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Japanese Culture Experience in Nakamachi – Day 1 Report

Looking for a chance to experience a piece of Japanese culture? This month, Nakamachi in central Matsumoto is holding a special event on two separate days for foreign visitors and residents to try out various Japanese arts, crafts, and other cultural activities. The first day of the event was last week so I went to try out a few of the activities (the next day is on Sep. 23).

Nakamachi Japanese Culture Event

The first day of the Japanese Culture event started off with a kagamibiraki ceremony that entails busting open a sake barrel with wooden mallets (and yes, the event does include sake tasting of Nakamachi original-brand sake!). To help out with the activities and interpreting Japanese to English, students from a local high school also came to lend a hand, as well.

Many visitors from all over the world, including France, Malaysia, Germany, Taiwan, Australia, and the U.S., came to try out the different kinds of hands-on activities like the Japanese tea ceremony, origami, and Japanese calligraphy. I also tried out as many activities as I could – and had a blast doing it! Even though I’ve been living in Japan for a few years now, I got to try some new things that I’ve never done before like riding in a rickshaw and shooting ninja darts through a blowgun.

The main activities are held at the Kurassic-kan, and here I started off with calligraphy, quickly realizing how challenging (yet fun!) it is to write well-balanced Japanese characters with a calligraphy brush. I saw other participants also getting their names translated into Japanese so they could write it themselves, and writing the names of the cities/places they had visited.

Learn to write your name in Japanese or any of your favorite words & phrases

Learn to write your name in Japanese or any of your favorite words & phrases

My next stop was at the Japanese tea ceremony activity. Here, the teacher taught me not only how to properly mix the matcha tea with the tea brush, but also how to properly sit, hold the cup, and drink the tea (not to mention you also get to munch on some tasty Japanese sweets while drinking the tea!).

Visitors learning the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and how to make matcha

Visitors learning the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and how to make matcha

After that, it was time for my first ride in a rickshaw! I had never ridden in a rickshaw before and it was so much more fun that I thought. The breeze feels nice as you get pulled down the street and you can see everything from the open carriage as if you’re riding in a kind of traditional convertible. Plus, seeing a rickshaw in Matsumoto is not so common as in some other cities like Kyoto, so everyone loves to wave at you as you ride by! Highly recommended if you’ve never tried a rickshaw ride before.

Matsumoto's one and only rickshaw!

Matsumoto’s one and only rickshaw!

Lastly, I did a quick kimono/yukata rental with my friend and walked around Nakamachi Street to some of the shops who were offering their own activities: I tried on different kinds of traditional Japanese footwear like geta at the Yaguchi shop, wine and amazake tasting at Senri, and the fun little bean-and-chopsticks game at the Ihara shop (you get a pair of your own chopsticks for trying the game!). All the shopkeepers were extremely nice and were happy to see us wearing yukata’s around the town.

Trying out Japanese footwear in my Yukata

Trying out Japanese footwear in my Yukata

By the way, I recommend trying out the ninja blowgun activity… it’s super fun no matter what your age, plus the blowgun is one of the weapons/techniques that ninjas actually used to get their job done way back in the day!

Ninja blowgun game. You can also rent a ninja outfit, like this  person here!

Ninja blowgun game. You can also rent a ninja outfit, like this person here!

Learn ninja tricks from this guy ;)

Learn ninja tricks from this guy ;)

If you missed the first day of the event, or didn’t get to do all the activities, the second day is being held on Saturday, Sep. 23 at the Kurassic-kan and various shops around Nakamachi Street.

See all the event details here or bookmark the event on Facebook here.

The origami table

The origami table

Rickshaw rides!!

Rickshaw rides!!

Germany – Japan Baking Exchange in Norikura

Last weekend in Norikura, I got to participate in a fun cultural exchange event hosted by the Norikura Highlands Tourism Association and a German-style bakery, Brot Hügel, in Matsumoto. For a 2 day event, two master German bakers from Saxony, Torsten Eckert and Erik Wunderlich, were invited to Matsumoto to share one of Germany’s most celebrated cultural traditions – baking!

