If you want to jump on a local bus, get some local help first or you'll never be seen again...Ask at the tourist office inside the train station. Before you do this, you should make sure which suburb you are trying to get to, and the "name" of the bus stop (and even better, the 'line' of the bus). Ask the driver to tell you where to get off? Ha ha ha.
Some buses announce the names of stops as they go. To my knowledge, only one stop is in English in the whole city (and I had to pay for that!). Some buses have 'no-step' access.
Point of departure usually our drab 'bus station' (disguised as a ghetto) under Ario (the department store opposite the station, more or less) across the road. There's only one bus co. in town (hence the prices). You'll need to find out which gate to board at. Predictably, schedules are very reliable! Unfortunately, last buses are very early in the evening.
Most buses do now have English & Japanese destinations on the front - but you have to get on at the back door (and take a ticket from the machine as you do so - grasp it tightly). Pay as you get off - dump cash in the hi-tech tumble dryer thingy - you can watch your fare increase as you go on the 'bingo' display at the front. Number on your ticket allegedly corresponds to the number of the zone you boarded at.
The city does boast an impressive number of 'tourist' routes, which will get you out of the city to points of interest far & wide. Routes & timetables Please make sure you check for 'winter' non-service.
If you want to go to Kamikochi by car, be warned, you probably can't! Dump your car at Shin-Shimashima (last stop on Kamikochi railway Line) & get the bus up & back.
For your sightseeing convenience, there are three inner city loop lines (N, E, S, and W). The buses themselves are disguised as "Town Sneakers" and used to be a Y100 coin per boarding ('one coin'), but now the fare is 200 yen (150 yen on some sections). This is what they say:
# One Day Ticket is good for the day of issue, and in common with Northern / Eastern / Southern / Western course. # "Special Favor" (whoopee do I can hear you shouting!) With showing the One Day Ticket, You are able to get a discount of the admission fee for Matsumotojo Castle. Please show your One-day ticket at the ticket office of Matsumoto Castle. The discount apply (sic) to only one person par (sic) one (sic) ticket.
Go to the (very good) map of the inner city on this site for bus stop locations, and for a map & direction of travel of the Town Sneakers go to this page.
And if you read this far, please complain about the fumes most of the buses produce. Sure, some of them have green & eco-freindly stickers on them, but most of them you do not want to be behind on a bike at a red light. Oh yes, and ask for bus lanes & cycle lanes too! You know it makes sense - the suits will listen to tourists (we locals can't vote :-x )
Rickshaws - I've seen one, usually in an exhibition case by Agematsu Hotel! On busy holiday weekends you might find a chap or chapess in traditional Shinshu jogging gear + chariot at the castle. Think they do a lap + oral commentary. Details next time I see one, OK?
Available for special bookings (wedding photos at the castle anybody?)
Free bicycles 'Sui Sui Town' are available daily 9:00am to 5pm at various locations throughout town, including the public hall 'M Wing' (5 mins from the station on foot), a car park on Nakamachi, Matsumoto City Museum next to Matsumoto Castle and The Former Kaichi School. The other newer free bicycles 'Rikisha' are also available at some hotels and shops.
They're convenient for visiting sights not accessible by Sneaker Bus - you will not win the Tour de France on one, but you can get your souvenirs in the front basket. Details at Matsumoto Tourist Information.
Japan is a relatively sensible country & drives on the right side of the road. However, don't let that put you off.
Rules of the road? Well, just stand back for 5-10 minutes & you'll get the hang of it. Watch the natives & learn. Ideally you'll have a friend stand up off the rear axle (short skirt best); riding on the wrong side makes things very exciting especially if you do not have insurance; double the thrill & blast down one way streets (clearly sign posted) on either side of the road. Wearing a helmet? Come on - live on the wild side! For tamer riders, just use the footpath (pavement, sidewalk). On no occasion should you turn on lights. Local weather conditions & traditions should be observed - raincoats appear to be outlawed - you should use an umbrella (see-through ones you can buy at convenience stores for Y100) instead in the rain/sleet/snow. Adept riders will be able to text message their buddies using their other hand. Your friends will laugh at you if you are seen riding the same bike twice. Hand-signals are frowned upon.
Officially, ignore the above & be a good citizen. In event of an accident, drivers are obliged to contact the police & bow at you until they get a nosebleed/get a mortgage to pay you off. Hit & runs are becoming more common, unfortunately. Get the number of the car, and insist on medical attention. There are no street lights, assume all rounds lethal after 4pm in winter.
To see how it is done properly, please visit Matsumoto's very own cycling superstar.
The good news for those who would like to rent a car in Matsumoto is that there are quite a few car rental places to choose from. The bad news is, of course, that only one that I found had an English brochure, and you can guess the amount of English-speakers was even less. That being said however all the places listed below are within 5 minutes’ walk from the station and all you need besides the cash is a valid drivers’ license and passport to be sure.
In order of proximity to the station
- Eki rent-a-car
No English brochure available but very convenient for those who wish to walk no further than the station parking. Walk past the flower shop, don’t follow the curve in the road but keep walking straight into what appears at first glance to be a service entrance. You will see the offices straight ahead. Open on public holidays.
To visit the webpage go to http://www.ekiren.co.jp, or you can phone them on (0263) 32-4690, or send a fax to (0263) 32-3257.
- Nissan rent-a-car
No English brochure available but also extremely close to the station. Walk past the flower shop, and follow the curve in the road. It’s just around the corner facing the Bus Terminal. Open on public holidays.
To visit the webpage go to http://nissan-rentacar.com, or phone them on 0120-00-4123.
- Toyota rent-a-car
As I did my research on a public holiday I wasn’t able to get any information for this company as they were closed. See their Engilsh website.
- X rent-a-car
No English brochure available. Easy to find though as it is still on the main road leading to the station, about 5 blocks down and looks a bit like a petrol station.
To visit the webpage go to http://car.orix.co.jp, or phone them on 0120-30-5543.
- J Net
No English brochure available. It’s about 4 blocks to the right of Matsumoto station and on the 3rd block in.
To visit the webpage go to http://www.j-netrentacar.co.jp, or phone them on 0263-35-0154, or send a fax to 0263-35-1854.
* The former brand name was "Mazda Car Rental". It became a new brand "Times Car Rental" on April, 1st, 2013.
This is by far the best choice in my opinion simply because there is an ENGLISH BROCHURE AVAILABLE and the staff can possibly understand a little sign language. Jokes aside though, although it’s the furthest from the station (a whole 6 blocks!), it’s easy to find. Come out of the station, turn right, follow the road about 6 blocks or until you get to the railway bridge, turn left, and it’s on the 2nd block on your left. To visit the English webpage go to http://www.timescar-rental.com/. For enquiries and reservations, please call the nationwide call centre for foreigners at 050-3786-0056 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The price list is here.
A Japanese website of the airport says you can rent a car at the info center on the arrival floor (1F) in the terminal buiding.
You can choose a company from Times, Toyota, X Rent-a-car, and Chu-rent-a (used car rental).
This map was kindly provided by the Matsumoto Tourist Information Centre at the station. Incidentally this is an excellent resource for any traveller, and very English friendly!!