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Yayoi Kusama’s All About My Love


At the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, I had the opportunity to surround myself with vibrant colors, emotive designs, and landscapes that seemed to go on without end. The museum is featuring a three-floor solo exhibition of works by the famed avant-garde artist and Matsumoto native Yayoi Kusama.




While her pumpkin pieces are particular favorites of mine, a number of other works including those incorporating mirrors and blacklights as well as collages were captivating also. Some of Kusama’s earliest pieces are included in the exhibits, and a short highlight real shows parts of her time in New York. While the museum is always displaying some of her work, this exhibition gives you a more complete picture of who Yayoi Kusama is as an artist.


Greeted by the giant tulips that bloom outside of the entrance year-round, you’ll also find a giant yellow 3D pumpkin in the museum’s courtyard just for this exhibition.


A giant eye watches you as you descend the staircase.

Take advantage of the photo opp just to the left of the stairs where you’ll find a cut-out of Kusama. You’ll also find a wide range of polka-dot themed souvenirs as well as towels, playing cards, and dishware designed with her other unique illustrations.

Ticket and Other Information

The exhibition will run until July 22, 2018 (Sun), and you do not need to specify a date when purchasing tickets. The official English website, which includes ticket information, can be found here.


Artwork on display at AEON Cinema

ALPICO Plaza (Formerly Ario) Now Open!



Those familiar with the Ario Department Store that closed last year will be happy to hear that the building is reopening with new stores! The basement, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 7th floors are now open, and the rest of the building will open from April. Tax free shopping will still be available (see stores for details).


Delicia, a chain supermarket of good quality, is located in the basement along with a few eating areas and souvenir shops. If you’re catching a bus from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal, you can do last minute shopping there!



On the 1st floor you’ll find the ALPICO ticket counter. Open 4:40-21:00/22:00-22:30, there you can purchase tickets both at the counter or via ticket machines. Credit cards are accepted. Their waiting area has 35 seats and supplies electric outlets and Wi-Fi access via ALPICO Free Wi-Fi. If you walk past the counter to the back of the waiting area, you’ll find an entrance to the bus boarding platforms. Buses running to Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya as well as more local destinations depart from here.


The new shops will include beauty salons, massage parlors, and clothing and shoes stores.
The 3rd floor’s Avail and the 4th floors Shimamura are already open.
The 7th floor still consists of a 100 yen store and a variety of reasonably priced restaurants that include Japanese, Chinese, and Italian cuisines. If you’re really hungry you can have all-you-can-eat dumplings.
Hopefully the rooftop summer beer garden is re-opened as well!

7th floor


Stay tuned for updates!

Official Site (Japanese only)

Shirahone Onsen – A Peaceful Getaway at a Hot Springs Resort


Shirahone’s signature milky white waters

An avid onsen enthusiast, I recently paid a visit to the hot spring village of Shirahone in the mountains of Matsumoto. Although going via public transportation in the winter is a bit more of a challenge, it is still doable. After purchasing my round-trip ticket (available in the ALPICO Plaza/Matsumoto Bus Terminal across the street from Matsumoto Station), I hopped on the Kamikochi Line train bound for Shin-Shimashima Station.


The ticket to Shirahone costs 3,500 yen and is good for 7 days.


Board the train from track 7.

Things to Note about Going by Public Transportation

A direct bus leaves from Matsumoto once a day, but departs only in the afternoon, so if you want to make a day trip of your visit, you will need to take the earliest train (7:16 a.m. in the winter) and head back on the 3:50 p.m. bus. Since a lot of visitors come to the area after Kamikochi opens (around mid-April), you will probably have a nicer trip if you visit after that. A few ryokan and the only cafe are closed for the winter. Furthermore, the ryokans that allow day-trip bathing will only allow you to use them until 2:00 p.m. or so. Thus, you will have a bit of time to kill before you catch the bus back to Shin-Shimashima. While there is an information hut next to the Shirahone bus stop, it is fairly old and small and also not very well heated.

The Trip Up

A winter wonderland awaited me. The road was very winding, but the view was superb.


Watching us from the roadside, a kamoshika or Japanese deer.


The Shirahone settlement sinks into the valley.


Arriving at Shirahone Onsen

I stayed on the bus until the last stop, Shirahone Onsen. However, for those visiting for just the day, I recommend getting off one stop sooner at Awa-no-yu.


A map and guide are posted outside of the information hut (open 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). The guide indicates what ryokans offer day-visit bathing, when they are open, and how much they cost. Sadly, the board’s information may not be kept entirely up to date, so it’s better to ask before setting out.

