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Exciting January Events in Matsumoto (2018)

It might be cold in January, but Matsumoto has several events you don’t want to miss in the first month of the New Year!

New Year’s Celebration at Matsumoto Castle

People awaiting the opening of the castle gates

People awaiting the opening of the castle gates

Celebrate the New Year opening at Matsumoto Castle! Taiko drumming accompanies the opening of the Kuromon Gate, and once inside, you can enjoy hot amazake (a non-alcoholic, sweet drink made with rice koji), the souvenir shop, traditional Japanese games like “hanetsuki” shuttlecock and spinning “koma” tops, traditional kites, Alpenhorn performances, and more! Also the first 1,000 people in the gate will receive a wooden sake cup inscribed with castle family emblems.

Date: Wednesday, January 3 (holiday)
Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Castle’s Honmaru Garden, Kuromon Gate
Admission: Free

Ameichi Candy Festival

Carrying a mikoshi around the streets

Carrying a mikoshi around the streets

A big, lively festival taking place in downtown Matsumoto where portable shrines called “mikoshi” are carried around the streets by the different neighborhood groups of Matsumoto. Enjoy the spectacles, food, stalls selling candy and “daruma” dolls. See our event page for more information.

Date: Weekend of January 13 and 14
Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Outside in the streets of downtown Matsumoto

Ice Sculpture Festival

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Watch artists work with the ice and see the work that goes into producing these intricately carved sculptures. There will also be food stalls open from mid-morning to mid-afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. For kids, don’t miss the big slide carved out of ice! See our event page for more information.

Date: Friday, January 19 (evening) to Sunday, January 21
Location: Matsumoto Castle’s Honmaru Garden and surrounding park
Admission: Free

Schedule (tentative):
Jan 19 (Fri)
Carving from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight
Jan 20 (Sat)
Display from 12 midnight (0:00) to 2 p.m. on January 21
Carving from 5:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. of the following day
Jan 21 (Sun)
Display from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Firefighter training demo for Cultural Property Fire Safety Day

Watch firefighters practices their skills and techniques (including training on huge fire truck ladders!) at Matsumoto Castle. See more info on the Matsumoto Castle website here.

Date: Friday, January 26
Time: 9:00 to 9:55 a.m. (subject to change)
Location: Matsumoto Castle – Castle tower and Honmaru Garden
Admission: ¥610 for adults, ¥300 for children (includes entrance into the castle)

Hidden Matsumoto: Tsukiizumi Shrine and Its Natural Spring

If you’re into finding nifty, off-the-beaten-path treasures, then I think you’ll really enjoy Tsukiizumi Shrine. It may appear low-key to some, but this is probably one of my favorite spots in Matsumoto!

The wooden torii gate in front of the shrine

The wooden torii gate in front of the shrine

You’ll find Tsukiizumi Shrine on a side road right off of the Metoba River. At the entrance to the shrine, a small, red bridge leads you over a pool of water which is actually formed by the ground water bubbling up right from the natural spring on the right side of the bridge. There are some koi carp living peacefully in the pool, too. In front of the bridge, there is a stone carved with the image of a man and a women, which represents a guardian spirit for travelers (all the more reason to stop by this shrine on your trip!) and also keeps evil from entering the town (in Japanese it is called 双体道祖神 or “sotai dosojin”).

Bubbling natural spring

Bubbling natural spring

Koi carp!

Koi carp!

At the other side of the bridge, you’ll see that the spring water also flows out from a spout. Since this water comes directly from the spring, it is safe to drink and many of the Matsumoto locals come here to fill up several jugs with water so they can use it at home! If you have a water bottle with you, fill it up here with the natural spring water–it’s cold even in the summer and tastes great.

Natural spring water from the spout. Fill up your water bottle!

Natural spring water from the spout. Fill up your water bottle!

According the sign board at the entrance, the spring here has been used since at least the Edo Period (1603–1868) and the water was used for dyeing and paper making. As for the shrine, it may date as far back as the year 881(!) but it is not confirmed.

Up close to the shrine structure

Up close to the shrine structure

Then, there is the humongous tree! It stands 25 meters (82 feet) tall, its trunk is about 1.6 meters (over 5 feet) wide and it is estimated that the tree is around 300 years old. Now, if you don’t look closely, you will miss the coolest part about this whole place: the hidden guardian spirit inside a big crack in the trunk of the tree! There’s even a little platform to put offerings of coins next to the figure.

The old tree at Tsukiizumi Shrine

The old tree at Tsukiizumi Shrine

A guardian spirit for travelers, hidden inside the tree!!