21231159_1673091Germany - Japan Bread Exchange

The first day consisted of a welcome party with a taiko drum performance by the Norikura elementary school taiko club, locally brewed rye beer, German bread, sausages, and regional dishes, and a speech by the German guests.

The Norikura elementary school taiko club

The Norikura elementary school taiko club

The German and Japanese Bakers

The German and Japanese Bakers

Mountains of pretzels!

Mountains of pretzels!

On the second day, the bakers taught a special baking (and cooking) course. We made different kinds of bread made with sourdough rye dough (baked in a wood-burning oven!), eclairs, creme puffs, a beautiful buttercream cake, and a potato salad and radish salad from Saxony. Because truly authentic German bread and food is a rarity in Japan, it was a unique opportunity for all of to get a taste of the real thing and see how it’s actually made.

Participants eagerly watching the bakers demonstrate how to make the bread dough

Participants eagerly watching the bakers demonstrate how to make the bread dough

Preparing the bread dough

Preparing the bread dough

Squeezing out dough for creme puffs

Squeezing out dough for creme puffs

Eclairs and creme puff shells baking in the wood-burning oven

Eclairs and creme puff shells baking in the wood-burning oven

The finished cake!

The finished cake!

The whole Germany – Japan Baking Exchange got started when the baker from Brot Hügel connected with the German bakers on Facebook. After building their friendship online, Brot Hügel traveled to Saxony last year to teach about some quintessentially Japanese breads like melon pan (a sweet roll with a cookie-based crust), anpan (roll filled with sweet red bean paste), and creme pan (roll filled with custard cream). As a continuation of the cultural exchange, the German bakers were then invited to Matsumoto this year. The bakers are eager to continue their friendship and offer more cultural exchange in both Saxony and Matsumoto, so let’s hope we see more events like this in the future!

Finished rye bread!

Finished rye bread!

In the meantime, if you’re interested in German bread, beer, or food, there are a couple of options right here in Matsumoto!

German-style bakeries:

Food & Beer:

  • Sonnenblume – serves various German-inspired dishes and has a huge selection of imported German beers (Location on map | Website – Japanese | facebook)
  • Baden-Baden – Specializes in homemade sausages and offers a selection of beer (including German ones) (Location on Map | Website – Japanese)
  • Matsumoto Brewery – Matsumoto’s craft beer brewery and bar (Location on Map | Facebook)
  • Japanese Culture Event at Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi!

    Event flyer

    As announced in our previous blog post, Nakamachi is holding a fun Japanese culture event at the Kurassic-kan on Sep. 6 (Wed) and Sep 23 (Sat). Here you can try all kinds of Japanese arts, crafts, activities, and other cultural experiences, not to mention everything is hands-on and mostly free! Besides the main event at the Kurassic-kan, several of the shops and restaurants around Nakamachi will also be offering cultural activities like traditional games or food/drink tastings. See below for a list of activities and where you can get the official details, event flyer, or see the event on Facebook!

    There will also be volunteers providing translation/interpretation to help with communication, including local high school students and local guides. So not only is this a great opportunity to experience Japanese culture, but also a nice chance to communicate with the locals!

    Event Details

    Place: Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi, Matsumoto
    Date & Time: Sep. 6 and Sep. 23, 10 am – 4 pm (times for activities at the shops differ. Check the event flyer or webpage)
    Event webpage: http://nakamachi-street.com/en/experiencedays/
    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607791399271217/

    Get the official PDF flyer here which includes a map and all activity details:

    Japanese Culture Experience Days flyer

    Click here to download the PDF

    List of main activities at the Kurassic-kan:

    • Origami folding
    • Japanese calligraphy
    • Japanese Tea Ceremony (traditional way of making matcha green tea)
    • Japanese folding fan decorating
    • Play with old-fashioned and traditional Japanese toys
    • Sake tasting with Nakamachi’s original-brand sake
    • Kimono (yukata) and ninja costume rental (paid activity)
    • Rickshaw rides around Nakamachi (paid activity, discount with kimono rental)
    • Ninja blowgun activity (paid activity, free with ninja costume rental)


    List of shops offering activities around Nakamachi:

    • Geiyukan: Try plaing the shamisen, a traditional Japanese music instrument.
    • Kuriya: Make fresh wasabi from real wasabi root.
    • Senri: Japanese wine, sake, amazake, and juice tasting
    • Yamahei: Introduction of some Japanese local foods
    • Yaguchi: Try wearing geta, a traditional form of Japanese footwear.
    • Ihara: Chopsticks and beans game
    • Itoya: Play the konpira fune-fune game, a traditional game played at geisha banquets, and other activities.
    • Okinado Kura Branch: Try playing the Japanese taiko drum. Also, exhibit of traditional tools used for making Japanese confections/sweets
    • Temariya: Free Japanese tea



    Flyer page listing shop activities. Download the PDF for all the details.

