese art, including calligraphy, woodblock prints, and lacquerware. Visitors can also admire the museum’s impressive collection of contemporary art, which includes works by both Japanese and international artists.
Temporary Exhibitions and Events
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts several temporary exhibitions each year on a rotating basis. These exhibitions cover a wide range of topics and themes, from modern art to traditional Japanese crafts.
One of the most exciting events held at the museum is the annual “Matsumoto Art Festival,” which takes place every summer. During this festival, the museum hosts a series of outdoor concerts, art workshops, and other cultural events that showcase the best of Japanese art and music.
Whether you’re a seasoned art lover or simply looking for a fun and educational day out, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a must-visit destination. With its stunning architecture, impressive collection of art, and exciting events and exhibitions, it’s sure to be a highlight of your trip to Matsumoto City.
Stroll Through Nakamachi Street
Nakamachi Street is a charming and picturesque road flanked by traditional shops, cafes, and restaurants. Here you can immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of local life, sample some delicious Japanese cuisine, or simply soak up the stunning scenery.
As you stroll down Nakamachi Street, take in the sights and sounds of this bustling neighborhood. The street is alive with activity, as locals and tourists alike go about their day. You’ll see traditional Japanese architecture all around you, from the wooden facades of the shops to the intricate latticework on the windows.
Traditional Shops and Cafes
Nakamachi Street is home to a number of traditional shops and cafes, so be sure to wander around and explore. You’ll find everything from handcrafted pottery and jewelry to unique souvenirs and snacks. Stop by one of the cozy cafes for a cup of tea or coffee, and sample some of the local delicacies.
One of the most popular shops on Nakamachi Street is the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum. Here you can browse a wide selection of traditional Japanese crafts, including ceramics, textiles, and lacquerware. The museum also hosts regular exhibitions and workshops, so be sure to check out their schedule if you’re interested in learning more about Japanese crafts.
Nakamachi Street is also home to some of Matsumoto’s most impressive examples of traditional architecture. Many of the buildings here are constructed in the unique “Kura-zukuri” style, featuring striking black-and-white wooden facades and intricate latticework. Take a closer look at the details of these buildings and you’ll see that each one is a work of art.
One of the most iconic buildings on Nakamachi Street is the Kurassic-kan, a former sake brewery that has been converted into a museum. Here you can learn about the history of sake production in the region, and even sample some of the local brews. The building itself is a masterpiece of traditional Japanese architecture, with its distinctive black-and-white facade and elegant curved roof.
Another must-see building on Nakamachi Street is the Ishii Miso Brewery, which has been producing miso paste for over 150 years. Take a tour of the brewery to learn about the traditional methods used to produce miso, and sample some of the delicious products. The building itself is a beautiful example of Kura-zukuri architecture, with its striking black-and-white facade and intricate lattice windows.
Whether you’re interested in shopping, dining, or simply taking in the sights, Nakamachi Street is a must-see destination in Matsumoto. With its charming atmosphere and rich history, it’s the perfect place to experience traditional Japanese culture.
Discover the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum
For art connoisseurs, the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a must-see attraction. Featuring a massive collection of ukiyo-e prints, this museum gives visitors a glimpse into the fascinating world of Edo-period art and design.
The Art of Ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e is a style of Japanese woodblock print that originated in the Edo period. These prints were originally created as cheap and popular art forms, depicting everyday life in Japan in vivid detail.
The art of ukiyo-e is characterized by its use of bold lines, vibrant colors, and intricate details. The prints often depicted scenes from everyday life, such as geishas, samurais, and landscapes. The popularity of ukiyo-e prints grew rapidly during the Edo period, as they were affordable and accessible to the common people.
Notable Artists and Works
The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum features works by some of the most famous ukiyo-e artists, including Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. Hokusai is perhaps best known for his iconic print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” which depicts a towering wave about to crash down on boats below. Hiroshige, on the other hand, is known for his series of landscape prints, such as “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.”
In addition to these famous artists, the museum also features works by lesser-known ukiyo-e artists, providing visitors with a comprehensive look at the art form. The museum’s collection includes prints from the early Edo period through the Meiji period, showcasing the evolution of ukiyo-e over time.
The Museum Experience
Visitors to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum can expect to be transported back in time to the Edo period. The museum is designed to resemble a traditional Japanese house, complete with tatami mats and sliding doors. The prints are displayed in glass cases, allowing visitors to get up close and appreciate the intricate details of each piece.
In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing different aspects of ukiyo-e art and culture. Visitors can also participate in workshops and classes to learn more about the art form and try their hand at creating their own ukiyo-e prints.
Overall, the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Japanese art and culture. With its extensive collection of ukiyo-e prints and immersive museum experience, it offers a unique glimpse into the rich history of Japan’s artistic heritage.
Relax at the Matsumoto Alps Park
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Matsumoto Alps Park, a tranquil oasis located just outside of town. Here you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities and attractions, or simply bask in the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Outdoor Activities and Attractions
Matsumoto Alps Park offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, fishing, and birdwatching. You can also take a ride on the park’s Ferris wheel for a stunning view of the surrounding mountains.
Seasonal Events and Festivals
Throughout the year, Matsumoto Alps Park hosts a number of seasonal events and festivals, including a cherry blossom festival in the spring and a fireworks show in the summer. Be sure to check the park’s schedule before your visit so you don’t miss any of these exciting events.
In conclusion, Matsumoto is a city that truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, art, culture, or nature, you’re sure to find plenty of fun and exciting things to do during your visit. So what are you waiting for? Come and discover all that Matsumoto has to offer!