A guardian spirit, hidden inside the tree!!

If you have a few spare minutes while you’re in Matsumoto, I hope you’ll come check out this special spot. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk from the station or Matsumoto Castle, but if you have a bicycle, it won’t take you long to get there. If you’re going to the Aeon Mall, it’s quite close to there, too. See a Google Map here.

Enjoy!

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FYI, if you’re interested, here are some Japanese language references/articles on Tsukiizumi Shrine with more photos:
http://takara.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/city/142.html
http://www.i-turn.jp/wakimizu-tukiizumijinnjya-matumoto.html

Ski Resort Access From Matsumoto 2017-2018 Season

Matsumoto–>Mt. Norikura Snow Resort

Located to the west of central Matsumoto, the resort offers over 20 trails that cater to all levels as well as kid’s park and terrain park areas. Both ski and snow schools are available. Day-trip onsen bathing is also available at Yukemurikan!

FREE Alpico Shuttle Bus (Saturdays/Sundays: Jan 13, 20, 27, and 28; Feb 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 24, and 25; Mar 3, 4, 10, and 17)

*Reservations Required*

Reservations can only be made through Alpico Highland Bus at +81-263-24-1300 Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed Dec 28-Jan 4) until noon of the Friday before. The bus has 45 seats. You cannot reserve or change/cancel your reservation at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal or Shin-Shimashima Station.

Depart Bus Stop Return
7:50 Matsumoto Bus Terminal Boarding Point #9 5:20 p.m.
8:10 Matsumoto Godochosha (Pref. Govt. Office) 5:00 p.m.
8:30 Shin-Shimashima Sta. 4:40 p.m.
8:35 Matsumoto City Hall’s Azumi Branch Office 4:35 p.m.
9:25 Yukemurikan (Onsen) 3:45 p.m.
9:30 Mt. Norikura Skow Resort No. 3 Parking Lot 3:40 p.m.

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Regular Alpico Bus Shirahone Line

Take the Matsumoto Dentetsu Line from Matsumoto to Shin-Shimashima (30 minutes), then board a bus bound for Kyukamura or Shirahone Onsen and get off at Ski Resort(Ski-Jo Mae) (50 minutes from Shin-Shimashima). There is also one direct bus from the Matsumoto bus terminal. The English timetable is here.

 Matsumoto–>Hakuba

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Alpico Bus (until Mar 18, 2018)

Fares

One Way

Adult: ¥1,800
Child: ¥900

Round Trip

Adult: ¥2,800
Child: ¥1,400

Timetable

Reservations (not necessary) & Where to Buy

Oito Line Train

The train runs from Matsumoto Station to Hakuba Station.

Bamboo Craft Workshop Viewing in Nakamachi

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The first project for beginners

Matsumoto City boasts a number of crafts including bambooworking. Come see how these intricate pieces are woven together! Although there is currently a waiting list to get into Instructor Masaaki IIJIMA’s classes, he allows people to observe his classes. If you are near Nakamachi Shopping Street, feel free to come and watch him and his students at work in the Kurassic-kan building!

Although classes are conducted in Japanese, Mr. Iijima welcomes foreign visitors. Please ask before taking photographs of students and/or their works.

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Just a few of the things that can be made

Advanced students trim their own strips of bamboo while beginners start with already prepared pieces.

Advanced students trim their own strips of bamboo while beginners start with already prepared pieces.

[Dates]

The following Wednesdays:
2017
Dec 20

2018
Jan 17
Feb 07
Feb 21
Mar 07

[Times & Lesson Content]

AM Class: 9:30-12:30

Students are taught how to make the same item.

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PM Class: 1:30-4:30

Students work on their own individual projects with guidance from the instructor.

 

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[Location]

Nakamachi Shopping Streets Kurassic-kan 2F

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Head around to the left side.

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Side entrance

The class is held on the 2nd floor of Kurassic-kan. You can enter from the side or stop by the front desk if you need someone to show you where to go.

Once you enter through the side door, head to the left and through a set of closed double-doors. The classroom is up the stairs. Please be sure to remove your shoes and don’t hesitate to use the slippers!

 

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Other Places to Find Bamboo Crafts

Uehara Zenbei Store: Located on Yamabe Street, this shop offers baskets, strainers, and other bamboo goods for sale. However, the store is not open regularly, so you may want to call ahead at 0263-32-0144.

