Happy holidays! Snow falls in the north mountain areas in Nagano, so it is white Christmas.
In the last year’s winter, I wrote about the launch of Hakuba from/to Matsumoto direct express bus service. Again this year, it operates from Dec 17 till Mar 20!
Check out this new English website.
Free shuttle buses between Matsumoto and Mt. Norikura/Nomugi Pass ski resorts are operating this year, too. You need reservation for them. See the details on Japanese websites (Mt. Norikura / Nomugi Pass).
Another good news, ‘Sumo road-show in Matsumoto’ will be also held next April again. It might be the season of cherry blossoms seen in and around Matsumoto Castle beautifully.
Time: 8 am to 3 pm, Friday 14th, April
Venue: Matsumoto City General Gymnasium (Google map)
Ticket: advance-sale tickets will be sold from Feb 1 (probably walk-up tickets will also be sold)
Refer to the Japanese website and our previous blog article.
Are you interested in Matsumoto Castle and other Japanese castles and cultures at the samurai age? If so, now ‘Castle Expo’ in Yokohama is being held to Dec 25. See this PDF document.
In the Matsumoto Castle garden, a tea ceremony is held several times a year.
This summer, it’ll be held on August 6th and 7th, at the beginning of the free admission period for visitors wearing kimono, and also the extension period of entrance hours (8:00 till door closes at 17:30 , normally 8:30-16:30) (until August 16).
Members of the youth group of the Urasenke school of tea ceremony school wearing yukata (a kind of kimono) will serve you cold green powdered tea with Japanese cake for 500 yen. The leader of the group speaks English.
Also, there is a full-scale tea-ceremony room (tyashitsu) with a tea garden in Ikegami Hyakuchikutei, just a few minutes walk northward from the castle.
You can look inside the tea room and garden freely (9:00-17:00 except Monday) without charge when it is not used.
How about wearing kimono at newly opened Kimono & Ninja Costume Wearing & Rental Shop ‘Hanakomichi’, go to the castle, take your photo with an armored man of ‘omotenashi-tai’, enter the castle free of charge, taste cold tea at the castle garden (if you visit Aug 6 or 7), then visit the tea room in Hyakuchikutei?
This is a perfect plan to experience traditional castle culture!
Last year’s cherries with the Castle (April 9th)
According to the ‘Cherry Blooming Forecast’, cherries at the Castle and downtown Matsumoto might begin blooming April 3rd. The event ‘Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing’ will be held from three days after cherries begin blooming and continue 8 days (so possibly around April 6th till 13th)
The special illumination for the cherries will start from the same day and will continue two days longer (10 days).
On April 7th, ‘Sumo road-show in Matsumoto’ will be held again. The last year’s road-show was heated because of a new hero ‘Mitake-umi’ from Kiso in Nagano Prefecture. You might see some sumo wrestlers viewing cherries somewhere after the show if you are very lucky.
Sumo road-show will come back again this Wednesday 14th.
A photo of the last road-show 2007
8 years has passed since the last sumo
in Matsumoto. Refer to a blog article “Gentle Giants of Sumo”
at that time.
Super strong Mongolian yokozuna (grand champion) Hakuho still reigns over 8 years (he is injured so cannot come back again this time but other two yokozunas and major wrestlers will come).
And, a new hero from Kiso in Nagano Prefecture will step onto the sumo ring (dohyo) in his home prefecture. He is Mitake-umi, named from the volcano Ontake, which erupted last year and caused many victims and much damages to Kiso area. At that time he was a college student and the strongest amateur wrestler. He chose to become a professional sumo wrestler and encourage Kiso people.
He has scored very well in lower divisions and will make his debut in the makuuchi (top) division this November.
So, he will return in triumph in this sumo performance in Matsumoto and get great applause.
Most wrestlers will stay in Asama hot springs. You may see some of them if you are lucky.
By the way, Chanko (special stew sumo wrestlers eat) Dining Sumotei has opened by ex-sumo wrestler near Matsumoto Castle last year. See this tripadvisor page.
- Time: 8 am to 3 pm, Wednesday 14th, October
- Venue: Matsumoto City General Gymnasium (Google map)
- Ticket: advance-sale tickets were sold out. Walk-up tickets will be sold from 8 am (probably there will be a long line)
- Japanese website: http://matumoto-sumou.com/
For those with an appreciation for art and who may want to feel a little cooler in the summer heat, nearby Matsumoto on the western slopes of the surrounding hills is a place called Kiyomizu Highland named after the Temple there that was the original temple from which Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto was named. The locals there are putting on an art festival with a variety of open Studios and even musical events at the Kiyomizu Skyland resort hotel over the next two weeks.
Should you want to vistit or even pop in on the original Kiyomizu temple take a look at the schedule below or the facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/KiyomizuArtfes?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser)if you can read or work with Japanese with a translator.
While you are there you can take a nice Onsen style bath with a great view of the entire Matsumoto Valley and along the Japan Alps at Kiyomizu Skyland. The temperature up their is a good 5 degrees cooler making it a popular mountain cabin locality. You may even spot some monkeys getting about along the way.
In Japan, the winter is a season of “illumination”. There are some beautiful illumination spots lighted up by LEDs. In Nagano, Karuizawa, Azumino, and Suzaka’s illumination events are famous.
This winter, not large but unique illumination has started at Asama Hot Springs in Matsumoto. It is Japanese taste design lighting in front of Hot Plaza Asama, a day trip hot spring facility. You can watch the “healing illumination” while soaking your feet in the free foot hot spring.
Japanese-style illumination of origami cranes and Matsumoto temari balls, made and played in the castle in Edo period.
The lights on trees are designed to twinkle by natural wind, like stars in the sky.