    Flyer page listing shop activities. Download the PDF for all the details.

    Fujigen Music Instrument Exhibit in Nakamachi

    Fujigen, the Japanese musical instrument maker, is holding its 17th annual music instrument exhibition from at Okinado Kura Branch, a Japanese confectionary on Nakamach Street. The exhibition runs from Friday, Aug. 25 to Sunday, Sep. 3 (10:30 am – 5:30 pm) and is located in the old kura-style storehouse in the back of Okinado’s shop. Just walk through the shop to get there (you can also pick up a tasty Japanese sweet while you’re there too!).

    A selection of Fujgen's guitars

    A selection of Fujgen’s guitars

    The Okinado Kura Branch shop

    The Okinado Kura Branch shop

    Fujigen is based in Matsumoto and makes all kinds of wooden instruments including guitars, ukuleles, big Japanese taiko drums, wooden music boxes, and other instruments made from wood. Originally the company focused on guitars and violins, and at one point even worked with Fender. You can see examples of all of these instruments at the exhibition and even buy one if you feel inclined to (they even had several ukuleles on sale for affordable discount prices).

    I visited the exhibition yesterday and for me, it was especially cool to see the huge taiko drums up close. They also had an interesting kind of “music box” that looks more like a small cabinet and uses a round metal disk to play the tunes instead of the revolving cylinder you normally see in smaller music boxes. If you’re a guitar or ukulele player, there were plenty of those on display too. Fujigen specializes in the wooden bodies and frames of these instruments, which can be quite beautiful, and each one has its own unique characteristic color and patterns.

    The taiko drum display

    The taiko drum display

    For percussion fans, you might be especially interested in Fujigen’s newly developed “A-frame,” which is a kind of electronic percussion instrument developed in collaboration with the ATV company in Hamamatsu, Japan. The instrument is shaped like a flat diamond, with a wooden frame and electronic, plastic surface that you beat with your hand. The A-frame has hundreds of different percussion sounds stored in its memory which you can play around with and make your own compositions. If you’re interested in hearing or trying it out, on Saturday, Sep. 2 from 11 am to 4 pm, you’ll actually have a chance to hear and play the A-frame!

    The new A-frame electronic percussion instrument

    The new A-frame electronic percussion instrument

    The exhibition is free, so if you have a chance, to check it out. I also highly recommend trying at least one of Okinado’s Japanese confections too. They have a good variety including mochi based sweets like walnut mochi, chestnut/walnut sweets, and sweet bean past confections. Map to Okinado is here.

    You can check out some of Fujigen’s guitars on their website here too. It’s in Japanese but you can see some of the nice frames/bodies they make!

    Matsumoto Summer Festivals

    One of the things I’ve been enjoying the most since moving to Matsumoto earlier this year are all the great summer festivities in the city, like the Taiko Festival and Matsumoto Bon Bon. There is so much going on that I don’t even have time to do it all! If you’re planning to come to Matsumoto, I think it would even more fun if you coordinate your visit with one of the festivals (of course, there are also festivals in other seasons of the year too!). Here, I want to introduce just a few of these great summer events.

    Tenjin Festival

    The Tenjin Festival is held in honor of the Tenjin deity, and it is celebrated not just in Matsumoto, but in many places around Japan where there are Shinto shrines dedicated to the Tenjin deity. Osaka’s Tenjin Festival is probably the most famous one of its kind in Japan. In Matsumoto, it is celebrated every year on July 24 & 25 at Fukashi Shrine. Eighteen enormous floats (a kind of traditional portable shrine called dashi or butai) from the different districts of downtown Matsumoto are pulled by hand through the streets, finally gathering at Fukashi Shrine. The Tenjin Festival in Matsumoto has been celebrated since the 1600s in Japan, so it has over 300 hundred years of history! The floats themselves are mostly over 100 years old, as well. Here you can enjoy Japanese street food, see festival-goers in yukata and happi outfits, and get a close look at the amazingly detailed ornaments and carvings on the butai!

