Matsumoto is located in the heart of the Japanese Alps at an altitude of 592 metres, in the Nagano prefecture on the island of Honshu. Its emblems are the red pine (“Matsumoto” literally means “pine root”, and the lotus flower.
Matsumoto is very easily accessible from Tokyo, with more than 60 daily trains connecting the two cities directly. The Shinkansen journey (Hokuriku line) from Tokyo to Nagano takes 1 hour 30 minutes and the Limited Express train journey from Tokyo to Matsumoto takes between 2 hours 40 minutes and 3 hours. But it is also possible to reach Matsumoto by express bus Alpico or Keio (3h20 by car) or by plane.
Throughout its history, Matsumoto has been ruled by the Ogasarawa and Ishikawa clans. Its castle dating from 1504 is one of the most beautiful in Japan and is the city’s main attraction: it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is classified as a National Treasure of Japan. Black in colour, it is also known as Karasu-jo, which literally means “the raven’s castle”. Its 5-storey wooden keep is the oldest in Japan, and the moats are still original. The castle park is also worth a visit with its red Uzuhashi bridge.
As for museums, do not miss the Matsumoto Municipal Museum, where you can find works by local artist Yayoi Kasama, including “Maborashi no Hana” (Flower of Illusion) outside the museum; as well as the Japanese Prints Museum, which houses the largest private collection of Ukiyo-e in the world, built over nearly 5 generations.
When visiting Matsumoto, you should also not miss the Nakamashi shopping street, where you can find many typical restaurants; and Agata no Mori Park, a magnificent garden with the Japanese Alps mountains in the background. An excursion to the surrounding mountains is also a must for nature lovers, for example to Kamikochi or to the Utsukushigahara plateau at an altitude of 2000 metres.
Finally, Matsumoto is famous for its many hot springs (onsen), excellent for health. There are many traditional inns (ryokan) in the surrounding mountains.
Among Matsumoto’s specialities are of course wasabi, but also zarusoba (cold soba with tempura) and other more exotic specialities.