Walking to Awa-no-yu


Fortunately, the previous stop, Awa-no-yu, was only about a 15-minute walk back up the road. Still a part of Shirahone Onsen, there are a few ryokan there that all offer day-visit bathing. I was able to visit two of them. My first stop was the Marui Ryokan‘s Katsura-no-yu. They were kind enough to let me enter a little early. Although the bath was not very large, it was well maintained and included an outdoor portion (possible coed a bath). The natural hot spring waters were the perfect temperature for a nice long soak. Shampoo, conditioner, and body soap were available, but bring your own towel and hairdryer. No lockers were available in the changing room, but the front desk might be willing to keep an eye on your things.



Katsura-no-yu from below

After a cup of coffee (available for purchase in the lobby along with some other drinks and snacks), I headed over to the inn across the street. The Awa-no-yu Ryokan offers both separate and coed bathing. If you’re just there for the day, you will enter through an entrance around back. Last entry is 1:30 p.m. Medium-size coin lockers and lockers for valuables as well as drink and food vending machines are available in the lobby.




The women only side has both an indoor and outdoor bath and provides shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hairdryers. Once you wash off, you can cover up and head down the hall to the large outdoor bath. The men’s and women’s entrances are separated, so you can fully submerge yourself before heading out into the open. The water is so cloudy that you can’t see more than a few centimeters down, but I was told that I was allowed to wrap myself in a towel if a preferred.

After trying out all of the baths, it was time leave, so I headed back to the information hut to wait. I lucked out with some nice weather and got to enjoy the scenery along the way. Overall, I had a pleasant, relaxing experience and hope to be back again.



2018 Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Forecast


With cherry-blossom-flavored everything emerging across the country, we bring you the projected dates for the area and details of the major hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots in Matsumoto. Grab your tarp and stake out your spot (don’t take someone else’s spot!) or enjoy the flowers as you stroll along.

WHEN can I see the cherry blossoms?

As of Feb 8, 2018, the sakura are projected to begin blooming in Nagano City (temperature similar to Matsumoto’s) from Apr 14 while places further south are expected to begin blooming a few days to a week sooner. These dates are of course subject to change. The flowers typically last about two weeks, but can start falling sooner depending on the weather. In previous years, the first blooms at Matsumoto Castle have been as follows:

Year Month & Day
2017 4/10
2016 4/1
2015 4/4
2014 4/9
2013 4/3

WHERE can I see the cherry blossoms?

The following locations can also be found on the downloadable Matsumoto Concierge Map.

Matsumoto Castle


The castle’s inner grounds offer splendid views of pearly pink cherry blossoms against a backdrop of the dark crow castle. Do be aware that drinking and eating is typically prohibited in the Honmaru Garden.

Illuminated Cherry Trees
Both inner and outer areas of the castle, including the trees along the eastern moat, are also spectacularly lit.  At night, the fairy-tale like illuminated cherry blossoms are free to view.


Hours & Admission

8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.) Regular entry to the inner area is ¥610 for adults, ¥300 for elementary and middle school students.

5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. FREE

Access from Matsumoto Station

Bus: Town Sneaker Northern Course, Matsumotojo/Shiyakushomae stop; 5 min (¥200)

Walking: 15 min

Bicycle: Free rental bicycles are available at the bike parking area in front of the Matsumoto Station Oshiro (Castle) Exit. See our Local Transportation page for more information including other rental locations.

Mt. Kobo – Koboyama Tumulus


This hill – the top of which once served as a tomb – is covered in over 4,000 cherry trees with blossoms of various shades of pink. You can observe the trees from below or walk to the top of the hill for an expansive view of the snow-capped Japan Alps.

Illuminated Cherry Trees

Lanterns are strung through the trees and lit up at night.

Hours & Admission

The park is open 24-hours and is free to enter.

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: Namiyanagidanchi Line, Koboyama Iriguchi stop; 15 min (¥260); 6 buses per day (times subject to change): 7:20, 9:05, 11:05, 14:05, 16:05, 18:55

Walking (from Minami-Matsumoto Station): 30 min

Susuki River, Just South-East of Agatanomori Park


Cherry blossom trees line the raised embankments of the Susuki River, and there are wide-open spaces to sit along the water. Also near one of the Orange (anime/manga) locations!

Access from Matsumoto Station

Depending on what part of the river you would like to get to, their are a few different methods you can use.

Quick Access

Take the Town Sneaker Southern Course bus and get off at stops such as Aizawa Hospital.