    Festival Floats lined up at the shrine

    Festival Floats lined up at the shrine

    Ornament on the front of one of the festival floats

    Ornament on the front of one of the festival floats

    Pulling one of the floats into the the shrine

    Pulling one of the floats into the the shrine

    Tenjin Matsuri

    Main building of Fukashi Shrine

    Main building of Fukashi Shrine

    Taiko Festival

    The Taiko Festival is a big, 2-day event held right on the doorstep of Matsumoto Castle (admission is free!). Taiko clubs and performers from all over Japan come to perform here, ranging from elementary school student clubs to professional groups. The performers use all kinds of different taiko drums including huge ones that are far bigger than the drummers themselves! Here you can see not only traditional taiko songs from different regions, but also more contemporary artistic performances and impressive show-like performances by the pro-drummers. I have to say though, I think I was most impressed by the amazing elementary school kid who seemed like pros in their own right! If you go, you definitely don’t want to miss the finally, where all of the different taiko clubs come to the stage at once and play together. The day I went it was raining so I couldn’t get any photos, but do check out the video of the finale below.

    Matsumoto Bon Bon

    Matsumoto Bon Bon, which first started back in 1975, is basically a gigantic line dance that takes place on the streets of downtown Matsumoto. It’s held on the night of the first Saturday of August every year, and more than 20,000 participants take part. Matsumoto Bon Bon is different from the traditional obon dances and requires you to be part of a team to participate as a dancer (teams must be 30 people or more), so you’ll see a lot of teams formed by local companies or schools. Each team has there own “uniforms” ranging from customized T-shirts to more traditional happi (a kind of Japanese festival outfit). Though technically you have to be on a team to participate, you might find a chance to sneak in the line and join dance for a minute or two 😉

    On the festival day, pink and white paper lanterns are hung around the city and are lite up when it gets dark. The special “Matsumoto Bon Bon” song is played throughout the city for the entire 4 hours of the festival. Many restaurants and shops along the dance route set up street stalls selling food and drinks, so you can enjoy all kinds of Japanese goodies! Because the Bon Bon dance is such a spectacle, some onlookers even set up their own little “picnic” area with lawn chairs and their own cooler full of drinks and snacks.

    Matsumoto Bon Bon

    Matsumoto Bon Bon

    Dancers trying to stay in sync!

    Dancers trying to stay in sync!

    Waiting for the festival to start under the lanterns

    Waiting for the festival to start under the lanterns

    Matsumoto Obon Dance

    Matsumoto’s Obon Dance event (Oshiro Bon Odori) lasts the entire three days of Obon (usually Aug. 14 -16) and the great thing is that it takes place right in front of the castle! During the event, a stage is set up at night with a big taiko drum and dancers dressed up in summer yukata. Paper lanterns hang from the stage and cast a soft glow on the participants and onlookers below. Here you can here all sorts of traditional obon dance songs from Matsumoto and nearby areas like Azumino. Each song has its own particular dance and anyone can participate. It’s completely free plus you get to see the night light-up of the castle while you’re dancing! I went this year on the first night – there were people of all ages coming to watch and dance, including lots of foreign visitors.

    Matsumoto Summer Fest 2017 – Beer Garden and Live Performances

    Matsumoto Summer Fest 2017 is under way! Come out and enjoy a wide selection of food and drinks in the summer air. You’ll find a variety of German and local beers, wine, and dishes which include German sausage, Korean Samgyeopsal-gui, ramen with lobster, chicken tacos, pizza, Indian curry, steak, and more from numerous local restaurants and vendors! There are nearly 30 stalls all with multiple dishes or drinks. Live performances are also taking place on stage, making for a very festive atmosphere.

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    I made it just before last order, so I only had time to try assorted sausage, kimbap, and a chicken taco accompanied by Kölsch beer (pictured above), but it was all delicious! I highly recommend going with friends and/or family so that you can share the dishes!

