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Gonta: Your Dango Destination in Nakamachi

If you find yourself walking down Nakamachi Street in need of a snack, you should check Gonta’s dango stand, a little gem hidden down one of Nakamachi’s side alleys. (But, be careful because they are only open on weekends and holidays!)

Gonta's dango stand

Gonta’s dango stand

If you’ve done your Japan research, you probably know that dango are a kind of sweet, mochi-esque rice “dumpling” often served on skewers. Mitarashi dango, which are slathered in a sweetened soy sauce syrup, and the multi-colored hanami dango (cherry blossom viewing dango) are especially common.

You can get both mitarashi and hanami dango, as well as other kinds at Gonta.

Part of Gonta's dango lineup

Part of Gonta’s dango lineup

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Seductively glistening mitarashi dango

Their full line up is shown in this menu (I’ll translate below):

Gonta's dango menu

Gonta’s dango menu

  • Mitarashi dango ¥90 — Plain dango slathered with sweet soy sauce syrup
  • Gohei mochi ¥300 — A hefty, regional treat made from pounded rice, glazed with a sweet sauce, and grilled. Gonta’s version is made with egoma seeds, walnuts, and peanuts.
  • Danhei ¥200 — Three smaller dumplings similar to gohei mochi, but with a sesame seed sauce
  • Shinshu-hei dango ¥100 — Flat grilled dango with a Shinshu (= Nagano) miso-based sauce
  • Pota-pota mochi ¥150 — A flat, round dumpling with a toasty sweet soy sauce and piece of nori seaweed
  • Kibi dango ¥70 — Dango made with millet (no sauce)
  • Yomogi dango ¥70 — Dango made with yomogi, a kind of Japanese herb (no sauce)
  • Also available but not shown on the menu: Hanami dango and anko (sweet bean paste) dango

I haven’t tried all of Gonta’s selection yet, but the past weekend I did try out the danhei, kibi dango, and Shinshu-hei dango. Each had its own interesting texture and flavor, plus the price is quite cheap.

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

Left to right: Danhei, Shinshu-hei dango, and kibi dango

The kibi dango had a pleasantly chewy texture with a subtly sweet taste. As expected, the Shinshu-hei dango had a miso-flavored, yet sweet coating that was slightly toasty due to be grilled. The danhei dumplings had a softer texture (which I believe is from being made with pounded steamed rice) and had a richer sauce that had a nice touch of sesame seed flavor.

Also, since the dango are stuck through skewers, they are easy to carry around while strolling around Nakamachi and Nawate. There are also a couple of small tables to sit at in front of and inside the futon shop that Gonta is attached to (if you happen to need some really nice futon bedding, you can get that there!).

Cute figurines on Gonta's counter

Cute figurines on Gonta’s counter

To find Gonta, walk down the alley that’s diagonally across from the Kurassic-kan.

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!

Nature Skiing in Norikura’s Ichinose Area

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about snowshoeing to the frozen Zengoro Falls in Norikura. This week, I have another snowy Norikura adventure to tell you about: Nature skiing!



You can rent a pair of nature skis, boots, and ski poles for just ¥1,500 for half a day or ¥3,000 for a full day at the Little Peaks equipment rental shop located at the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center. (Get here by bus or car).

The Ichinose area in Norikura is one of the best places for nature skiing because it’s fairly flat and wide-open. Plus you can head out directly from the Tourist Information Center/Little Peaks without needing to drive anywhere.

Inside of the Little Peaks shop

Inside of the Little Peaks shop

So, you might be wondering what exactly “nature skis” are in the first place. I originally thought it was just another name for cross-country skis, but upon asking at Little Peaks, they are actually a bit different: Nature skis are a hybrid ski that shorter in length compared to cross-country skis and still have an edge on the sides. They are great for ski-walking through snowy forests or fields and don’t require much technique. On the other hand, they are not built for speed and are not ideal for going down slopes.

Whether you have skiing experience or not, nature skis are easy to pick up in just a few minutes. One of the Little Peaks staff members will also help you learn how to use them and give you tips on how to walk through the snow.

Getting taught how to use the skis

Getting taught how to use the skis

Once you got your skis strapped on, you’re ready to head out!

Skis are ready!

Skis are ready!

If it’s windy or extremely cold, I do recommend having some kind of face cover to keep the wind out, as well as earmuffs or a cap that covers your ears.

Stay warm!

Stay warm!

To head for Ichinose, just walk out of Little Peaks and head out to the road. Look to your left and you’ll see two signs with the numbers “20” and “21” on them. It’s mostly in Japanese except for the “NORTHSTAR Outdoor Adventures” text. You’ll want to head right down that road, which will take you directly to Ichinose (if you are not familiar with the area, make sure you grab a map at Little Peaks and have them explain it to you).

