The Official Tourism Site of Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
The Matsumoto Welcomes You website has been renewed and is now Visit Matsumoto (https://visitmatsumoto.com)! We are still working on fixing a few problems and you may notice some links do not work yet. We will fix them as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding!
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Website Renewal In Progress: We Are Becoming Visit Matsumoto!

Matsumoto Welcomes You is transitioning into a new site, Visit Matsumoto—or visitmatsumoto.com!

The site is being redesigned for a more visually appealing and user-friendly experience. As it is still a work in progress, there are still a few kinks to work out on the new site, but feel free to browse around and try it out! The current Matsumoto Welcomes You site will also stay live for a little while longer so you can continue reference it until the new site is complete.

On Visit Matsumoto, we’ve got a few new and fun pages, including the “Reasons to Visit Matsumoto” page, a Cherry Blossom Forecast, and an “In Depth Articles” that will continue to grow.

The blog will continue on the Visit Matsumoto site from now on, so keep an eye on it there!

The First Wildflowers of Spring Bloom in Matsumoto!

Everyone rejoice because spring is here! Every year around mid-March, spring’s arrival is announced by a dainty, daisy-like flower called fukujuso, which is the first wildflower to bloom in the area.

Fukujuso in the snow

Fukujuso in the snow

In English, fukujuso (Adonis amurensis) is sometimes called amur adonis or amur peasant’s eye. It is a yellow gem that is often found in woodland habitats and pops its head up even through the snow.

Snow is not going to stop these guys!

Snow is not going to stop these guys!

In the Shiga area of northeastern Matsumoto, you’ll find a unique spot where the fukujuso has grown into a huge colony estimated to consist of 500,000 flowers.

Fukujuso on the hilltop

Fukujuso on the hilltop

Here, the blooms grown on a hillside spotted with trees. Fields and rice paddies cover the valley below and tall mountains rise up in the backdrop. When they are in full bloom, the entire hill is painted in gold yellow.

The farms near the Fukujuso habitat

The farms near the Fukujuso habitat

The hillside pathways

The hillside pathways

As mentioned in our March events, to celebrate the coming of the fukujuso blooms, the community here throws a little festival every year during the fukujuso season where you can walk around the flowery hillside and even grab some Japanese festival food or local goodies. This year the festival runs from March 10 to March 21.

Almost in full bloom...

Almost in full bloom…

I went last weekend, but the fukujuso weren’t quite in full bloom yet, due to the colder weather this year. But, with all the warm weather this week, they flowers are going to put on a full show by this weekend! Go check them out if you have the chance.

If you have a car, it only takes 25 to 30 minutes to drive from central Matsumoto. You can also take the Shiga Line bus from Matsumoto Bus Terminal (it runs infrequently, so make sure you check the schedule) to the the Kasekikan (Shiga Fossil Museum) Bus Stop. It’s a 10-minute walk from there. (You can see the bus schedule here, but it’s only available in Japanese)

While you’re at it, enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery and the mountains. I also recommend checking out the Shiga Fossil Museum, as it is filled with all sorts of interesting, fossilized goodies (including a whale skeleton!).

The hill of flowers and mountains in the background

The hill of flowers and mountains in the background

Here is the location of the fukujuso area:

Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 3: Watanabe (わたなべ)

Out of all the all the soba places in Matsumoto I’ve been to so far, Watanabe is my favorite. The shop is run by an older lady that must be around 80 years old. Everything is handmade, from the thinly cut soba noodles to the pickles and other mini side dishes that come along with the meal, to the woodcuts on which the menu is written.

You’ll find Watanabe’s shop in a quaint community called Inekoki, which is on the road to Norikura and Kamikochi from Shin-Shimashima. It is an inconspicuous building right as you go around a corner in Inekoki, so if you’re going here by car, it can be easy to drive right past.

Watanabe's exterior

Watanabe’s exterior

There is no paper menu and all items are posted on cut pieces of wood. The dishes served here include chilled soba served on a basket (morisoba), hot soba with grated Japanese yam (yamakake), and soba with raw egg (tsukimi soba). If you want a taste of old, country-style Japanese cooking, try the sobagaki, which is a kind of soba gruel made by stirring buckwheat flour with hot water until forms a thick paste.