    WHEN: August 17 (Thurs.) – August 28 (Mon.)
    Weekdays: 5PM – 9PM (Order stop 8:45PM); Sat/Sun: 11AM – 9PM (Order stop 8:45PM)

    WHERE: Hanadokei (flower clock) Park 花時計公園 (South side of the Matsumoto PARCO department store)
    A six minute walk from Matsumoto Station.
    *Seating with tents is available in case it rains.*

    COST: Prices on beers range from around ¥600 to ¥1,200 and food items (both single-serving and sharing sizes) start at around ¥400. Coupons that can be used at participating shops and other local businesses are also available in the free Matsumoto Guide Book, and they are valid through November!
    Glass system: In order to cover the cost of the glass in the event that it is not returned, a ¥1,000 deposit is required with the purchase of beer. The deposit will be returned to you when you turn in your glass.

     

    Official website and Facebook page (Japanese only).

    Japanese Culture Experience Days in Nakamachi! Plus a New Nakamachi Guide Map, Website, and Shop Signs in English!

    Japanese Culture Experience Days at Kurassic-kan in September

    Come to Kurassic-kan on Wednesday, Sept. 6 and Saturday, Sept. 23 between 10:00 and 16:00 to enjoy special Japanese cultural activities, plus get a free gift for participating! Here you can try your hand at various traditional arts, crafts, and other activities (mostly for free!) including:

    • Origami – the art of paper folding where you can create colorful figures out of paper
    • Japanese calligraphy – write your name in Japanese and favorite kanji characters
    • Tea ceremony/Matcha green tea making – experience the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and learn how to make matcha, a special kind of green tea
    • Japanese paper fan decorating – decorate your own folding paper fan just the way you like and keep yourself cool the rest of the summer
    • Traditional Japanese toys – try out old-fashioned Japanese toys like the koma (spinning tops), kendama (a kind of cup and ball game), takeuma (stilts), and more
    • Sake tasting – try a specially brewed sake made just for the Nakamachi area!
    • Kimono wearing/rental – choose from your favorite design and walk around Matsumoto in a kimono (fee required)
    • Rickshaw rides – enjoy a fun ride through Nakamachi on a rickshaw! (fee required)
    • Ninja experience – learn cool ninja skills like how to shoot darts using a blowgun (fee required)

    (*Activities may be subject to change)

    After participating in the activities, fill out a short survey to get a free gift – a roll of specially designed masking tape decorated in the characteristic “namako-kabe” pattern, which is the black and white crisscross pattern found on the walls of many of the old buildings in Nakamachi.

    The name namako-kabe has an interesting origin, coming from the word for “sea slug” (namako) and walls (kabe). If you look closely at actually pattern on the buildings when walking around the town, you’ll notice that the crisscross patterns are made up of rounded, embossed lines that supposedly look like sea slugs, which have a similar cylindrical shape. Although this pattern makes the buildings quite beautiful, it also had practical applications too, as it helped protect them against fire, strong winds, and rain. The namako-kabe masking tape will make a fun souvenir to remind you of your time in Nakamachi!

    Namako-kabe walls in Nakamachi

    Namako-kabe patterned walls

    New Nakamachi guide map, website, and shop signs in English!

    Finding your way around Nakamachi Street just got a whole lot easier with Nakamachi’s new guide map, website in English with a shop directory, and soon-to-be-finished shop signs in English that will posted in front of every shop so you will know exactly what kind of place it is.

    Nakamachi Guide Map in paper form will be distributed soon, but until then you can download a PDF version here.

    Nakamachi English guide map

    Nakamachi English Guide Map (click to download the PDF)

    Check out the new English version of Nakamachi’s website here to learn more about its history, what events and sights there are to see, and find shops & restaurants with the handy, searchable shop list. You can also download the guide map from the website, too.

    English shop signs are also coming soon and will be posted in front of each shop. These signs will let you know what kind of shop or restaurant it is, whether there is Wi-Fi available or not, if credit cards can be used, which restaurants allow or don’t allow smoking, and more. Keep an eye out for them in the upcoming months!