Turn right here to head towards Ichinose

Turn right here to head towards Ichinose

And let your snow adventure begin!

So much snow!

So much snow!

It’s a little tricky to get used to how to efficiently walk with the skis right away, but you’ll get it after a few minutes. The skis are very narrow, so it’s easy to lose your balance, but luckily, there is plenty of fluffy snow to break your fall 😉

Fluffy snow will break your fall :)

Fluffy snow will break your fall :)

For going up or down a very steep or rugged step/slope, you may have to turn sideways and “walk” up or down one ski at a time—or an easier option may be to just remove the skis until you get past that area, as they are very easy to clip on and off.

Get up the slope!

Get up the slope!

Anyway, the best part about nature skis is being able to simply glide across the snow and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery! If you find a gentle downhill, it’s super fun to slide down those too.

Winter wonderland

Winter wonderland

We reached the entrance to Ichinose area in about 45 minutes, but I think it took us extra time because of the large amount of snow (and amount of falling down!). Here, you can explore the area, ski across frozen ponds, and on a nice day, see the surrounding mountains. You could even bring a lunch or some coffee (or mulled wine…) and have a mini-winter picnic out in the snow 😉

Entrance to Ichinose, finally!

Entrance to Ichinose, finally!

Enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe!

See more info about winter activities in Matsumoto here, or about Norikura Highlands here.

Night Museum and Other Events for Chilly February in Matsumoto

Night Museum at Matsumoto Museum of Art and Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

Click to see a PDF leaflet.

Click to see a PDF leaflet.

The second event in the art museum’s Night Museum series and held especially on Valentine’s Day! (The third and last event will be on March 3rd)

Special events to be held at both the art museum and ukiyo-e museum. Tentatively planned is a behind-the-scenes tour (with flashlights!) featuring the preparations for upcoming special Yayoi Kusama exhibit in March. The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum’s talk event will feature a special discussion on the culture of romance found in ukiyo-e wood block prints. (Tours planned for 6 p.m & 8 p.m, RSVP required. Talk planned for 7 p.m.).

There will also be a special “MUSEUM BAR” set up at the Japan Ukiyoe Museum with mulled wine and chocolate, and a special print making activity where you can make your own ukiyo-e.

Shuttle bus service available to go between museums. Tours/Talks will feature interpreting into English and Chinese.

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018
Time: 5 p.m.–9 p.m. (Last admission at 8:30 p.m. Also open for regular hours from 9 to 5)
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art (Map) and Japan Ukiyoe Museum (map)
Admission Fee: Pair ticket (2 adults, regardless of gender) for ¥1,000 / General ticket (adult) for ¥1,000 (Junior high school students and younger are free)
Notes: Ticket price includes admission into both museums, talk events, and shuttle bus service

Taiko Drum Workshop for Beginners


No experience necessary! English speakers will be assisting!
Learn to play taiko like a pro, from correct stance to proper drumming techniques. This one-hour lesson starts with the introduction of basic rhythms and finishes with you giving your very own performance!

The workshop is being offered at a special discount price (¥3,000 OFF) this one time, so if you’ve ever thought about picking up taiko, now is a good time to try it out!
You will be instructed by a member of the group Hibikiza.
*Please note that participants will be filmed and/or have their pictures taken.*

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018
Time: 2 p.m. (lasts 1 hour)
Location: Agetsuchi Theater (map, formerly known as Piccadilly Hall). 8 min walk from the castle and 13 min from the station.
Price: ¥1,000 (discounted from ¥4,000!)
Registration: Online registration form is here or call 090-4666-3954

Setsubun Festival at Fukashi Shrine

Setsubun is a festival that celebrates the end of winter (though, it still feels cold to me!!) and often involves bean throwing and oni (a kind of Japanese demon). At Fukashi Shrine, they put on a huge bean throwing event at night and toss out roasted soy beans, lucky 5-yen coins, mochi, Japanese sweets, prize tickets, and more to the crowd surrounding the shrine hall. There is also a special bean throwing area just for kids (so they have a chance to catch some thing on their own and not get stepped on by the adults)! And, yes, the oni will make an appearance 😉

You can watch the bean roast ceremony from 2 p.m. but the festival part doesn’t officially start until 5 p.m. The bean throwing event starts at 6 p.m. Besides bean throwing, there is an arrow shooting ritual (around 5 p.m.) and taiko (before the bean throwing begins)

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018
Time: 2 p.m.–6:15 p.m.
Location: Fukashi Shrine (map)
Notes: You can see a couple of photos on one of our previous blog posts.