Inside, menu is posted on cut pieces of wood!

Inside, menu is posted on cut pieces of wood!

Below is the chilled soba served in a basket, the simplest way to enjoy the subtle flavors of the buckwheat noodles. It comes with a dipping broth for dipping the noodles (which you can later dilute with the thick water from boiling soba and drink like soup). You can get a regular portion for only ¥450 and a larger one for ¥550. The regular portion is smaller compared to other soba shops, so if you have a big appetite, get the bigger one.

Chilled soba on a basket

Chilled soba on a basket

I loved Watanabe’s hot soba noodles. I got the yamakake soba and the grated yam covers the noodles in a deliciously gooey texture as you eat. My favorite part, though, was the broth. It’s not too strong or salt and you can tell it’s homemade and cooked with care.

Hot soba with grated Japanese yam

Hot soba with grated Japanese yam

For something really unique, get the sobagaki. This is an old-fashioned dish that reminds me of a smooth, buckwheat flavored oatmeal. The fun part is that shop lady brings it out right in the pot it was cooked in! You eat it by scooping out portions with a spoon and dipping it in soy sauce garnished with green onions.

Sobagaki served right the pot

Sobagaki served right the pot

Also, all orders come with a tasty side dish or two, usually something made with seasonal vegetables such as pickles.

Different kinds of homemade pickles and another mini side dish

Different kinds of homemade pickles and another mini side dish

Delicious salted cucumber and myoga that we got served in summer

Delicious salted cucumber and myoga that we got served in summer

The inside of the shop is cozy and decorated with a collection of woodcrafts. The soba shop is directly connected to the shop owners home and if you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go through the sliding doors and through the living room!

Nice and sunny seats

Nice and sunny seats

Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m. There are no particular closing days.

To get to Watanabe, you can use an (unfortunately) infrequent bus from Hata Station or Shin-Shimashima Station (the Nagawa Line) to the Inekoki Nakamachi bus stop or, of course, by car/taxi.

You can see the bus schedule in Japanese here. Basically, if you are shooting for lunch, you can take the first bus at 9:55 a.m. from Hata Station/10:02 from Shin-Shimashima Station, or the later bus that departs Hata Station at 13:17 or Shin-Shimashima Station at 13:24. (The earlier bus will get you to Inekoki before the shop opens though).

By car, just follow the road into the mountains toward Norikura/Kamikochi (map).

Yayoi Kusama Special Exhibition and Other March Events

Spring is just around the corner and the cherry blossom will start blooming in April, but in the meantime, why not go check out the exclusive Yayoi Kusama exhibition coming to the Matsumoto Museum of Art?

Yayoi Kusama: All About My Love Exhibition

Exhibition poster

Exhibition poster


An exclusive exhibition in Matsumoto featuring the largest collection (180 pieces) of Kusama’s works to date. Definitely a must-see!

Dates: March 3, 2018 (Sat) to July 22, 2018 (Sun)
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art (Map)
Tickets: Adults ¥1,200, University/High school students ¥800 (Presale tickets available until March 2 for a discounted price: Adults ¥1,000, University/High school students ¥600)
Official Website: https://kusama2018.com/english

Night Museum at the Matsumoto Museum of Art

Night Museum flyer

Night Museum flyer


The third installment of the museum’s nighttime series. Special extended hours on the first day of Yayoi Kusama’s All About My Love exhibition.

Date: March 3, 2018 (Sat)
Time: 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art (Map)

Shiga Fukujuso Festival

Event flyer

Event flyer

An event celebrating the earliest wildflower, the fukujuso (known as the Amur adonis and pheasant’s eye), to show its blooms in Matsumoto. The festival site is a bit far from central Matsumoto so car is the easiest way to get there. You can also take Matsumoto’s Shiga Line bus to the Kasekikan (Shiga Fossil Museum) Bus Stop from which it’s a 10 minute walk from there (Japanese timetable).

