The Official Tourism Site of Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
The Matsumoto Welcomes You website has been renewed and is now Visit Matsumoto (! 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!
Archive by month

Winter Light Displays

Christmas Candle Night at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Yayoi Kusama's gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight

Yayoi Kusama’s gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight

Enjoy listening to music while strolling around the art museum garden lit up in numerous soft candle lights.

Date: Saturday, December 9
Time: 4:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art

Lights Pageant in Daimyocho and on the Chitose Bridge


Nearly 80,000 lights decorate the trees lining Daimyocho, the road leading up to Matsumoto Castle. After viewing the lit-up trees, you can see the lit-up Matsumoto Castle just down the road.
The lights are up from early December until February 28 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (on until later Dec. 20 through Jan. 3)20171204_194838


JR Matsumoto Station

The front of Matsumoto Station is lit up with a festive images on the side of the station building.

Matsumoto Station Illumination

Asama Onsen

Look forward to the warm glow of decorative lights when you visit Asama Onsen’s Hot Plaza. Hot Plaza offers day-trip bathing and a hot spring foot bath, while overnight stays are available at a number of traditional Japanese inns in the area. Find out more about the area here.



Foot Hot Spring

Forest of Lights Pageant in Azumino

Twin Illlumination
The Alps Azumino National Government Park is holding an illumination event from Nov. 11, 2017 (Sat) to Jan. 8, 2018 (Mon/holiday). The displays tell the story of “The Secret of the Seven Jewels”.

The illumination will be on display in two separate areas: the Horigane-Hotaka area and the Omachi-Matsugawa area. Please see below for access information.

In addition to the light displays, various other activities will be taking place. A single ticket allows you to enter both areas on the same day. Visit the official website here (Japanese only).



Hours: 4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
* Park hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but you may remain in the park to view the lights.


Adult: 410 yen

Elementary/Junior High School Student: 80 yen

Senior (65+): 210 yen

Preschool: Free


Fireworks (Horigane-Hotaka Area)

A 5-minute fireworks show will take place every Saturday between Nov. 11, 2017 (Sat) and Jan. 6, 2018 (Sat) and also on Christmas Eve from 8 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.

The show will be cancelled in the event of rain or bad weather.

Food Tasting (Omachi-Matsukawa Area)

Grilled mochi, mochi in a sweet bean sauce, and baked apples!

100 yen *Limited to the first 100 people.

Live Performances (Omachi-Matsukawa Area)

Christmas Stage: Various performances (dates and times)

Magic Show: Jan. 6 (Sat)-8 (Mon/holiday) 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., and from 7:30 p.m. FREE

Crafts (Both Areas)

Horigane-Hotaka Area

Omachi-Matsugawa Area

Miniature Aquariums Display (Horigane-Hotaka Area)

Tropical Christmas


Free Shuttle Bus

JR Matsumoto Station –> Toyoshina Station –> Horigane-Hotaka Area: Dec. 23 (Sat/holiday)-24(Sun) 4:00 p.m.-9:15 p.m.

View in Google Maps

JR Matsumoto Station –> Shinano Omachi Station –> Omachi-Matsukawa Area: Dec. 23 (Sat/holiday)-24(Sun) 3:45 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

View in Google Maps

By Taxi

(JR Oita Line) Matsumoto Station –> Toyoshina Station + taxi

(JR Oita Line) Matsumoto Station –> Shinano Omachi Station + taxi

Inquiries (Japanese)

Horigane-Hotaka Area: 0263-71-5511

Omachi-Matsukawa Area: 0261-21-1212


Former Kaichi School: Go Back to School a Century and Half in the Past

View of the Former Kaichi School from outside

View of the Former Kaichi School from outside

The Former Kaichi School was built back in the late 1800s—almost 150 years ago. When I first visited the Former Kaichi School back in the summer, I was struck by its peculiar architecture. At first glance it looked like a beautiful European building, but as I walked closer and started looking at the details, I found hints of Japanese-ness that had snuck into the design: Carved dragons along with the flying cherubs above the entrance, chandeliers hanging over bamboo flooring, and other such opposing style quirks.

