Last week’s post was about Suganuma (すがぬま / 菅沼), so this week I need to start with ま (ma). A big thank you to japanaustralia who always gives some good suggestions. This week’s were: manga (漫画), Matsumoto (松本), Matsuyama (松山) and Matsue (松江). I’ve decided to write about…
Matsumoto (まつもと / 松本)
Matsumoto City (Matsumoto-shi / 松本市) in Nagano Prefecture is somewhere I always quite fancied visiting while I was living in Japan, but I never quite made it there. I had a student from Matsumoto, and she would always tell me that I must visit one day, and that the castle was really interesting. I’m not a big fan of Japanese castles, but this one does have a certain appeal…
Matsumoto Castle (松本城 / Matsumoto-jō) is also known as “Crow Castle” (烏城 / Karasu-jo) because of its black exterior, which is not common among Japanese castles. Daniel O’Grady’s Japanese Castle Explorer has more information about the castle and its history, which I’m not going to attempt to go into here. I just think it looks cool.
Other than the castle, Matsumoto doesn’t really have many tourist attractions but it seems like a good place for hiking, relaxing in onsen (hot springs) and enjoying Japan’s four seasons.
Here’s some blurb about Matsumoto City from their official tourism website:
Matsumoto City is located in Nagano Prefecture on Honshu, the main island of Japan. This picturesque castle town is nestled between the Japanese Alps and Utsukushigahara Heights (meaning “beautiful plateau”). Matsumoto boasts a surprisingly metropolitan atmosphere while maintaining historical sites and traditions. The streets are clean and the people are friendly. The region is famous for delicious apples and soba (buckwheat noodles), and is the birth place of the contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama as well as the Suzuki music method.
Every season offers a different allure to Matsumoto, which is Nagano prefecture’s prettiest destination, year-round. In spring, watch cherry blossoms complement the black roof of the 400-year-old castle with a backdrop of snowy mountains. In summer, enjoy the cool breeze of a day hiking in Utsukushigahara Heights and an evening watching Seiji Ozawa conduct at the world class Saito Kinen Festival. In autumn, go apple picking or watch the leaves change while hiking through Kamikochi in the Central Mountains National Park. Then enjoy local soba and sake at a moon viewing party at the castle. In winter, enjoy skiing at the three high altitude resorts before relaxing in one of the many fine onsens (hot springs).
Centrally located, Matsumoto is a gateway to Kamikochi, Takayama City, and Utsukushigahara Heights. Enjoy the allure of Matsumoto and experience a place of breathtaking nature, fine music and rich culture – truly a taste of Japan that all travellers will want to discover. No matter what kind of Japan you want to find, make sure you put Matsumoto on your list of ‘must visit’!
I have to say, they’ve sold it well! It sounds like a beautiful and relaxing place – and a world away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, like Tokyo and Osaka.
Although Matsumoto isn’t very touristy, I think that could be its appeal. Perhaps the tourist attractions there aren’t world-famous, but it still seems like an interesting place to visit. On the Matsumoto tourism website there is a page which lists tourist attractions, and I found myself becoming more and more interested in visiting Matsumoto as I read through them. If hiking and visiting the onsen aren’t really your thing, there are other things to do such as visiting the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum or the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum.
As with most parts of Japan, Matsumoto has festivals throughout the year, so you can always plan your trip around the dates of festivals to make sure there’s something exciting going on. Of course, there are cherry blossom viewing festivals (around April), but the festival that really appeals to me as something a bit unique is the Yamabe “Ofune Matsuri” which happens in May (during Golden Week). It sounds like a proper traditional local festival – and sounds like real fun! Basically each area of Matsumoto has a sort of boat which drunk young men have to wheel to the local shrine while taiko drums and flutes are played. Read more about it here.
So, Matsumoto may not be the number one place on most people’s Japan itineraries, but I think it’s worth checking out if you like a bit of nature and want to try something a bit different. For more information to help you plan your trip, check out the official tourism website for Matsumoto at: welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp or visit the JNTO website.
Matsumoto (まつもと) ends with と (to), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “to”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll give you a mention next week! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v