Dates: March 10, 2018 (Sat) to March 21, 2018 (Wed/holiday)
Opening Festival: March 10
Location: Shiga Akanuta Fukujuso Park (map)

Obisha Matsuri at Hotaka Shrine

A 500-year-old Shinto ritual that involves priests shooting arrows at targets with a traditional bow. Takes place at Hotaka Shrine in the neighboring city of Azumino. See more info on Azumino’s event page.

Date: March 17, 2018 (Sat)
Time: Starts at 3:00 p.m.
Location: Hotaka Shrine (map)

Fun with the kids at Alps Park

Alps Park is well-known for having one of the best views of the Japan Alps in Matsumoto, but it is also a great place to visit if you have kids. With the park’s wide range of outdoor playground equipment, petting zoo, and plenty of places to explore nature, kids (and adults!) are going to have a blast at this park!

Weeee!

Weeee!

Of course, for an experience in the “deep nature” of Matsumoto, you’ll probably want to head out into the mountains or Kamikochi, but this park is perfect if your kids (or friend’s kids) are too young yet you still want to have some fun outdoors. (I was with my friend’s less-than-two-year-old toddler, so any hiking was out of the question)

Awesome view of the Japan Alps from Alps Park

Awesome view of the Japan Alps from Alps Park

You can get here by car, bus, or taxi. If you’re taking the bus, use the Alps Park Line bus which you can catch from Matsumoto Bus Terminal by the station. Note that the bus only runs twice a day (departing 10:00 and 14:00), so make sure you plan accordingly, especially for your return trip (Schedule PDF in Japanese)

We parked at the East Parking Lot and at the entrance, we were greeted by a long bridge over a ravine. Continuing on, the park paths are surrounded by trees and views of the surroundings, so it’s nice to come here for simply taking walks or jogging. We caught a glimpse of a couple of pretty wild birds, too!

Bridge over to the park from the parking lot

Bridge over to the park from the parking lot

Park scenery

Park scenery

Info center and rest house

Info center and rest house

For kids, head to the Kids Adventure Plaza (子供冒険広場). It is full of super fun playground equipment, obstacle course, a huge climbing wall that looks like a mountain, and different kinds of slides.

Fun on the playground

Fun on the playground

Roller slide!

Roller slide!

This big play structure below was popular with the kids at the park, as it had different kinds of slides, a wobbly bridge, rope-and-ball swings, and fun obstacles:

Super fun playground equipment

Super fun playground equipment

I personally really like the climbing wall. It was set up with handholds, ropes, ledges, and all kinds of fun ways you could try to make your way up to the top. Climbing would be too dangerous for really small children, but I think later elementary school kids and up could handle it. Not to mention it’s a blast for adults too!

The climbing mountain with all sorts of climbing paths

The climbing mountain with all sorts of climbing paths

Alps Park even has a small zoo that’s free of charge, which includes a petting zoo where the kids can pet goats and guinea pigs. The other animals you can see are monkeys, different kinds of birds of prey, wild boars, horses, and more.

Pet the goats!

Pet the goats!

Guinea pig petting pet

Guinea pig petting pet

The park isn’t very green in the winter, but the view of the mountains tends to be nicer because the air is clearer and there is more snow on the peaks. Still, if you want to enjoy the trees, flowers, and greenery, I’d recommend going in the spring, summer, or fall. This is also an excellent place for cherry blossom viewing!

Besides the things I mentioned in this post, the park also has a nature museum, a huge slide coaster called the Alps Dream Coaster, and several tables where you can enjoy having a picnic.

Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 2: Kakesu (懸巣)

For part 2 of the Soba Off the Beaten Path series, I’m going to introduce you to Kakesu (懸巣)—a soba shop/Japanese-style diner that really is off the beaten path. In fact, it’s pretty much in the middle of the mountains!

Kakesu is nestled in a narrow valley on the way to Utsukushigahara Highlands in the Tobira Hot Springs area. It sits right next the Hinokinoyu Hot Spring facility, so you can eat before or after you take a dip in the hot spring. After turning off the main road, the way turns into a slightly precarious, one-lane road through the forest in the mountain valley/gorge.