Bicycle: just 5−10 min by free rental bicycle from the station


Bus & Walking: Town Sneaker Eastern Course, 10 min (¥200). The closest drop-off point brings you to Agatanomori Park. From Agatanomori Park, it is about a 10-minute walk to the river.

Joyama Park


Located near a temple, you’ll also find a zoo, playgrounds, and an art museum in and around the premises.

Hours & Admission

The park is open 24-hours and is free to enter.

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: 100 Kita-Shinai Line (western route 西まわり) bus bound for Jidosha Gakko, Joyama Koenguchi(城山公園口) stop; 20 min (¥210)
OR 41 Okada Line bus bound for Yamashiroguchi(山城口), Joyama Koenguchi(城山公園口) stop; 20 min (¥200)
OR 45 Alps Koen Line bus bound for Matsumoto Bus Terminal, Hokoji(放光寺) stop; 13 min (¥260); only 2 buses per day

Alps Park


Less crowded than some of the other flower-viewing spots, there are trails for exploring and areas for picnicking under the blossoms. You’ll also find a look-out area with a full view of the Japan Alps. Cherry trees in Alps Park bloom a little later than those in downtown areas such as the castle.

Hours & Admission

9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. FREE

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: 45 Alps Koen Line , Alps Koen(アルプス公園, the terminal) stop; 20 min (¥340); only 2 buses per day


7th Matsumoto Pub Crawl

Matsumoto Shiromachi (Castle Town) Baru (Bar)


bar crawl

Drawn by the medley of options and undeterred by the cold, I savored the flavors of the 7th Matsumoto Pub Crawl. With 70 venues offering great selections, it was tough choosing where to go and required a bit of strategic planning to get some of the dishes before they were sold out. Although some of the places I had hoped to visit sold out early in the evening (e.g. the pub with the sea urchin dishes), I was not disappointed with my other selections.

If you purchase your tickets in advance, you get a booklet of five tickets for ¥3,500. Non-alcohol booklets were also available for ¥3,000. One ticket was good for a specially paired set of one food item and one drink item. You also had the option of forgoing the food item for two drinks instead. I used up all of my tickets, but those that don’t can still redeem them for a slightly cheaper value for about one week after the event.

I went with a full-course style for the evening. Below you’ll find the five places I visited.

1. Shiki Shunsai Bar Ichi


Raw Oyster in a Ponzu Citrus Sauce

The oyster was very fresh and the wine had just enough sweetness. Both table and counter seating is available. The staff were very friendly, offering a nice atmosphere for drinking alone or in a group.


2.Yakiniku Bansankan


Kalbi with sides of kimchi and lettuce

The beef was tender and the kimchi had a nice kick to it. It seemed difficult to get the attention of the staff, but it could have been because of the large crowd.


3. Cafe Dining Gaku’s

roast beef

Roast beef with mashed potatoes

I lucked out by getting one of the last servings of roast beef. It was delicious! The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy and paired nicely with the meat. The wine was full-bodied and smooth. The bright red walls and lighting created a nice ambiance. Additional seating is available on their second floor.


4.  Hogyoku


Massaman curry and chige motsunabe

Hogyoku is a Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant. Both their chige motsunabe (kimchi and offal hot pot) and massaman curry were fantastic. The chilled hard cider balanced out the slight spiciness of the dishes. The seats are comfortable leather couches, and a spot near the window offered a nice view of the area.


5. Mukokuseki Dining Ku



I decided to end the evening with dessert, so I headed to Ku for their parfait. A nice mix of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and sherbet topped with chocolate cake and whipped cream awaited me. Counter and table seating is available. The background music consisted of more recent pop and electronic dance music making for a fairly energized atmosphere.



Event organizers posted updates on their Facebook page throughout the night so that participants would know when places were running low or had run out of their dishes. Keep an eye on their page for the next event! It is scheduled for Tuesday, June 5, 2018. I know I’m looking forward to participating!

Crash-Course Taiko Drum Lesson


This past weekend I had a chance to take part in a one-hour taiko workshop that aims to introduce the basics of taiko while giving participants the opportunity to perform on stage. If you’ve seen taiko live during in your time in Japan and wanted to do more than just watch, this is the perfect opportunity to try it for yourself! No experience is necessary.

Hosted at Agetsuchi Theater, the workshop began with an impressive display by members of Hibikiza.

The piece they performed is meant to invoke an image of the silhouette of Matsumoto Castle at night and was truly exhilarating.

After their demonstration, we jumped right into learning the techniques.

From proper stance…


…to the way you hold the drumsticks. Drumsticks were provided for the lesson.