Who know that cherubs and dragons got along so well?

Who know that cherubs and dragons got along so well?

Going inside was almost like going back to school a century and a half in the past. One of the classrooms was preserved as it was when the school was still in commission, complete with tiny wooden desks, black board, and teacher’s podium. The best part was that you could actually sit in the desks (if your legs fits…) and play around with everything in the room! Getting to walk through the same halls and climb the same wooden stairs as the little students did in the past also adds to the atmosphere.

Kaichi School

Former Kaichi School

Most the other rooms in the school were filled with displays of old building plans, learning materials like text books, and other school-related artifacts like writing tools and even dumbbells used for fitness. Also, the former principal’s office and a special room for the Meiji emperor were open for viewing, too.

Wooden dumbbells! I wonder how heavy they are. Notice the diagrams of exercises in the book to the left.

Wooden dumbbells! I wonder how heavy they are. Notice the diagrams of exercises in the book to the left.

Book for kids to learn katakana characters

Book for kids to learn katakana characters

Textbook with flags of the world.

Textbook with flags of the world.

My favorite artifacts were the picture textbooks for primary school kids, old toys and, check these out, old baseball cards!

Old baseball cards ! Check out the interesting shape.

Old baseball cards ! Check out the interesting shape.

Perhaps a book for learning how to count? I remember using something like this in my primary school (minus the silk worms and bamboo shoots...)

Perhaps a book for learning how to count? I remember using something like this in my primary school (minus the silk worms and bamboo shoots…)

It was also nice to see some of the cool dragon carvings and other pieces from the building design, like the “East, West, North, South” direction markers for the tower’s compass piece.

Carving with a dragon and  a wave.

Carving with a dragon and a wave.

"East, west, north, south" markers in Japanese for the school's tower.

“East, west, north, south” markers in Japanese for the school’s tower.

Overall, the Former Kaichi School was a short, but worthwhile stop. The school is beautiful and a lot of the artifacts are fun to see. Plus, it’s only a few minutes from Matsumoto Castle. My only complaint was that there aren’t enough English explanations for the interesting things on display!

For more info, check out the main page on the Former Kaichi School here.

Natural Springs and Historic Wells

Genchi Well

Thanks to Matsumoto City’s supply of ground water, fresh spring water wells up abundantly even within the inner city area. You can enjoy a number of different walking routes leading you to streams and fountains that you can even drink from, including the fountain in front of Kurassic-kan.


Kurassic-kan Well

Please note that the water is naturally sourced and is not treated.

A natural waterfall formed from Nawate's rejuvenating waters.

A natural waterfall formed from Nawate’s rejuvenating waters springs forth in front of Yohashira Shrine.

Nawate Rejuvenating Waters

Nawate Rejuvenating Waters


Streams such as the Hebi Stream weave their ways through the city.

Spring water is used regularly by locals. In addition to serving as drinking water, the water is also used in soba noodle making and sake brewing. The Kametaya Brewery uses the water from the spring right in front of their building to brew their sake!






Some of the more well known spots include the Genchi Well also pictured above and Iori Reisui Well. Well and spring locations are indicated on Matsumoto City maps. Keep an eye out for the Matsumoto Spring Water Excursion Map that will be published at the beginning of 2018!


Genchi Well

Iori Resui Well: Located in front of the grave of the samurai Iori Suzuki.

Iori Resui Well: Located in front of the grave of the samurai Iori Suzuki.


Fall Colors Starting to Show Up at Matsumoto Castle

One of the prettiest times of the year at Matsumoto Castle is finally here: at the end of October the trees start to paint the castle garden in the colors of autumn! So if you’re eager for some perfect photos at the castle, now is a great time.

Colorful trees as seen from inside the castle tower

Colorful trees as seen from inside the castle tower

As of yesterday (Oct. 24), some of the trees were already red and yellow, but many of them are still just showing the first hints of color, so I’m betting the castle park is going to grow more and more beautiful over the next several days.