The entrance of Kakesu, with signs advertising its menu

The entrance of Kakesu, with signs advertising its menu

This shop isn’t an exclusive soba specialty restaurant, but rather a kind of Japanese-style family “diner” that serves soba and udon noodles is Kakesu’s main menu items along with other things. What makes it different from other noodle shops is that they use some unique ingredients, such as homemade sunkizuke pickles and local wild mushrooms. I imagine they’ll also have wild mountain herbs/plants in the spring and early summer, too.

By the way, sunkizuke pickles are quite a rare find, as they can only be made in cool climates. They are made with turnip greens that are lactic acid fermented without salt (the same kind of fermentation as sauerkraut, but sauerkraut uses salt). These pickles originate in the Kiso area, but apparently the conditions in Kakesu’s mountain valley are also suitable for making them!

The first time I went to Kakesu I tried their special sunkizuke soba noodle bowls: one included wild mushrooms and the other grated Japanese yam. The pickles have tart flavor due to the way they are fermented, which goes well with the soy sauce-based soup that the noodles are served in. If you are a mushroom fan, definitely give the wild mushroom version a try—the mushrooms are picked from the local forests and have a much deeper flavor than regular, store-bought ones.

Hot wild mushroom and sunkizuke pickle soba noodles

Hot wild mushroom and sunkizuke pickle soba noodles

I’m also a huge fan of tororo, or grated Japanese yam. It has a pleasantly gooey, slimy texture that coats the noodles as you slurp them down and gives the soup a thicker texture.

Hot sunkizuke pickle and tororo (Japanese yam) soba noodles

Hot sunkizuke pickle and tororo (Japanese yam) soba noodles

If you like tempura, then you’ll enjoy the kakiage soba topped with a big piece of kakiage tempura, which is made by frying various types of julienned vegetables together.

Hot kakiage soba

Hot kakiage soba

You can also get the above dishes with fat udon noodles instead of soba. Another dish I have my eyes set on are the hot udon noodles with wild mushrooms in a miso-based soup!

Besides, noodles, Kakesu has other kinds of daily specials and other menu items, including Japanese diner classics like oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowls), tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), and grilled fish sets.

One delicious special was the mini hotpot with wild mushrooms and suiton (simple flour dumplings). It was packed with tender, yet pleasantly chewy dumplings and tons of vegetables along with the mushrooms!

Suiton dumpling and wild mushroom hotpot

Suiton dumpling and wild mushroom hotpot

I also recommend the hearty gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo. The beef stuew practically melts in your mouth and the pork offal are very tender. It comes with a big serving of rice, soup, and some homemade pickles, too.

Gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo

Gyusuji (tender beef tendon) stew and butamotsu (pork offal) stew combo

Kakesu has a very at-home feel, as the family that runs it often have their little kids in the shop with them and there are all sorts of random items around the shop like wooden trinkets, temari balls, and a big collection of manga (which you are free to browse through!). There is both table-and-chair seating as well as tatami seating.

Kakesu's table seats

Kakesu’s table seats

The manga and trinket collection in front of the kitchen window

The manga and trinket collection in front of the kitchen window

One of the shop's cute and random wood-carved owls

One of the shop’s cute and random wood-carved owls

The down side is that getting to Kakesu is not that easy unless you have a car (map). It is 14 kilometers from Matsumoto Station so you will need to take a taxi, rent/have a car, have a friend with a car, or very strong legs and a good bicycle. On the other hand, since the Hinokinoyu Hot Spring is right next to Kakesu you can make a day out of visiting the hot spring and then getting a nice, hot bowl delicious soba afterwards. (Hinokinoyu has an amazing outdoor bath with a view of the gorge, by the way, so it’s well worth checking out! And, it’s only 300 yen.) During the summer you can also go hiking in the area or visit the Utsukushigahara Highland.

Kakesu’s hours are 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Hinokinoyu Hot Spring’s hours are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 1: Inakaya (田舎屋)

While there are soba noodle shops galore in central Matsumoto, there are some great options you can find off the beaten path, too. Since these shops usually aren’t trying to cater to the troves of tourists coming to the city, you can rest assured you’ll have an authentic experience.