After some warm up, we began to learn basic rhythms. Our enthusiastic instructor and another member, who was assisting in English, gave step by step instructions as they led us through patterns that gradually increased in difficulty. Once we had mastered four variations of the beat, we strung them together for an invigorating group arrangement.


Now that everyone had gotten the hang of the basic elements, we were given the chance to try a solo performance on a variety of drums!


Our instructor giving a brief demonstration. See more of his solo performance on YouTube.


And to wrap up the hour, we were given some free time to play as we liked on the drums of our choosing.


The dedicated members of Hibikiza made for a very fun and memorable hour. If you have the chance to participate in one of their future workshops, you can also look forward to pictures in a happi (overcoat often worn in festivals) and a souvenir hachimaki (bandanna).



(example of a happi and hachimaki)

Workshop Details

  • Lesson Time/Hours: 60 min. lesson anytime between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Closed: Lessons are typically taught on a daily basis, however, there may be some weekends when they are closed.
  • Location: Agetsuchi (formerly Piccadilly) Hall (Location subject to change. If so, it will still be within walking distance from Matsumoto Castle.) View in Google Maps.
  • Rate: ¥4000 per person
  • For ages 5 & older
  • Reservations: Please reserve by noon of the previous day. Reservations can be made via this online form or by calling 090-4666-3954.

¥500 Meal Deals around the Greater Matsumoto Area


¥500 de Dozura!? is a gourmet coupon book that offers great discounts at restaurants, cafes, and bars throughout the central Nagano area. I’ve used the book a number of times in more than one area and not only have I gotten some nice discounts, but I’ve found places that are worth visiting even without the book.

WHERE can you go?
The Chushin (central Nagano) version introduces places in Matsumoto,  Shiojiri, and Azumino! The page number of the restaurant corresponds to the number on the map. A number of locations can be found on Nakamachi Street, just south of the Castle.


The red area is the area to the east of Matsumoto Station.

HOW does it work?
All items listed in the book are ¥500 and you can visit each place up to three times! Some locations even offer additional coupons on your second or third visit. The book can only be used by one person at a time, so if you go with a friend or family, be sure that everyone has their own copies.

WHEN can you use it?
Volume 8 of Dozura is valid from now through April 7, 2018. Many locations serve both lunch and dinner and even offer the discounts on weekends, but certain time restrictions, such as lunchtime only, may apply.

WHERE can you buy it?
Typically bookstores and convenience stores carry it, and I picked up a copy at Tsutaya. The closest bookstore to Matsumoto Station is the bookstore in the attached Midori department store. Maruzen is also just a few minutes down the road from the Oshiro (castle) Exit, but you may find it at a convenience store as well. The book itself costs ¥980.


Books are in Japanese only.

In addition to local Japanese fare such as sushi, takoyaki, and soba noodles, you’ll also find a variety of other food and drink. Desserts are also on the menu!



¥1,180 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 70


¥780 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 50


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 58


¥830 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 25


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 40


¥750 down to ¥500! Dozura p. 123


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Look forward to a growing list as I visit more locations, and find places you’ll want to keep going back to!

Matsumoto Recommended Eats: Nagomi ごはんや和み


One of the places that I highly recommend people eat at in Matsumoto is Nagomi. This family run restaurant serves delicious, healthy meals with great portion sizes and at reasonable prices. The staff are very friendly and attentive. There is even a small play kitchen for children to use. They offer healthy takes on dishes like Taco Rice and local specialties such as Sanzokuyaki “Bandit Chicken” prepared with fresh ingredients.
It can get busy during lunch, so if you’re pressed for time, try to get in early!


Taco Rice (miso soup and side dish included) ¥900

Their special (pictured below) lets you choose from three main items and is accompanied by salad, an orange slice, and other side items that change regularly, all for ¥1,000.


Main Item “Bandit Chicken” – Thigh Meat

The chicken is very tender and juicy with just the right amount of breading.


Main Item “Crab Cream Croquette”

Two large croquette with a flavorful, creamy filling.

For an extra ¥500 you can get a set drink of your choice and their assorted sweets plate that lets you try 3 desserts selected by the chef.



If you’re interested in just an afternoon snack, they offer an a la carte menu in addition to  various cakes and parfaits including a sweet take on a tofu parfait, a chocolate parfait, and more. Drinks paired with a food item are discounted.
You can also look forward to a variety of cocktails and other alcoholic beverages if you stop by later in the day.

You can even get recommendations on other cafes in Matsumoto while you’re there! This large map on the wall can be used as a reference. (Nagomi is marked with the red dot.)