    Nakamachi shop sign

    Preview of the shop signs being prepared for Nakamachi Street

    Tour de Utsukushigahara Heights 2017

    Tour de Utsukushigahara - Cyclists

    Tour de Utsukushigahara is one of the premiere Japanese bicycle races.

    Once a year, thousands of people line the streets to watch and compete in the Tour de Utsukushigahara Heights bicycle race! These bicyclists trek the 21.6 km at a 5.9% average incline. That’s a 1,270 meter altitude difference from start to finish! I was lucky enough to watch this premiere Japanese bicycle race this year.

    I woke up at 6:30AM on Sunday, June 25, 2017. I was at the starting line by 7:00AM, just north of the Matsumoto Baseball Stadium. With 30 minutes left before the race kicked off, the area was already full of bicyclists, workers, and spectators.

    Participants were practicing their warm-up traditions. Some stretched, some were doing warm-up laps, and some spend the whole time reviewing their bicycle and gear. It was almost time! Workers ran around, keeping people off the course and away from technical equipment, as photographers, cyclists, and spectators crowded the starting line to see the start of the race.

    The time-card girls flashed the 1 minute card… then the 30 second card. BANG! With the sound of the gun, the first round of cyclists rushed down the street and around the corner!

    Tour de Utsukushigahara - 1 Minute

    The time-card girl showing the 1 minute card.

    Tour de Utsukushigahara - Start

    The race begins!

    The course makes its way through the bathhouse district and into hillside neighborhoods. From there, the trees take over as the course winds its way up the mountain side. After enjoying the start of the race, I made my way up the hill along the side of the course. Every time a new round of cyclists started the race, the crowds on the side of the road cheered and made loud noises with make-shift shakers and drums. I stopped to take photos of each wave of cyclists. When the last cyclist of a wave finally turned around the corner, disappearing behind buildings, the spectators would quiet down while waiting for the next batch of cyclists to come by.

    Tour de Utsukushigahara - Mountain

    The mountain looms menacingly.

    If you want to participate in the race, the application period is usually from March to May. To just watch, definitely get there early! The road up the mountain is blocked off starting at 6:00AM. It’s possible to walk up the course a fair distance, but I recommend staying in the city/neighborhood areas to do your cheering. Get there by 7:00AM to claim the spot you want.

    Tour de Utsukushigahara - Hill

    Cyclists pushing uphill.

    I was impressed by the size and intensity of the race. I was even more impressed by the men and women – young to old – who pushed themselves to accomplish this amazing feat! Regardless of if you participate, I highly recommend attending the Tour de Utsukushigahara if you ever have the chance! It’s a very inspiring experience!


    You can see my videos on Matsumoto (and more!) on my Discovery Makes Knowledge Youtube channel!

    Shinshu Wine Summit This Week in Matsumoto

    The light-bodied, white wine selection

    The light-bodied, white wine selection

    Wine fans! This week the Shinshu Wine Summit is being held in Matsumoto (Wed., June 21st to Mon., June 26th), and if you’re interested in wine, I’d definitely recommend checking it out! Yesterday, I was invited by one of my friends and it really turned out to be a fun time so I just had to share on the blog.

    The Wine Summit is set up in the plaza/park next to the Parco department store. On weekdays, it’s open from 5 pm to 9 pm, and on weekends from 11 am to 9 pm. There are over 120 kinds of wine from 40 wineries, all from Nagano. There are four wine counters where you go and order the wine, which are separated by type: full-bodied white, light-bodied white/sparkling, full-bodied red, and light-bodied red. Though the wine list only seemed to be available in Japanese, at each counter they had the actual bottles out in front to view (most of them have English labels) and on top of that, there were sommeliers (at least a couple could speak English) waiting on each customer to explain the different wines.

    The wine ordering counters

    The wine ordering counters

    One glass coming right up!

    One glass coming right up!

    To be honest, I’ve had a lot of bad luck with Japanese wines, but yesterday at the Wine Summit, I got to taste a couple of really nice ones, both red and white, and they weren’t necessarily expensive! In general, the wines ranged from 600 yen to 2,000 yen for a full glass, with a couple of more expensive selections. Half glasses at half the price were also available.