Fall colors peaking over the castle walls

Fall colors peaking over the castle walls

Still quite green near the castle itself, but hopefully that will change in the next few days!

Still quite green near the castle itself, but hopefully that will change in the next few days!

As a little bonus, there is also a special Japanese doll display in the castle garden until November 5th. Every year, the large display depicts a historical/cultural scene from Matsumoto Castle’s past.

Special doll display in the castle garden. Looks like they are pounding some mochi!

Special doll display in the castle garden. Looks like they are pounding some mochi!

Road Trip!! Special Passes for Tourists

Convenient access to some of Japan’s more remote regions with the following ETC (tolls) discount passes.

Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP)

Explore the central area of Japan’s largest island.

– Non-Japanese passport if you are a visitor/proof of permanent residence in another country if you are Japanese
– Driver’s license that is valid in Japan  (or International Driving Permit)

The pass can be purchased for a period of as little as 2 days (5,000 yen) and up to 14 days (16,000 yen). Other optional areas can also be added.

For more information on rates, participating rental companies, routes, and more please visit the Central Nippon Expressway Company website.

*NEW* Japan Expressway Pass (JEP)

The new, expanded special discount ETC pass allows tourists to explore Japan from top to bottom (Hokkaido pass sold separately).

– Non-Japanese passport if you are a visitor/proof of permanent residence in another country if you are Japanese
– Driver’s license that is valid in Japan (or International Driving Permit)

7-day pass: 20,000 yen
14-day pass: 34,000 yen

For more information on participating rental companies, routes, driving tips, and more please visit the national expressway information site DoRaPuRa (E-NEXCO Drive Plaza) website.

Reservation must be made through participating rental companies listed on the above websites.


Please note that areas within Nagano Prefecture require winter tires or tires with chains. Your car will be inspected before you are allowed to drive on certain roads. Fortunately, rent-a-car locations in the area typically offer their rentals with winter tires or chains at no extra cost.

In addition, certain mountain passes are also closed during winter months as a result of heavy snowfall.

Old-fashioned Guns Impress at Matsumoto Castle

This past weekend, the 29th Old-fashioned Gun Firing Exhibition was held at Matsumoto Castle! I didn’t get to see the show in person, but thanks to one of the bloggers (Nishimori) from the Japanese web page (see article here), we have a couple of nice photos to share from the event!

Twice a year, Matsumoto Castle hold a special gun show where you can see (and hear!) old-fashioned matchlock guns and muskets fired on the castle grounds. The shows are performed by different old-fashioned gun clubs from Matsumoto and other parts of Japan. It’s not only impressive to observe the guns themselves, but the gun club members dress in traditional samurai armor so you can really imagine what it might have been like to be a soldier at that time.

In formation and... bang!

In formation and… bang! (Photo credit: Nishimori)

The old-fashioned gun clubs posing in front of the castle.

The old-fashioned gun clubs posing in front of the castle. (Photo credit: Nishimori)

Matchlock guns like the ones fired at the exhibition were supposedly used at Matsumoto Castle, which has specially constructed windows that allowed the soldiers to shoot from inside the keep.

Also, if you love to learn about old-style guns like these, then you won’t want to miss the superb matchlock gun museum inside of Matsumoto Castle! Here, there are over 140 matchlocks and other armaments on display (Learn more about the gun exhibit on the Matsumoto Castle website).

If you missed the actual shooting demonstration, you can see it twice a year in the spring (April or May) and in October. (Event info here)

Matchlock guns, some with beautiful designs, in Matsumoto Castle

Matchlock guns, some with beautiful designs, in Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Soba Festival

The 14th Matsumoto Soba Festival was held at Matsumoto Castle this past three-day weekend October 7 – 9 (Sat – Mon), 2017. Soba, which means buckwheat, is also used to refer to buckwheat noodles. Due to the high altitudes and harsh winters of Nagano Prefecture, soba has long been cultivated as it is a robust crop that can withstand the elements.