4-5-5 Ote, Matsumoto

Matsumoto Misuzuzaiku: This guild displays and sells their goods at various locations throughout the city such as the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum, although these locations change every so often. This year they held demonstrations at Rekishi no Sato and are planning on holding demonstrations and the occasional work shop there from spring of next year (2018).

Workshop 1-5-14 Tsukama, Matsumoto

Light Hiking in Asama Hot Springs with an Amazing View

While climbing the rugged Japan Alps is quite an adventure, if you’re looking for a more laid-back option, there is a nice hiking trail in the Asama Hot Springs area that has a lot to offer: easy access by bus or even bicycle from downtown Matsumoto, historical Shinto shrines in the forest, and best of all, a spectacular view of the Japan Alps (sometimes it’s just as impressive to see the Alps from afar as it is climbing the mountains themselves!). I checked it out last weekend and I’ve got a custom Google Map of the trails and points of interest below! If you prefer a Japanese map, there is a hiking map available in PDF format for this course here as well.

View from the look out point above Asama Hot Springs

View from the look out point above Asama Hot Springs

The trail up to the view point, which is on Mt. Gotenyama, takes 30 to 45 minutes from the trail heads and is easy enough for just about anyone to walk. First off, if you’re taking the bus, you can use the Asama Onsen bound bus (departs from Matsumoto Bus Terminal by the Matsumoto Station. See schedule here) and get off at the Asama Onsen bus stop. You just need to walk up the hill for about 10 minutes to get to the trail heads.

I started at Trail Head A (see map) and ended at Misha Shrine (where Trail Head B is located). I’ll go through the course I took below, photos included.

Fudo Falls (optional)

Now, before heading to the trail head, I would recommend checking out this cool little waterfall hidden just off the road on the way to Trail Head A and C. The waterfall itself is small, but it runs down from a small temple/shrine into a natural hollow carved into the rock wall. There is also a Buddhist carving in the wall as well as a fearsome stone sculpture. When walking through the town, you might notice there are some street signs pointing in the direction to the falls. Once you get near the falls, you’ll have to walk down a narrow path along a stream to find the actual waterfall. There isn’t an obvious sign in English at the entrance to the path so it can be hard to miss (use the map as guide).

Sign pointing to the Fudo Falls in the Asama Hot Springs area

Sign pointing to the Fudo Falls in the Asama Hot Springs area

The Buddhist stone sculpture at Fudo Falls

The Buddhist stone sculpture at Fudo Falls

A Buddhist carving behind the trickling Fudo Falls

A Buddhist carving behind the trickling Fudo Falls

Trail Head A to the Look Out Point

I started from Trail Head A located above the whole Asama Hot Springs area at the top of a steep hill. There is a big trail map at the entrance and a nice view of Mt. Norikuradake! In the fall, if it’s a nice day, you’ll be able to see the mountains through the trees as you’re hiking. Walk down the trail for about 15 minutes and you’ll come to a fork: take a right here to get to the look out point.

Trail map at trail head A

Trail map at trail head A

Mt. Norikuradake from trail head A

Mt. Norikuradake from trail head A

The Japan Alps peaking through the trees.

The Japan Alps peaking through the trees.

Trail near the look out point

Trail just below the look out point

The Look Out Point!

Once you get to the look out point, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the city of Matsumoto and the Japan Alps (assuming there aren’t clouds hanging over the mountains)! There are also a couple of wooden benches here, so you can take a break or eat a snack.

Matsumoto with a snowy Mt. Norikuradake above

Matsumoto with a snowy Mt. Norikuradake above

Look Out Point to Tenmangu Shrine (天満宮)

After you had your fill of the look out point view, head back down the trail you came up until you reach the fork in the road again. Turn right to go toward Tenmangu Shrine (天満宮). Shortly after, there is another fork in the trail, where you ‘ll turn left to continue toward the shrine. After passing through a pleasant forest trail, you will see Tenmangu Shrine come into sight after just a couple minutes. Once you reach the shrine, check out its red torii gate, the small wooden pavilion, and the main shrine structure at the top of the stairs.

According to the sign standing next to the shrine, it was originally built back in the year 1659 as offering of gratitude to the gods after a source of lead was found in the area.