The first place I want to talk about is Inakaya (田舎屋), a soba shop located straight east from Matsumoto Castle on the way to the Utsukushigahara Onsen hot springs area and not too, too far off the beaten path (see below for access info).

Inakaya's entrance

Inakaya’s entrance

I’m a little partial to Inakaya because it’s the first soba shop I visited when I moved to Matsumoto, but they definitely serve some high quality soba! They make their soba noodles by hand using soba flour from the Kaida Highland area in Kiso, Nagano and you can see the soba noodle making room on your right when you walk in the door.

Inakaya serves a variety of both chilled soba and hot soba in soup, and like many classic soba shops, you can get a side of crispy tempura on the side. The simplest way to enjoy the soba is the plain chilled soba which has a great texture and delicious, subtle flavor. It gets dipped into a concentrated dipping soup (tsuyu), which after you’re done eating, gets diluted with the thick water from boiling the noodles so you can drink it like soup. Another, more luxurious option is to get the chilled soba with the duck dipping soup, which includes a small, but tasty piece of roast duck.

Chilled soba with duck dipping soup

Chilled soba with duck dipping soup

There is also a hot version of the duck soba noodles:

Hot soba noodles with duck

Hot soba noodles with duck

If you’re a fan of tofu (in particular, fried tofu), then you’ll love the hot tanuki soba (yes, that would be the same tanuki from Super Mario!) which features a big, fat, juicy piece of fried tofu in the soup. Similarly the hot kizami soba has slices of fried tofu with green onion in the soup.

Tanuki soba noodles

Tanuki soba noodles

Kizami soba noodles

Kizami soba noodles

Other types of soba are sansai soba noodles which are served with wild mountain herbs and plants, soba with grated Japanese yam, and tempura soba.

The shop itself has a cozy, country-style atmosphere with a wood-burning stove in the middle of the restaurant and old Japanese folk masks hanging on the walls. Most of the seating is on tatami mats with low tables, but there are also a couple of regular tables with chairs.

Inakaya's wood burning stove

Inakaya’s wood burning stove

An old "otafuku" mask on the wall

An old “otafuku” mask on the wall

The good news is that if you want to try Inakaya’s excellent soba, it’s not too hard to get to!

The shop is only about 2 kilometers from Matsumoto Castle, so you could easily get there by bicycle in 15 minutes or in 30 minutes by foot. From Matsumoto Station it’s 2.7 kilometers, so it’ll take a few more minutes from there. It is also accessible by bus: just take the Utsukushigahara Onsen line bus to the Souza bus stop in front of the Delicia Supermarket (this bus departs both from Matsumoto Station and Matsumoto Castle/City Hall).

Shop Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I’ll be posting about a couple more soba shops you can find “off the beaten path,” so keep an eye out! 😉

Gonta: Your Dango Destination in Nakamachi

If you find yourself walking down Nakamachi Street in need of a snack, you should check Gonta’s dango stand, a little gem hidden down one of Nakamachi’s side alleys. (But, be careful because they are only open on weekends and holidays!)

Gonta's dango stand

Gonta’s dango stand

If you’ve done your Japan research, you probably know that dango are a kind of sweet, mochi-esque rice “dumpling” often served on skewers. Mitarashi dango, which are slathered in a sweetened soy sauce syrup, and the multi-colored hanami dango (cherry blossom viewing dango) are especially common.

You can get both mitarashi and hanami dango, as well as other kinds at Gonta.

