This quaint mountain city is the second largest within the Nagano Prefecture and is situated just 2 hours away from Tokyo. It provides both a perfect day trip for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the capital and also acts as a fantastic gateway for trips into the Japanese Alps, e.g. to Kamikochi, Norikura or the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.
A stay of 2 nights is more than enough to take in the relatively small city’s attractions, with the protagonist of course being Matsumoto-jō.
Throughout my time I stayed at the cosy Matsumoto Backpackers Hostel, which provided authentic and most importantly affordable accommodation not too far from the train station but equally not too far from the castle. This was the first time I got to stay in a traditional tatami laden x futon room and I loved it!
Walking bare foot on the tatami mats reminded me of the old Karate days and I remember promising myself that I would build a Japanese themed room such as this in one of my future homes:
Beyond the sliding windows, the view was one of juxtaposition, as the Japanese alps provided the backdrop to modern buildings, cars and telephone wires:
Matsumoto-jō is the oldest existing castle in Japan (roughly 400 years old). The whole city was built and remains structured around the strategically centred edifice which can ‘easily’ be found once you locate the main strip. I write ‘easily’ because without the help of the most friendly local, I would still be looking for the castle today!
You’ll know when you’re on the strip because you’ll be surrounded by large hotels, restaurants, cafes, banks and a few stuffy bookstores.