Pretty trail with fallen leaves

Pretty trail with fallen leaves

Torii gate in the woods below Tenmangu Shrine

Torii gate in the woods below Tenmangu Shrine

A wooden pavilion below Tenmangu Shrine

A wooden pavilion below Tenmangu Shrine

Tenmangu Shrine in the forest

Tenmangu Shrine in the forest

Tenmangu Shrine to Misha Shrine (御射神社)

Just below Tenmangu Shrine is a small suspended bridge. Check out the bridge if you like, then head down the trail towards Misha Shrine (御射神社 in Japanese; toward the right if Tenmagu Shrine is at your back). The trail will exit the forest and you will briefly walk through a residential area. Misha Shrine shouldn’t be hard to miss because it has an impressive red torii gate at its entrance. To see the main building of Misha Shrine, take the trek up the stone steps.

A small, but fun suspended bridge constructed out of wood.

A small, but fun suspended bridge constructed out of wood.

Beautiful torii gate at Misha Shrine

Beautiful torii gate at Misha Shrine

After you’re all finished exploring, you can take the bus back to downtown, or even better, take a soak in at the Hot Plaza Asama hot spring facility first! This is the only public hot spring in Asama Hot Springs, and here you don’t need a reservation. It only costs ¥650 – see more details here.

If you’re looking for some more light hiking, check out the Hayashi Castle course in the Satoyamabe area here.

Matsumoto Winter Season Night Museum Events

Matsumoto Museum of Art and the Ukiyo-e Museum

Ukiyo-e Museum

Ukiyo-e Museum

Matsumoto Museum of Art

Matsumoto Museum of Art



The Matsumoto Museum of Art is holding a 3-month series of night museum days, in which one day each month until March it will keep the museum open for extended hours. Normally the museum closes at 5 p.m., but on night museum days, it will remain open until 9 p.m.

As a bonus, there are also special activities planned during the nighttime hours such as gallery talks and workshops, and for the first two event days, the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum (woodblock prints) will hold its own night museum events in conjunction with the Matsumoto Museum of Art (along with shuttle bus service between the two locations!).

These nights are especially nice if you’re visiting as a tourist, as it gives you something to do after most of the sightseeing spots close in the late afternoon.

Dates are as follows:
Note: Some activity details are still tentative, so may be subject to change


Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 (5 p.m.–9 p.m.)

Special Activity: Gallery talk featuring the artwork in the Matsumoto Museum of Art’s permanent exhibits. In conjunction with the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum’s nighttime event, which will also feature a gallery talk about certain pieces (e.g. ukiyo-e with snowy scenery) and an ukiyo-e demonstration. (Gallery talks are 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.)

Shuttle bus service available (timetable). The museums plan to provide multilingual (English/Chinese) explanatory materials for these activities.

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 (5 p.m.–9 p.m.)

Special Activity: Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Tentatively planned is a behind-the-scenes tour (with flashlights!) featuring the preparations for upcoming special Yayoi Kusama exhibit in March. In conjunction with the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum’s nighttime event which will feature a special talk about 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.)

Shuttle bus service available. Tours/Talks in Japanese only.

Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 (5 p.m.–9 p.m.)

Special Activity: (Tentative) Gallery talk to commemorate the special Yayoi Kusama exhibit to be held Mar. 3 to Jul. 22, 2018. Multilingual (English/Chinese) interpretation of talks planned through use of headphones. (Gallery talks are planned for 6:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.)

Hot wine and other drinks to be served in the art museums garden.

More information

Learn more about what you can see at the Ukiyo-e Museum on exhibit page on their website or check out our info page here. For general info about the art museum, check out the Matsumoto Museum of Art website or see our page here.

Night Museum at the Japanese Court and Open-air Architectural Museum (Rekishi no Sato)

Enjoy special extended hours at the Japanese Court Museum which allows you to see the beauty of the traditional Japanese Meiji-style architecture of Japan’s oldest wooden court building lit up at night. Regular exhibits are also open during the extended hours (see more info about the museum here)

The court building lit up at night

The court building lit up at night

Dates: Saturday, Dec 9 – Sunday, Dec 10
Time: 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. (extended nighttime hours from 5:00 p.m.)
Location: Japanese Court and Open-air Architectural Museum (Rekishi no Sato, Google Map)
Admission: Adults ¥400, free for junior high school students and under

For more events for December, check out the December Events (2017) blog post.

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

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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

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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.

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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).

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Admission

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.

Prices

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

Access

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

 

How to Make Your Own Oyaki Dumplings

When I first sunk my teeth into an oyaki dumpling (one of Matsumoto’s local food specialties), I was instantly addicted. Oyaki are fat, round dumplings that are made by stuffing a flour-based dough with various fillings, and then steaming and briefly grilling or pan-frying them to give the outer skin a bit of nice crisp. They remind me a little bit of Chinese dumplings, except that oyaki are plumper, less oily, and their dough skins are usually thicker.