Part of Gonta's dango lineup

Part of Gonta’s dango lineup

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Their full line up is shown in this menu (I’ll translate below):

Gonta's dango menu

Gonta’s dango menu

  • Mitarashi dango ¥90 — Plain dango slathered with sweet soy sauce syrup
  • Gohei mochi ¥300 — A hefty, regional treat made from pounded rice, glazed with a sweet sauce, and grilled. Gonta’s version is made with egoma seeds, walnuts, and peanuts.
  • Danhei ¥200 — Three smaller dumplings similar to gohei mochi, but with a sesame seed sauce
  • Shinshu-hei dango ¥100 — Flat grilled dango with a Shinshu (= Nagano) miso-based sauce
  • Pota-pota mochi ¥150 — A flat, round dumpling with a toasty sweet soy sauce and piece of nori seaweed
  • Kibi dango ¥70 — Dango made with millet (no sauce)
  • Yomogi dango ¥70 — Dango made with yomogi, a kind of Japanese herb (no sauce)
  • Also available but not shown on the menu: Hanami dango and anko (sweet bean paste) dango

I haven’t tried all of Gonta’s selection yet, but the past weekend I did try out the danhei, kibi dango, and Shinshu-hei dango. Each had its own interesting texture and flavor, plus the price is quite cheap.

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

The kibi dango had a pleasantly chewy texture with a subtly sweet taste. As expected, the Shinshu-hei dango had a miso-flavored, yet sweet coating that was slightly toasty due to be grilled. The danhei dumplings had a softer texture (which I believe is from being made with pounded steamed rice) and had a richer sauce that had a nice touch of sesame seed flavor.

Also, since the dango are stuck through skewers, they are easy to carry around while strolling around Nakamachi and Nawate. There are also a couple of small tables to sit at in front of and inside the futon shop that Gonta is attached to (if you happen to need some really nice futon bedding, you can get that there!).

Cute figurines on Gonta's counter

Cute figurines on Gonta’s counter

To find Gonta, walk down the alley that’s diagonally across from the Kurassic-kan.

Nature Skiing in Norikura’s Ichinose Area

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about snowshoeing to the frozen Zengoro Falls in Norikura. This week, I have another snowy Norikura adventure to tell you about: Nature skiing!

Yay!

Yay!

You can rent a pair of nature skis, boots, and ski poles for just ¥1,500 for half a day or ¥3,000 for a full day at the Little Peaks equipment rental shop located at the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center. (Get here by bus or car).

The Ichinose area in Norikura is one of the best places for nature skiing because it’s fairly flat and wide-open. Plus you can head out directly from the Tourist Information Center/Little Peaks without needing to drive anywhere.

Inside of the Little Peaks shop

Inside of the Little Peaks shop

So, you might be wondering what exactly “nature skis” are in the first place. I originally thought it was just another name for cross-country skis, but upon asking at Little Peaks, they are actually a bit different: Nature skis are a hybrid ski that shorter in length compared to cross-country skis and still have an edge on the sides. They are great for ski-walking through snowy forests or fields and don’t require much technique. On the other hand, they are not built for speed and are not ideal for going down slopes.

Whether you have skiing experience or not, nature skis are easy to pick up in just a few minutes. One of the Little Peaks staff members will also help you learn how to use them and give you tips on how to walk through the snow.

Getting taught how to use the skis

Getting taught how to use the skis

Once you got your skis strapped on, you’re ready to head out!

Skis are ready!

Skis are ready!

If it’s windy or extremely cold, I do recommend having some kind of face cover to keep the wind out, as well as earmuffs or a cap that covers your ears.

Stay warm!

Stay warm!

To head for Ichinose, just walk out of Little Peaks and head out to the road. Look to your left and you’ll see two signs with the numbers “20” and “21” on them. It’s mostly in Japanese except for the “NORTHSTAR Outdoor Adventures” text. You’ll want to head right down that road, which will take you directly to Ichinose (if you are not familiar with the area, make sure you grab a map at Little Peaks and have them explain it to you).

Turn right here to head towards Ichinose

Turn right here to head towards Ichinose

And let your snow adventure begin!

So much snow!

So much snow!

It’s a little tricky to get used to how to efficiently walk with the skis right away, but you’ll get it after a few minutes. The skis are very narrow, so it’s easy to lose your balance, but luckily, there is plenty of fluffy snow to break your fall 😉

Fluffy snow will break your fall :)

Fluffy snow will break your fall :)

For going up or down a very steep or rugged step/slope, you may have to turn sideways and “walk” up or down one ski at a time—or an easier option may be to just remove the skis until you get past that area, as they are very easy to clip on and off.