Since the festival was held on the outer edge of Matsumoto Castle, you could also enjoy the view of the historic wooden structure while browsing the various stalls. While the castle is walking distance from JR Matsumoto Station, temporary bicycle and scooter parking was also available at businesses around the castle.


20171008_143011With nearly 20 soba vendors from all over the country, there was a variety of tasty noodles and broths to try. Soba is served both hot and cold.  While Nagano Prefecture is especially famous for its soba, other vendors representing prefectures such as Hokkaido, Fukui, and Fukushima allowed visitors opportunities to savor their spins on the dish.



Soba noodles served cold in a tsuyu broth and topped with grated radish, chopped onions, and bonito flakes.


Rows of food stalls offered freshly made soba and also dried soba to take home. Local fruits, vegetables, crafts, and more were also being sold, including apples, another Nagano specialty that is now in season. Other food trucks and stalls offered tacos, grilled meats, crepes, and more.

If you missed the festival, fear not, you can still find many local restaurants offering great soba year round!

Tsukimi–A Timeless Tradition of Appreciating the Beauty of the Moon


Tsukimi means “moon viewing”, and in Japan, gatherings are held to view the harvest moon—often in conjunction with harvest festivals. Tsukimi is officially celebrated on the 15th night of the eighth month according to the lunar calendar.

Matsumoto Castle Tsukimi


Live music being performed within the castle.

Matsumoto Castle is celebrating tsukimi with live music performances and tea ceremony demonstrations on the castle grounds. The event is being held this week 9/29(Fri)–10/4(Wed) 5:30–8:30 p.m. It is free to enter the castle grounds and ¥500 to view the tea ceremony up close and receive freshly whisked matcha or green tea. Other light snacks are also available for purchase.

Come bask in the radiance of the moon and illuminated castle while listening to traditional music. Instruments include the shamisen and the koto, and the sound of the music floating across the grounds leaves you feeling that you have been transported back in time.


A flower display exhibiting the Japanese art ikebana and sweets called dango add a sense of festivity to the occasion. 


Japan Alps Kamikochi – A Serene Summer’s Day in the National Park


Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking to take in the world-famous scenery on a stroll at the base of the mountains, Kamikochi is an unforgettable outdoor experience. Even on a hot summer’s day, like the one I visited on, I was treated to a cool breeze, icy-cold water, and plenty of shade on well-maintained paths. Unless you hire a guide, you cannot access the park in the winter, but spring, summer, and fall give you a unique landscape depending on when you visit. The green season offers a barrage of colors including vibrant greens and other colors from the various foliage and sediment.



Taisho Pond

Even before entering the heart of the park, you are treated to a expansive reflection of the mountains on Taisho Pond.


Shimizu River


Some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen.

In order to preserve the environment of the park, there are strict regulations including not allowing cars into the area. The regulations, higher altitude, and natural springs make for fresh air and stunningly clear water.


Kappa Bashi (Kappa Bridge)

The view of the Kappa Bridge overlaid on Mt. Hotaka is one of the most famous images of the park. Crossing the suspension bridge, you can gaze out over the pristine water of the Azusa River.





This century-old mountain hut now serves as a restaurant as well lodgings and makes for a great place to rest before visiting the nearby Hotaka Shrine and Myojin Pond. Try a classic summer dish, grilled ayu.


Raised in the nearby river, this sweet-fish is fresh and juicy. Grilled over an open fire, the salted skin makes for a delicate crust while the meat is kept moist. You can eat the entire fish from head to tail!

Replenish your salt levels after your trek!

If eating fish heads isn’t your thing, not to worry, there is other food such as soba (buckwheat noodles) and cake available for you to enjoy.

Myojin Pond



This area is said to be sacred to the gods and thus known as a place where the gods come down.

Myojin Pond has two areas: Ichino Pond and Nino Pond. The Hotaka Shrine sits just in front of Ichino Pond.