Photos from the 2018 Matsumoto Castle Ice Sculpture Festival

Last weekend was the 32nd annual Matsumoto Castle Ice Sculpture Festival! Top ice sculptors from around Japan come to participate in this event every year and this year there were 18 teams for the “Championship,” which featured long-time professional artists, and 5 teams for the “Pre-event,” which featured young artists with less experience.

Beautiful day, beautiful festival!

Beautiful day, beautiful festival!

It was a beautiful, sunny weekend perfect for walking around to see the sculptures, but the artists actually carved the pieces during the night! (brrrr…)

Getting to work at night

Getting to work at night

Get your ice saws ready and go!

Get your ice saws ready and go!

Check out some of the amazing pieces that were carved up below:


Some ice blocks even had flowers or other things frozen inside, creating a pretty cool effect:






One of Japan’s most famous ice sculptors, Junichi Nakamura, also participated. He has been an ice sculptor for going on 36 years and has participated in (and won prizes at) contests all over the world, including America, Canada, and Europe! One of his pieces for this year’s festival (below) is an especially intricate work of art.


Junichi Nakamura working on his sculpture

Junichi Nakamura working on his sculpture

His other piece was an enormous, 7-meter carving of an image from the Winter Olympics:


And for the kids — an icy slide!!


Learn How to Make Soba Noodles at Takagi

Nagano is the land of soba, a.k.a. buckwheat noodles, so when you come to Matsumoto, you’ll find shops everywhere around the city. Assuming it’s not fast food-style soba, most of the restaurants serve super fresh, made-this-morning noodles that have a divine texture and subtle, delicate taste. Don’t pass up the chance to eat at least one basket of cold soba and/or one bowl of hot soba while you’re here!

Or, even better yet, why not learn to make it yourself? Takagi, a souvenir shop and restaurant with a over 130 years of history, offers you the chance to do just that, and as Takagi’s soba master puts it, “Nothing tastes better than soba noodles you made with your very own hands.”

The front of 's shop

The front of Takagi’s shop

Before I go into details on how you can do this yourself, I’ll tell you about my own experience at Takagi’s workshop. I just got to participate in a lesson this past Friday with a home stay student from Australia.

First off, you actually get taught by Takagi’s experienced soba master, who can speak English and has by no doubt been hand-making soba noodles every single day for years. If you’ve ever watched the movie Kill Bill (Vol. 1), he sort of reminded me of the Hattori Hanzo character who taught Uma Thurman’s character how to fight with the samurai sword. Very cool.

Our teacher, the master

Our teacher, the soba master

We started right from the raw ingredients: buckwheat flour, a little bit of wheat flour, and water. That’s it! The first step was to gradually rub together the flours with the proper amount of water (which apparently varies by season/weather) until it starts to clump together. Then, the dough can be kneaded into a ball. “Knead approximately 120 times,” said the soba master (I’m sure he doesn’t need to actually count, as he could tell when the dough was ready by poking it).

Rubbing together the flour

Rubbing together the flour

Ready for kneading and rolling!

Ready for kneading and rolling!

After that, we pressed the dough out into a flat, round shape and started rolling it out with a long rolling pin made for noodles. This was a little bit tricky because you don’t just roll it back and forth as you do when rolling out pie dough or cookie dough; instead you have to form your hands into “cat paws” (as the soba master called it), and quickly move your hands in a circular back-and-forth motion which seems to help evenly distribute the weight of the rolling pin over the dough and lets you work much more quickly. This should be done without tearing holes into the dough and keeping the thickness even. Easier said than done for a beginner!

Pressing the dough into a flat, round shape

Pressing the dough into a flat, round shape

It's all in the "cat paws!"

It’s all in the “cat paws!”

Once the noodles were thin enough, the dough gets folded and cut with a nifty soba-cutting knife and wooden cutting guide that helps you keep the noodles straight and thin. The goal is to cut the noodles very, very thin—again, easier said than done for beginners, but it’s all a matter of practice! Our noodles turned out a little thick here and there, but they’re still going to taste delicious, I’m sure!

Cut, cut, cut...

Cut, cut, cut…

And finished! You can choose to eat the noodles write at Takagi’s restaurant or, if you live in Japan or have a kitchen at your place of accommodation, you can take the noodles home and cook them later (you get a portion of the dipping soup to go with it).

Noodles are ready to go!

Noodles are ready to go!

