Japan has so much more to offer its travellers than iconic Tokyo, Mt Fuji and delicious sushi. On your next Japanese adventure, try something new and head to Matsumoto, a mountain city in Nagano Prefecture.
If you are wondering what to do in Matsumoto, you will be pleasantly surprised by the varied activities and sights the city offers. Next time you’re in Japan, don’t miss out on the amazing Matsumoto sights.
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More Travel Tips
- What to Pack for a Japan Trip
- Where to Stay in Matsumoto
Matsumoto is probably best known for Matsumoto Castle (Crow Castle), one of most complete and beautiful castles in Japan. This hirajiro (a castle built on plains instead of a mountain or hill) is both grandiose and unique.
Many of Japan’s castles were rebuilt with ferro concrete after it was majorly damaged by an earthquake in 2011. However, Matsumoto Castle’s wooden interior makes it feel far more authentic.
The castle also includes nods back to its military history, with stations for archers, openings to drop stones on invaders as well as an observation deck that offers a magnificent view of the city.
You can freely walk around the parks and moats but entering the garden and castle walls is only possible after paying an entrance fee. Entrance to the castle is 610 yen.
The most beautiful time to visit the castle is during cherry clossom season in the spring. It’s then that the outer moat of the castle is lined with hundreds of cherry trees, which bloom from mid to late April.
Matsumoto Frog Festival
shopping in Matsumoto, stroll down Nawate Street and its 50 antique shops,
restaurants and shops. It’s perfect for grabbing some souvenirs from Japan. Why not get a small
anime/manga character holding iconic Matsumoto dishes or the Crow Castle for a
In the street, don’t forget to stop by Yohashire Shrine.
By the way: the many frogs reference the name’s street as a pun on the word kaeru, which means “frog” and “returning home”.
Japanese food is absolutely delicious and teriyaki in Matsumoto – if you ask me –is a must. At the Mastumoto Frog Festival, a small street with food stalls, you can get very special teriyaki.
Teriyaki is a filled waffle in the form of a fish. Typically, the filling is red bean paste, custard, chocolate or cheese. However, in Matsumoto, you can get Japanese mayo and sausage. And it’s divine!
Matsumoto Timepiece Museum
If you’re looking for Matsumoto sights that are a little more off the beaten path, check out the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about timepieces, this is the place to do it. This three floor museum is all about watches and clocks of different kinds from all over the world.
There are exhibits dedicated to different professions such as nurses and train conductors and the watches they need. You can also find intricate timepieces from centuries past, unique designs, and even some sundials.
The Matsumoto Timepiece Museum is a great place to get out and learn something different and new. Entrance to the museum is 300 yen.
Matsumoto City Museum of Art
One of the best Matsumoto attractions is the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. This museum displays the work of Matsumoto’s own artists, centred around world famous Kusama Yayoi. Kusama is known around the world for her vibrant and bright work.
The majority of the museum is dedicated to her work, including an outdoor exhibit of a large sculpture of tulips that was created to celebrate the opening of the museum in 2002.
Work by other artists is displayed in another section of the museum and rotates throughout the year. The museum also has a fun gift shop filled with art inspired souvenirs. Entrance to the museum is 410 yen.
Daio Wasabi Farm
This is one of those Matsumoto attractions that any spice lover simply cannot miss. The Daio Wasabi Farm is one of the largest wasabi farms in all of Japan. The farm’s big fields are perfectly situated so that each wasabi plant is fed clear, fresh water from streams flowing from the Northern Alps.
Several films have been shot along the immaculate walkways of the farm. Wander through the pristine wasabi fields and find the Daio Shrine, dedicated to the spirit of an ancient local hero, Hachimen Daio. He is considered to be the farm’s protector. Here you will also find a small cave that will teach you more about the legend of Daio.
After a fulfilling, relaxing day on the farm, check out the shops and restaurant the farm has to offer. Here you can buy countless wasabi related products, such as fresh wasabi, wasabi pickles, wasabi sausages, wasabi beer, wasabi chocolate, and so much more. Admission to the farm is free, so you can save all your yen for delicious wasabi treats.
Japan Ukiyoe Museum
“Ukiyoe” are Japanese woodblock prints, and the Japan Ukiyoe Museum displays a massive collection of ukiyoe from the Sakai family, one of Matsumoto’s wealthiest merchants. This is one of the largest private art collections in the world.
Sakai Yoshiaki started collecting ukiyoe about 300 years ago, and his descendants have continued the tradition, growing the collection to over 100,000 pieces. Entrance to the museum is 1000 yen.
Wanna get some vintage feels while in Matsumoto? On your way to the castle in Matsumoto, you’ll oass the little street Nakamachi, which is just before the river. Here, you can find beautifully preserved historic buildings, with tiled roofs and white walls.
It used to be a typical merchants district and nowadays you can buy handcrafted items in the local shops.
Banshogahara Ski Resort
Ski holidays in Japan are a great way to spend your winter in the powdery snow. One such area to get active is Banshogahara Ski Resort in the mountains of the prefecture of Nagano. There are 3km of slopes for skiing and snowboarding to choose from.
Two lifts will get you up on the slopes on elevations of 1200 to 1400 metres. Ski pass day prices are 3500 YEN for adults (30€). Fun fact: Nagano has the second highest number of winter resorts in the country.
Free download: Get the winter packing list
Tobira Onsen Myojinkan
Visiting an onsen is one of the most relaxing experiences you can have in Japan. Onsen do not only offer a pleasant wellness getaway thanks to the hot waters in which you can immerse yourself. But they are also said to have healing qualities.
An excellent onsen in the region is the ryokan Myojinkan. It’s a traditional inn, so you can book a night to stay over in Matsumoto as well.
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How to get to Matsumoto
From Tokyo, you can take the shinkansen to Matsumoto. If you want to use the railpass, das would be included. Otherwise it might be a tad costly. That’s why I typically use the highway buses, such as WillerExpress, for longer cross country rides. You can get overnight buses with sleeping hoods.
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