Although you cannot ride in them, two boats float on the pond and are used during a local festival.


Hotaka Shrine

Ichino Pond

Ichino Pond

Nino Pond

Nino Pond

Tashiro Pond and Wetlands


Although it has been steadily filled in by natural decay and sediment buildup, water still flows through this area, creating a stark contrast between the orange sand and the surrounding greenery.


Mt. Yakedake


Signs of the eruption that occurred 100 years ago still remain.

Mt. Yakedake is still an active volcano. It’s activity is constantly monitored and the current level is level 1.

Access and Accommodations

Details on how to get to the park and more information such as hotel and campsite information are available on the official English website here.

Amongst the Clouds and Flowers at Tatamidaira

Boardwalk through the meadow

Boardwalk through the meadow

After hearing Tatamidaira at the top of Mt. Norikuradake had a beautiful flower meadow abloom with alpine wildflowers in the summer, I decided to venture up to the top in mid-August. Like Kamikochi, the higher elevation areas of Norikura are closed to personal cars so you need to take a bus from the Norikura Visitor’s Center (you can get to the Visitor’s Center by car or using a bus from Shin-Shimashima Station). I recommend getting the round-trip ticket, which is cheaper than two one-way tickets, unless you plan on hiking back down. The other options are to hike or bicycle (serious hill climb) up to the top.



Tatamidaira is a crater basin that was created from a volcanic eruption long, long ago, and is surrounded by several of the mountain peaks of Norikura. The bus arrives at the Tatamidaira visitor’s center which is located at 2702 meters (8,865 feet), making it the highest bus stop in Japan. From here you can easily walk to the flower meadow and see Tatamidaira’s pristine lake, Tsurugaike Pond. If you arrive earlier in the day, there are also a couple of short hiking trails (15 – 90 minutes, one way, depending on the trail) that let you climb to the summits of the surrounding peaks: Mt. Fujimidake, Mt. Daikokudake, Mt. Maoudake, Mt. Marishitendake, and Mt. Kengamine.



For the alpine flower meadow, the peak season is mid-July to mid-August. A nice wooden boardwalk lets you walk around the meadow and get a close look at many species of rare flowers which come in all sorts of shapes and colors. You’ll also see some huge boulders lying around the meadow which probably tumbled down from the mountain peaks years ago. I’m a big fan of wildflowers so I loved being surrounded by hundreds of cute little flowers!


Giant boulders lying around the meadow.

Giant boulders lying around the meadow.


Now, the one tricky thing about going to Tatamidaira is the weather at the top. Even if it’s a perfectly sunny day in Matsumoto, there are often clouds hanging about the summit of Mt. Norikuradake. The day that I went to Tatamidaira, I could see a few clouds from the Norikura Visitor’s Center, but I figured they wouldn’t be a problem. However, as you can see from the photos, when I arrived at the top, I was enveloped in a thick cloud that made it impossible to see anything past a few meters in front of me. Though being stuck in a cloud is a unique and mystical experience in itself, I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful scenery to its fullest.

Tatamidaira inside of a cloud

Tatamidaira inside of a cloud


The highest bus stop in Japan! This is what the scenery looks like when you're not in a cloud.

The highest bus stop in Japan! This is what the scenery looks like when you’re not in a cloud.

Another thing you want to keep in mind is the temperature difference. It is cold! Even when the summer is blazing down below, at 2,700 meters it’s going to feel like late fall or early winter. I went in mid-August and was wishing I had brought light gloves and a decent sweater. You’ll definitely want a windbreaker, preferably waterproof, too.

Buses run to Tatamidaira from July to the end of October and you can count on seeing something different every season! See the bus schedule here.

There are all kinds of unique bus stops at Tatamidaira. This one features the "raicho" or rock ptarmigan which you can sometimes spot at Tatamidaira.

There are all kinds of unique bus stops at Tatamidaira. This one features the “raicho” or rock ptarmigan which you can sometimes spot at Tatamidaira.

Recent Comments