    The food was pretty good (good pizzas, grilled seafood like oysters & scallops, fresh fruits, etc.) and not to pricey, too. The seating was set up like those German-style beer tents, so the atmosphere was fun and casual, and it wasn’t too crowded, though it will probably more crowded on the weekend. If you need a break from wine, you can get a glass of locally-brewed, Hotaka Beer.

    The party tent ;)

    The party tent ;)

    White mushroom pizza

    White mushroom pizza

    Nuggets of fried fish

    Nuggets of fried fish

    Locally brewed Hotaka Beer is also making an appearance!

    Locally brewed Hotaka Beer is also making an appearance!

    I’m so used to the super crowded, super expensive festivals like this in Tokyo and Yokohama, I was pleasantly surprised at the Wine Summit. So, if you’re eager to try some Japanese wines or just enjoy the fun, party-like atmosphere, then I highly recommend checking out the wine summit before it ends!

    My personal recommendation is the Riesling on the right. A little on the sweet side, but good balance.

    My personal recommendation is the Riesling on the right. A little on the sweet side, but good balance. Also, the Sogga pere et fils Merlot & Cabernet for red.

    Hashigo Yokocho food court : vegan options available

    So you’ve come to Matsumoto and have been to eat at all the usual tourist spots, or you just want to get away from the crowds and try something a bit different, Hashigo Yokocho on Uramachi Street is the perfect place for you. Tucked away between all the bars, clubs and sunakku is the perfect little food court. The name Hashigo, meaning ladder, is also used in Japanese for hopping from one place to another, e.g bar hopping, and Yokocho are the little narrow alleys full of shops and cheap places to eat. The name suits the place perfectly as you can easily hop from one store to the next and there are plenty of choices for food available.

    DSC_0540

    Whether driving, cycling, walking or taking the bus you shouldn’t have any problem at all, there is free parking for both bikes and cars, it is only a 2 minute walk from the bus stop. However, even if you are walking from the station it is only about 15 minutes and from the castle, only 10. On a nice day I’m sure you will love the walk.

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    Upon arriving, you first notice the beautiful traditional Japanese style entrance and just inside there is a small Torii (archway) and miniature shrine which really adds a nice touch. Inside is like stepping back in time to a more traditional Japan. I found myself instantly reminded of the movie spirited away with the amazing style of everything.

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    Taking a walk around, you can check out all the cute little stores. Most only big enough for a handful of people. Every store has its own style, for starters, right by the entrance there is a store called “Shun” where you can try “Oden” a Japanese dish consisting of different vegetables, fish cakes and eggs all boiled together in a delicious broth.

    DSC_0555

    You can try Chinese food at “Lili’s Kitchen”, Teppanyaki (food cooked on the hotplate right in front of you) at “Teppanyaki Fumoto” or go to an izakaya (Japanese style bar) for a beer or sake.

    Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday you can go early to buy fresh locally grown vegetables from “Sasaki Seeds” and take home with you to cook later.

    IMG_3774

    All your tea needs can be met at “Chahua” selling a wide range of different Chinese and herbal teas and accessories such as cute little tea pots. Although the owner doesn’t speak much English, they are very friendly and helpful and will happily brew a tea for you in store.

    .tea shop

     

    My personal favorites, however, are the 5 star Indian restaurant “Doon Shokudo Indoyama” and the cafe “Chokonto”

    IMG_3808

    Doon Shokudo Indoyama is run by a lovely couple who speak fluent English. You have your choice of three delicious curries including a vegan option if you are not much of a meat eater. All curries come with a popadom, chapati and great conversation. Also feel free to ask the owner for extra rice if you’re feeling hungry.

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    Chokonto is by far one of the cutest cafes I have ever stepped inside, it has a real lovely style of all its own. It even has cute little handmade menus. Besides the nice variety of western style and Japanese style food and drinks, there are lots of really nice local made products that would make a great souvenir to take back home.

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    As a bonus, if you happen to be in Matsumoto on the 7th of July, Hashigo Yokocho, will be hosting a small festival from 4m till 9pm where everyone will be wearing yukata (a light summer kimono) and there will special items for sale. And then everyone will head downtown afterwards.

     

    So please come and join the fun. :)


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