Get up the slope!

Get up the slope!

Anyway, the best part about nature skis is being able to simply glide across the snow and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery! If you find a gentle downhill, it’s super fun to slide down those too.

Winter wonderland

Winter wonderland

We reached the entrance to Ichinose area in about 45 minutes, but I think it took us extra time because of the large amount of snow (and amount of falling down!). Here, you can explore the area, ski across frozen ponds, and on a nice day, see the surrounding mountains. You could even bring a lunch or some coffee (or mulled wine…) and have a mini-winter picnic out in the snow 😉

Entrance to Ichinose, finally!

Entrance to Ichinose, finally!

Enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe!

See more info about winter activities in Matsumoto here, or about Norikura Highlands here.

Night Museum and Other Events for Chilly February in Matsumoto

Night Museum at Matsumoto Museum of Art and Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

Click to see a PDF leaflet.

Click to see a PDF leaflet.

The second event in the art museum’s Night Museum series and held especially on Valentine’s Day! (The third and last event will be on March 3rd)

Special events to be held at both the art museum and ukiyo-e museum. Tentatively planned is a behind-the-scenes tour (with flashlights!) featuring the preparations for upcoming special Yayoi Kusama exhibit in March. The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum’s talk event will feature a special discussion on the culture of romance found in ukiyo-e wood block prints. (Tours planned for 6 p.m & 8 p.m, RSVP required. Talk planned for 7 p.m.).

There will also be a special “MUSEUM BAR” set up at the Japan Ukiyoe Museum with mulled wine and chocolate, and a special print making activity where you can make your own ukiyo-e.

Shuttle bus service available to go between museums. Tours/Talks will feature interpreting into English and Chinese.

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018
Time: 5 p.m.–9 p.m. (Last admission at 8:30 p.m. Also open for regular hours from 9 to 5)
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art (Map) and Japan Ukiyoe Museum (map)
Admission Fee: Pair ticket (2 adults, regardless of gender) for ¥1,000 / General ticket (adult) for ¥1,000 (Junior high school students and younger are free)
Notes: Ticket price includes admission into both museums, talk events, and shuttle bus service

Taiko Drum Workshop for Beginners

image8

No experience necessary! English speakers will be assisting!
Learn to play taiko like a pro, from correct stance to proper drumming techniques. This one-hour lesson starts with the introduction of basic rhythms and finishes with you giving your very own performance!

The workshop is being offered at a special discount price (¥3,000 OFF) this one time, so if you’ve ever thought about picking up taiko, now is a good time to try it out!
You will be instructed by a member of the group Hibikiza.
*Please note that participants will be filmed and/or have their pictures taken.*

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018
Time: 2 p.m. (lasts 1 hour)
Location: Agetsuchi Theater (map, formerly known as Piccadilly Hall). 8 min walk from the castle and 13 min from the station.
Price: ¥1,000 (discounted from ¥4,000!)
Registration: Online registration form is here or call 090-4666-3954

Setsubun Festival at Fukashi Shrine

節分②~1
Setsubun is a festival that celebrates the end of winter (though, it still feels cold to me!!) and often involves bean throwing and oni (a kind of Japanese demon). At Fukashi Shrine, they put on a huge bean throwing event at night and toss out roasted soy beans, lucky 5-yen coins, mochi, Japanese sweets, prize tickets, and more to the crowd surrounding the shrine hall. There is also a special bean throwing area just for kids (so they have a chance to catch some thing on their own and not get stepped on by the adults)! And, yes, the oni will make an appearance 😉

You can watch the bean roast ceremony from 2 p.m. but the festival part doesn’t officially start until 5 p.m. The bean throwing event starts at 6 p.m. Besides bean throwing, there is an arrow shooting ritual (around 5 p.m.) and taiko (before the bean throwing begins)

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018
Time: 2 p.m.–6:15 p.m.
Location: Fukashi Shrine (map)
Notes: You can see a couple of photos on one of our previous blog posts.


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