A batch of homemade oyaki!

A batch of homemade oyaki!

The fillings for oyaki are most commonly vegetable-based, being made with Nozawana greens (a local vegetable), eggplant, mushrooms, and daikon radish. There are also sweet versions made with kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin and sweet bean paste.

If you’re in Matsumoto or other places in Nagano, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some oyaki, as they’re sold in oyaki specialty shops, souvenir shops, supermarkets, and sometimes even convenience stores. But what to do when you go back home and you wish you could have just one more bite of a tasty oyaki dumpling? Well, we’re in luck because they are surprisingly easy to make at home!

After I had declared my love for the oyaki, my neighbor and a soba shop owner here in Matsumoto generously offered to teach me how to make them. So, I figured I should share with everyone else too!

My neighbor demonstrating how to fill the oyaki.

My neighbor demonstrating how to fill the oyaki.

The best thing about oyaki is that once you know how to make the simple dough, you can stuff them with any kind of filling your heart desires. I’ll go over the basics below.

DOUGH INGREDIENTS/EQUIPMENT (for 10 oyaki):

  • 250 g (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 150 ml (just a bit less than 2/3 cup) warm water
  • Steamer (Any kind will work. If it’s small you’ll just need to steam in batches)
  • Working surface for working with the dough; e.g. wooden cutting board, clean counter, etc.

OYAKI FILLING IDEAS:

  • Stir-fried vegetables and/or mushrooms
  • Mashed kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin sweetened with sugar
  • Thickly sliced Japanese eggplant rounds, smeared with miso paste (also good if you mix in a little sugar into the miso paste). You could also chop the eggplant into cubes instead. Keep it raw, as it will cook when steaming.
  • Sweet red bean paste
  • Ground or chopped meats, seasoned how you like (e.g. salt, pepper, chopped onions, spices, etc. or think Chinese-style dumplings!)
  • Any kind of cooked leftovers that you think might taste good stuffed into a dumpling 😉
  • Japanese-style ingredients include kinpira gobo (spicy carrot & burdock root), unohana (okara & vegetables), hijiki seaweed cooked with vegetables, etc.

MAKING THE DOUGH:

  1. Measure out flour in a medium bowl and gradually mix in water until the dough comes together. It shouldn’t be very sticky and wet, but it also shouldn’t be crumbly-dry.
  2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent if from drying out and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the dough on a working surface dusted with flour. Roll it into a long, thick tube shape and cut the dough into 10 equal sized pieces (around 20 g, if you’re measuring).
  4. Form each piece of dough into a round ball.

STUFFING THE DUMPLINGS:

  1. Flatten a ball of dough and stretch it into a thin, circular skin. Try to keep the middle slightly thicker than the outside. You want to be careful not to stretch it super thin or the skin could tear when stuffing, but if the dough is too thick, it may end up chewy.
  2. Place the skin in the palm of your hand and put a good dollop of your filling into the middle.
  3. Begin folding over the sides of the skin until it completely encloses the filling. Use your fingers to pinch or press the skin together so it creates a seal.
  4. Repeat for the remaining dough balls until all oyaki dumplings are finished.
  5. P.S. It may seem hard at first, but the more you do, the better you’ll get!
Folding over the sides of the skin to seal the dumpling. This one is stuffed with eggplant slices, miso paste,  and shiso leaf

Folding over the sides of the skin to seal the dumpling. This one is stuffed with eggplant slices, miso paste, and shiso leaf

STEAMING/GRILLING:

  1. Prepare a steamer so the water is boiling by the time your oyaki are ready to be put in. You can optionally line the bottom of the steamer with greens (lettuce, kale, etc.) or something like wax paper to help prevent sticking, but usually they are fine without.
  2. Without overcrowding, place the oyaki in the steamer. They get a little bigger as they cook, so leave some room in between each one or else they dumplings will stick together and the skin will tear when you try to take them out (do it batches if necessary/have a small steamer).
  3. Steam for 20 minutes and remove to a plate
  4. To get a nice crisp texture and color on the surface of the dumplings, grill or pan-fry each side on each side. This is optional.
  5. They are ready to eat! Oyaki also taste great after they have cooled down.

Oyaki in the steamer

Oyaki in the steamer


Grilling oyaki in a frying pan

Grilling oyaki in a frying pan

SAVING LEFTOVERS:

  • Freezing: Cooked oyaki freeze very well. Just wrap each one in plastic wrap and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, you can simply microwave them until they are warm.
  • Refrigerating: Cooked oyaki will stay good for a few days in fridge. Wrap in plastic or put in a container. You can eat them cool, microwave, or re-grill when you’re ready to eat.