Because of the M 6.7 earthquake that occurred on 22nd November and damaged some portions in Hakuba and Northern Nagano, even hotels in Asama Hot Springs suffered from cancellations, even though Matsumoto is in the center of Nagano Prefecture and didn’t have any direct damage.
Now, there are no problems at all sightseeing spots and ski resorts in Nagano, including transportation.
Kick-off ceremony of illumination
People in Asama Onsen hope this beautiful illumination will overcome the quake.?
Asama Hot Spring is located in a convenient place in Matsumoto, Nagano. It is just a ten minute bus ride from Matsumoto Castle. It also has a very long history, 1,300 years or more and feudal lords of the Castle visited there in the Edo period (17th century).
All the lights are LEDs using small amounts of electricity
The illumination is shining 5pm to 0am until April 19.
More than twenty traditional Japanese ryokans in Asama Onsen and the illumination are wating for you.
August 8th 5pm – 8pm
Noh, one of the traditional dramatic arts of Japan, is famous for its masks and its lavish costumes. Usually a Noh performance is given in a Noh theatre, on a Noh stage specially designed for the performance.
But every August in Matsumoto a special outdoor performance is given right in the inner garden of Matsumoto castle, starting in the early evening and continuing by lanternlight after the sun sets. Noh plays are hundreds of years old and sung in their own peculiar way, and most Japanese audience members are just as lost as the foreigners in attendance as far as the dialogue goes. But the nighttime staging of the Takigi Noh gives the symbol-heavy and supernatural dramas back a bit of the atmosphere that they once had, and thekyogen (“crazy talk”) comedies in between the two short Noh plays help relieve the tension with lots of physical comedy about drinking and getting the best of your feudal lord.
On Friday night of June 20, which is one day before the summer solstice, the “Candle Night” event was held at Matsumoto Museum of Art.
It is held on the summer and winter solstice every year to enlighten people on environmental issues. But it is also a nice (and free of charge!) event to enjoy the fantastic night by only the light of candles on green glass in the yard of the museum with art and live music.
Kids enjoyed running around and adults enjoyed sitting on turf in my favorite courtyard of the museum.
A big objet d’art “The Visionary Flowers” by the world famous modern artist Yayoi Kusama, who is from Matsumoto, was also lit up by candles. and more mysterious than usual during Candle Night.
Candles in natural spring water flow
The building of the museum designed by a Japanese famous architect is also fancy.
Matsumoto is now popular by its oldest castle in Japan, but it is also famous for “Craft Town” among many Japanese.
In addition to folk handicraft makers, shops and the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum, now some popular craftspersons escaped from urban life and lives in Matsumoto and the neighbor town Hotaka, Azumino. You can see and buy craftworks and “Matsumoto Furniture” in some shops in Nakamachi Street.
Once in every year — the last weekend of May, Craft Fair Matsumoto, which is the biggest and oldest craft fair (field exhibition) in Japan, is held in the beautiful park “Agatanomori”.
300 craft artists selected among 1000+ applicants from all over Japan exhibit and sell all kind of craftwork including lacquer ware, pottery, silk, wood, dyeing, etc.
Here are photos of this year’s Craft Fair;
Lacquer ware used for miso soup and other Japanese dishes
Traditional “Mastumoto broom” handmade from special grass, now popular in Japan because it is ecological and tasteful
Demonstration of silk weaving (you can experience it freely)
Silkworms you can touch!
Wooden chopsticks and spoons made from various kinds of tree
Clocks even hands of which are made from wood
Metal kanji characters
Clothes dyed by natural materials
It's a small world (really tiny craft works)
Kitchen knives and frying pans
Tableware some of which are small chair shape
Village blacksmiths' booth is popular every year
“Craft Fair Matsumoto“ is the biggest and oldest craft fair in Japan, attracting 50,000 ~ 70,000 visitors during the event.
This year, celebrating its 30th anniversary with 280 craftsmen from all over Japan, along with many relative events in downtown Matsumoto city.
May 24th (Saturday) & 25th (Sunday) / Free admission
The “Five Tips” to enjoy Matsumoto craft fair even more are….
１） 歩・・・Take a walk
The craft fair venue is at “Agata-no-mori Park“, just 2 kilo meters away from JR. Matsumoto station. It is a nice walking course with lots of natural spring wells (w/ drinkable water) and unique shops. Arriving Agata-no-mori, exploring the buildings of the “Former Matsumoto High School” . The school buildings full of western influences were constructed in 1920, and designated as a national important cultural properties. In the campus, old trees of zelkova and cherry are forming an atmosphere of small forests.
２) 知・・・Expand the knowledge
280 craftsmen including wood carvings, ceramics, lacquer wares, metal works, weaving, dyeing, glass works, leather and food producers will be all over the park. From traditional to modern techniques you can learn various craft art forms all together.
３) 聴・・・Live concerts
As you may already know, Matsumoto is so-called the town of music. Here at the site, live music concerts will be held on Saturday evening (May 24th). Admission Free, can bring your own food and drink, or temporary mini bar is available at the site. It is so relaxing to listen to nice music on live in homey atmosphere.
There are always full of booths selling various foods and drinks. Usually they are situated at the north-east side of the park, and so many to choose from: Japanese, Cambodian, Indian, Italian, German, Macrobiotic and so on. And there are many nice restaurants on the way from the station, too. It’s worth visiting just for experiencing different taste!
Nothing to explain here, I guess! Hope you are able to find a special piece and take home with other beautiful & unforgettable memories of Matsumoto City.
*The vendors often don’t accept credit cards at the site. Go to International ATM (the main post office on Honmachi St. is closer from the park) before visiting the event if you wish to purchase there.)
Read also an article of Matsumoto Craft Fair by Winifred Bird on The Japan Times