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Get an Early Preview of Matsumoto’s New Aeon Mall

The new Aeon Mall in Matsumoto opened its doors to local residents yesterday (Sep. 16), calling it a “soft open” before the official grand opening on Sep. 21. The mall is sprawled across three separate buildings: the “Sky Garden” (空庭) which consists of a movie theater and shops selling local goods, the “Wind Garden” (風庭) which is apparently one of Nagano’s largest food courts, and the “Sun Garden” (晴庭) which is the main section that includes all the typical kinds of stores you would expect to find in a mall like apparel, accessories, toy stores, and even a huge grocery store.

The first floor of the food court

The first floor of the food court

Aeon Mall

A shop selling local fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food products like miso.

A shop selling local fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food products like miso.

It seems like Aeon Mall put a lot of thought into trying to give the place a local feel, as you’ll find they incorporate little pieces Matsumoto-inspired design all over the mall. I particularly enjoyed the unique the hanging temari decorations (temari are a traditonal craft from Matsumoto) in the food court area and the huge daruma doll in the Sky Garden area.

"Temari" decorations inspired by the traditional temari crafts originating in Matsumoto

“Temari” decorations inspired by the traditional temari crafts originating in Matsumoto

A gigantic "daruma" on display

A gigantic “daruma” on display

Overall, I think the mall has something that everyone will enjoy, even if you don’t like all parts of it. If you have kids, there are toy stores and fun shops like a candy shop modeled after old-fashioned Japanese candy stores, a model train shop with a moving, interactive model train, and an arcade. Besides your typical clothes & accessory stores, there is a large book store, an electronics store, a sporting goods shop, Kaldi – the import food/wine and coffee retailer, a big wine and liquor section where you can buy wine ranging from table wine to high quality bottles, and more. The mall also has large retailers like Muji and H&M.

A fun "dagashi" candy shop for kids

A fun “dagashi” candy shop for kids

A big toy train that you and your kids can play with

A big toy train that you and your kids can play with

A nice big book store!

A nice big book store!

Huge wine selection

Huge wine selection

Personally, I’m extra excited about the new theater, Aeon Cinema. The theater has eight screens including a 4K digital projector screen. The base price for a movie is 1,800 yen but they offer some great discounts like matinee shows, late show discounts, and 1,100 yen tickets every Monday for all movie goers!

The entrance to the movie theater

The entrance to the movie theater

The mall is located about a 20 minute walk from the station, but you can easily take the Town Sneaker bus or a bicycle, too (there is ample bicycle parking). The theater is open from 10:00 – Midnight, and the main mall from 9 AM – 10 PM (* On 9/21 and 9/22, it opens at 10 AM).

Aean Mall website (Japanese): http://matsumoto-aeonmall.com/
Aeon Cinema Matsumoto website (Japanese): http://www.aeoncinema.com/cinema/matsumoto/

New Souvenir at Shop in Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle and Japan Alps

Souvenir Shop




If you enter the Matsumoto Castle, why don’t you drop at the souvenir shop in the castle garden?
It is located in the right-hand side after the ticket booth to enter the castle garden.

A Matsumoto citizen’s group made a new souvenir and has begun to sell since February — two kinds of stickers.
They are mainly targeted for foreign visitors. One is designed Matsumoto’s traditional folk craft, temari balls.

If you put it on your suitcase, you can easily distinguish it from others.

In the shop, there are many other souvenirs, such as armor helmets, T-shirts, temari balls, key holders, smartphone strapps, etc, etc.

All Kinds of Craftwork Gathered in Craft Town Matsumoto

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



Ceramics craft

It's a small world (really tiny craft works)



Kitchen knives and frying pans

Tableware some of which are small chair shape



Leather shoes

Glasswork



Village blacksmiths' booth is popular every year

Fashionable hats


Five tips to enjoy Matsumoto Craft Fair

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.

4) 食・・・Eat
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!

5) 買・・・Shopping

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

Plum Blossoms Festival in Norikura

The 43rd Plum Blossoms Festival(sumomo-matsuri) will be held at Ichinose Ranch(一の瀬牧場)in Norikura Highlands on May 18th Sunday.

The ceremony starts from 10:30 a.m., admission is “free”. Live music with Alpine Horns, Taiko(Japanese drums), Yodel Chorus and Japanese traditional dance are offered to the visitors along with “Sake”, “soba” and “Miso soup” services.

Sumomo(Japanese plum) trees grow naturally in Norikura Highlands, they usually start blooming from mid- May and last until Mid June.

Sumomo jam, wine and ice ream are on sale at the shop in Ichinose ranch.

And don’t forget about famous Norikura Onsen(hot springs)! There are several inns and public bathhouse for day trip visitors.

Yukemurikan(湯けむり館)opens from 9:30~20:00, admission fee is 720 yen for adults, 300 yen for kids.
There are many small inns and hotels with onsen in Norikura area. ⇒Norikura accomodations

To reach Norikura highlands, Haruyama bus(春山バス) services are available until June 30th.
The bus departs from Shinshimashima bus terminal in Matsumoto, and takes visitors to the snowy corridors on Mt. Kuraigahara.
Haruyama bus info

2 Days Free Bus Passport (& 4 days also available)

Good news for the tourists who wish to visit Kamikochi, Norikura, Matsumoto and Utsukushigahara all at once.

Very reasonable 2 Days Free Bus Passport is now available at ALPICO bus terminals in Matsumoto and Shinshimashima.