Mon − Sat: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (last order 8:00 p.m.)
Closed: Sundays & 1st Monday of the month

Location & Access

They are located just down the street from the Matsumoto AEON Mall.
4-7-16 Chuo, Matsumoto 390-0811

Walking: About 20 min from Matsumoto Station, about 15 min from Matsumoto Castle

By Bus: Take the Town Sneaker bus that runs along the Eastern Course. Get off at Hinodecho in front of AEON Mall. One way costs ¥200.

Find them on Facebook.

*Please note that they do not accept credit cards.*

A Great Day of Boarding in Matsumoto at Mt. Norikura Snow Resort


Not to be confused with Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort, the Mt. Norikura Snow Resort in Matsumoto City is a medium-sized resort that offers off-piste skiing/boarding, a kid-friendly area, hot spring bathing, and more.


Norikura Kogen tends to be a very windy area. Make sure the lifts are operating before you go!

Access via Public Transportation

You can take a bus or a combination of train and bus to the resort.

The round-trip ticket is very efficient as it covers both train and bus fare. It costs ¥3,300 and is valid for 7 days. Don’t lose it! Purchase your ticket at the Alpico ticket office across the street from Matsumoto Station’s Castle (Oshiro) Exit.


Only one bus runs directly to the resort, and it leaves in the afternoon. Otherwise, take the Matsumoto Electric Railway from track 7, which is next to track 6. You will not see the track listed on the panels near the ticket gates, but head through to the ticket gates and to your right.



Last stop: Shin-Shimashima


Once you arrive at Shin-Shimashima Station, you should have at least 10 minutes to transfer to the bus out front. The transfer is fairly smooth. You can purchase bus tickets there as well. If you do not purchase your tickets in advance, you will need to pay (cash only) when you board the bus.


Enjoy the scenery


View the Nagawado Dam along the way!

Get off at stop N31 Ski Resort (also announced “ski-jo mae”). You should see a large dark grey building directly in front of you.

The last bus bound for Shin-Shimashima Station leaves the resort at 6:22 p.m.

Trails & Facilities


One of the quad lifts


Gear and wear rentals are available at a number of shops.


Coin Lockers

If you are not driving up or staying at one of the hotels, coins lockers are available in places such as the rental shop located in the dark grey building near the ticket vendor. Other lockers are available in the restaurant nearby, but the restaurant closes at 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, so you will need to get your belongings out before then.


Many of the beginner trails are wide and slope gently. Beginner snow boarders should note that sections of beginner areas, such as trail 19 and 13/11 will flatten out considerably. There is also a kids’ area near the bottom of trail 9 that can be accessed on your way down the trail or from the nearby parking lot.


The more advanced can enjoy tree runs, the terrain park, and off-piste skiing/boarding. Mt. Norikura backcountry tours take you from the top of the highest lift into an expanse of mountain peaks and fields of snow.


Overall the trails were not crowded, and the snow was not packed.

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There a few restaurants along the trails and one at the base of the resort. Be careful though! Many dishes are sold out as early as 1:30 p.m.

Hot Springs

Wind down with a dip in the milky white waters of the local hot springs. Hot springs such as Yukemurikan and Kyukamura Onsen are close to the base of the resort. Yukemurikan is about a 9 minute walk, and you can board the return bus to Matsumoto from the Tourist Center (Kanko Center Mae) bus stop out front.


Earth あーす: Handmade Glass Accessories, Candles, and More!


Located on Nawate Street just down the road from Matsumoto Castle, this charming shop specializes in glass accessories and other crafts and even lets you try making things yourself!


Order custom-made glass charms!



Choose ready-made pieces to customize your accessories!

Hands-on Courses

Try making your own unique pieces to take home!
*Some activities have minimum age requirements




Price: ¥1,300

Time required to make: 15 min (+20 min to set)

L-Course: Larger containers and more time to create

Price: ¥1,600

Time required to make: 20 min (+30 min to set)

Snow Globe


Children can enjoy making these as well!

Price: From ¥2,300

Time required to make: 15 min (+40 min to set)


Price: From ¥1,200

Time required to make: 20 min

Leather Stamping

Price: From ¥1,000

Time required to make: 15 min

Music Box

Price: From ¥2,300

Time required to make: 30 min (+30 min to set)


Other goods are also available for purchase.


Why not bring home something to commemorate your time on Matsumoto’s “Frog Street”?


Or Matsumoto’s renowned temari silk-thread balls

store items

Shop Info

*Credit cards are not accepted*

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec thru Feb)

Closed: Wednesdays

Location: 3-3 Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0874


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