Of course, the best part is that now you’ll actually have the basic knowledge to practice and make soba noodles yourself once you get back home! Great way to impress friends with a special dinner, if I say so myself 😉

To book your lesson at Takagi, call them or just talk someone in the shop. It’s safer to book a few days in advance, but it might be worth a try to ask directly at the shop if you didn’t have time to make a reservation.

  • Lesson start times: 10:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., or 5:30 p.m.
  • Lesson time: 1 hour, or 2 hours if you’re eating there
  • Price: ¥3,000 per person (make one batch, which will feed 3 people)
  • Min. participants: 2 people (according to the website you could do it with just one person, but it will cost you the whole ¥6,000)
  • Phone: 0263-33-1039
  • Email:
  • Address: 3-5-12 Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano (map) – 15 min. from the Matsumoto Sta. and less than 5 min. from the castle.

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.*

Ameichi Candy Festival: Matsumoto’s Sweetest Event

What I’ve come to learn about Matsumoto since moving here is that the city seems to just love their huge street festivals. Not even the frigid winter is going to stop them from putting on couple of lively days of merrymaking like at last weekend’s Ameichi, a.k.a the Candy Festival. There are so many things going on during the Ameichi that it’s hard to know where to start!

Of course, it couldn’t be called a “Candy” festival without, well, a lot of candy, so you’ll find many street stalls selling all sorts of traditional Japanese candies called “Fukuame” (good luck candy), candy shaped into popular cartoon characters, and lollipops.

A girl selling traditional candies

A girl selling traditional candies

On Nakamachi Street, the Kurassic-kan had its own special market including the “Japan Candy Museum” where all kinds of traditional or craft candies were on display. You could also buy any of the candy from the museum. There were candies made with nuts, carrots, apples, herbs, and other natural ingredients, as well as many types that had been handcrafted by candy craftsmen.

Various candies from around the country

Various candies from around the country

One kind of traditionally made craft candy

One kind of traditionally made craft candy

Outside in the Kurassic-kan market, there was a traditional candy sculptor who crafted candy into cute animals right in front of your eyes. One stall had a special kind of soft candy called “taguri-ame,” that you had to twist and tread onto a stick from a large pot!

Lively market at the Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi

Lively market at the Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi

Taguri-ame candy

Taguri-ame candy

Another big part of Ameichi are the daruma doll sellers. As I mentioned in other blog posts, daruma are associated with achieving goals so they are often bought at the beginning of the year to represent a new resolution. During Ameichi, there are numerous street stalls that sell daruma in all sizes in colors, so people love to come here and pick out a perfect daruma for themselves.

Daruma galore!

Daruma galore!

Picking out the perfect daruma

Picking out the perfect daruma

Besides all the street stalls, there were performances of all kinds going on all over the city including those by several taiko drum groups, the Japan Defense Force marching band, dance groups and more.

A taiko group performing in the street

A taiko group performing in the street

The Japan Defense Force band performance

The Japan Defense Force band performance

One of the most fun parts of the whole festival is the Seven Gods of Good Luck parade. Here, the participants dress up in traditional costumes that represent the aforementioned Seven Gods and walk through the streets with interesting props while passing out good luck candy.

Part of the seven gods of fortune parade

Part of the Seven Gods of Good Luck parade

Members of the seven gods of fortune parade

Members of the seven gods of fortune parade

And, you can’t miss all the mikoshi (portable wooden shrines) that get carried around the neighborhoods of downtown Matsumoto during Ameichi! To transport them, two long, wooden poles are put through metal loops on the shrine. Then, several people lift the mikoshi up, resting the poles on their shoulders, and walk down the street. Because the mikoshi aren’t really that big, at first glance, they don’t look that heavy, but for our mikoshi, it took more than 20 people to pick it up and move it! Needless to say, usually all the carriers end up with very sore shoulders the next day.


I actually got to participate in helping transport one of the mikoshi around Nakamachi myself, which was an exciting experience. We all wore a festival jacket called a “happi,” and to keep a good walking rhythm while carrying, every repeatedly chants “washoi, washoi.” To show gratitude to the shops and houses in the neighborhood, we stopped the mikoshi in front of each of their doors and lifted it up and down three times, all the while making a lot of noise by ringing a bell and shouting.

The mikoshi set up as an altar in Nakamachi surrounded by sake and the "shishimai" lion dance costumes

The mikoshi set up as an altar in Nakamachi surrounded by sake and the “shishimai” lion dance costumes

The Ameichi Festival happens every year in January, so keep an eye out on our website’s events page. Also, if you are up for braving the cold, this weekend it the Ice Sculpture Festival! See more info on event page on Facebook.

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