This 2 days free passport is 5,150 yen for adults (half price for kids (including tax)), available at ALPICO counter in Matsumoto Bus Terninal and Shinshimashima Bus Terminal. It is handy to use and perfect for touring Matsumoto area! Just to show this passport to the driver before get off the bus (except for Kamikochi line). For Kamikochi line, you need to get a “Numbered ticket (determining order of service)”at Kamikochi Bus Terminal in addition to this 2 days passport for boarding.

With this amazing open ticket, all bus services including Kamikochi line(train), Utsukushigahara line and of course Matsumoto city zone lines become free within 2 days after the purchasing.

In addition to this, by paying double the price of 2 days pass, you can get 4 days free ticket called “Shinshu – Hida Wide Free Passport“.
With this 4 days pass, you can even visit Takayama and Shirakawa village and come back to Matsumoto. The pass is available at ALPICO counter in Matsumoto and Shinshimashima bus terminals, Takayama Nohi Bus Center and Gero Bus Center in Gifu.

Have fun!

“Matsumoto Concierge Map” will be distributed

“Matsumoto Concierge” is a civic volunteer group guiding tourists from JR Matsumoto Station and the downtown tourist information booth.
The Castle Town: Matsumoto Concierge Map” was created by “Matsumoto Concierge” members after numerous discussions, and the most useful, often unwritten, tourist information has been selected.

Recommended restaurants with price range, availabilities of credit cards, free wi-fi and English menus, and the locations for  free bicycle pick-up, convenience stores, drug stores, banks, coin lockers, camera equipment stores are addressed on the map.  Since all the spots, shops and restaurants introduced on the map are selected by the locos (Matsumotorian),  the short comments tell real stories of Matsumoto.

This unique and very useful map is provided at the major hotels and inns in the downtown area, and will be distributed at the “Matsumoto Concierge” booth which is located in front of the wicket gate of JR Matsumoto station during tourist season starting from this golden week.

However, the number of the map is very limited, it may not be available to every tourist who will visit Matsumoto in this year.

Please download the map image from ⇒ “Matsumoto Concierge Map“, so you can install in the tablets of yours and use them while strolling the town.

Have lots of fun along with this handy information!

Yebisu Festival Nov 16th & 17th

Annual Yebisu Festival (a festival honoring Yebisu [the God of Wealth]) will be held at Yohashira Shrine downtown Matsumoto city from November 16th to 17th. Shrine maidens are going to give out talismans made of bamboo grass to worshippers and visitors. During this festival, popular traditional confectionery, “Kintsuba” will be sold in the shrine precinct. Dozens of various sweet shops around this region are selling their specially made kintsuba on both days. Kintsuba is a round or sometimes square shaped traditional cake made of bean paste covered with lightly baked mochi like skin, which signify squarish guard at the end of the grip of a bladed ‘katana’ samurai sword. There must be some plausible reasons or anecdotes to consume Kintsuba on Yebisu festival day for such a long period of time especially in this area, yet I haven’t been found one still.


Kintsuba is also available on local traditional confectionery shops. The photo of Kintsuba is provided by “Hanayagi” 3-7-49 Fukashi, Matsumoto (near Fukashi Shrine).

Yebisu Festival・・・・・Yohashira Shrine Nov 16th & 17th

Sake no Utage 2013(酒の宴=Sake feast )

30 different Sake brewing manufactures in this region are gathering at the Flower Clock Park, in front of south entrance of PARCO department store from October 12th to 14th.  Each opening day, 10 local brewers are serving their special Sake to the ticket holders.
This is a rare and marvelous opportunity to taste various flavor of Sake and best matching appetizers.

October 12th, 13th & 14th : from 11:00 ~ 15:00 (Last order 14:30)
Venue: Flower Clock Park (in front of PARCO department store)
Advance Ticket : 1,000 yen      Ticket at the gate: 1,500 yen

Taste various local sake from 30 different brewers and try delicous appetizers which matches with sake!

Advanced tickets are available at the local restaurants and brewers (Kurano-Mukou, Shuraku, Raiden, Yamazato, Furinkazan, Banzaiya, Anju, Warikan , CROSS, Yamaya Sake Store, Miyosawa Sake Store, Aizawa Sake Store, Nakajima Sake Store, Otsuka Sake Shop, Yonetaya and Omoya-Hiraide Sake Store).

Matsumoto Soba Matsuri 松本そば祭り 

Soba Festival at Matsumoto Castle is on October 12th to 14th (Sat to Monday) this year.



The biggest annual “Soba” festival in Nagano prefecture which attracts more than 160,000  epicureans and tourists from all over Japan.  Not only soba, bunch of other local food and drink booths are arranged around the castle. This year, local “Sake” tasting event(1,500 yen/ticket) is also taking place at “Flower -Clock Park” in front of PARCO department store in downtown.


On the way to the castle, on Daimyo-cho Street, live “Taiko (Japanese drums)” performance and other live performances by local artists will be played all day long.



Soba chefs from many other regions are competing their original hand made soba in the castle garden and downtown area for 3 days. This is going to be a perfect opportunity to taste different kind of soba with regional varieties, since each soba dish costs around 500 yen for this event.


You never get bored hanging about Matsumoto during this event since local soba, beer, sake, beef steak, fruits, vegetables and many other specialities are available.

Please come and enjoy this wonderful gastronomical party in Matsumoto!!!


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