I hope you enjoy!

Make a whole bunch and freeze for later!

Make a whole bunch and freeze for later!

December Events (2017)

Who can believe that December is already here? The last month of the year features a wide variety of events in genres ranging from the arts and culture to sports and history.

Kamiakari Bamboo Candles Illumination (in Azumino)

Over 10,000 bamboo candles light up Hotaka Shrine in their other-worldly glow. If you come by 3:50 p.m. and bring your own long-necked lighter, you can actually participate in lighting the candles!

Photo credit: Azumino Tourism Website

Photo credit: Azumino Tourism Website

Dates: Friday, Dec 1 to Sunday, Dec 3
Location: Hotaka Shrine (30 min. from Matsumoto in Azumino City) – see details here.
Time: 4:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.

Matsumoto Cross Country Race

This race takes place at the big park that surrounds Matsumoto Airport with a full view of the Japan Alps. You can watch races ranging from 1,000 meters to 8,000 meters, with age groups range from elementary school children to adults over 40. (see more event details in Japanese here. Note: entry to participate as a runner is already closed.)

Location: Shinshu Sky Park Family Sports Zone (Google map)
Date: Sunday, December 3
Time: Races begin from 9 a.m.

Christmas Candle Night at the Matsumoto Museum of Art

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

Yayoi Kusama's gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight

Yayoi Kusama’s gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight


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

Night Museum at the Japanese Court and Open-air Architectural Museum (Rekishi no Sato)

Enjoy special extended hours at the Japanese Court Museum which allows you to see the beauty of the traditional Japanese Meiji-style architecture of Japan’s oldest wooden court building lit up at night. Regular exhibits are also open during the extended hours (see more info about the museum here)

The court building lit up at night

The court building lit up at night

Dates: Saturday, Dec 9 – Sunday, Dec 10
Time: 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. (extended nighttime hours from 5:00 p.m.)
Location: Japanese Court and Open-air Architectural Museum (Rekishi no Sato, Google Map)
Admission: Adults ¥400, free for junior high school students and under

World of Martial Arts Event

Watch and even try out 12 different kinds of traditional martial arts, including kendo, naganata (polearm fighting), sumo, aikido, kobudo (traditional Japanese weaponry), Japanese archery and more—all for free! See more details in our previous blog post about this event.

Practicing one of the weapon arts

Practicing on of the weapon arts

Location: Matsumoto City Sogo Taikukan (Gymnasium, see Google map)
Date: Sunday, December 10
Time: Participatory classes from 9:30–11:50 a.m. / Exhibitions from 1:00–4:00 p.m.
Cost: Free!

Matsumoto Cinema Select: Lost in Paris showing

A 2016 French/Belgium comedy, also known as Paris pieds nus featuring stars Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Emmanuelle Riva. See more info on IMDb.

Movie poster for Lost in Paris

Movie poster for Lost in Paris

Date: Wednesday, December 13
Time: 8:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre (map)
Cost: On-the-day tickets – ¥1,800 for adults, ¥1,400 for university/high school students.

Opera Chanchiki (Citizen’s Opera Performance)

An opera theater performance based on an old Japanese folktale and music featuring both traditional Japanese instruments and an orchestra. Performances by local opera, chorus, and Japanese instrument groups.

Image from the Chanchiki poster

Image from the Chanchiki poster

Location: Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre (map)
1st Performance: Saturday, December 16 from 6:00 p.m.
2nd Performance: Sunday, December 17 from 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: Start at ¥4,000 for adults and ¥2,500 for under 25. Buy directly at the ticket counter from 10:00 a.m–6:00 p.m.

Matsumoto Sunday Market

Enjoy good music, food, wine, beer, dance, crafts, workshops for kids and more!

Date: Sunday, December 17
Time: 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Sunday Market, 5 min from the station (Map)
Event on Facebook

Night Museum at the Matsumoto Museum of Art

The museum will open for extended nighttime hours one day each month during December, February, and March. For the December night museum day, they will hold a special gallery talk about the artwork in the permanent exhibits (see more info about other dates here). See general information about the museum here.

Outside area of the art museum

Outside area of the art museum


Date: Friday, December 22
Time: 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. (also open for regular hours from 9 to 5)
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art (Map)

Susuharai (Soot Sweeping)

This is a customary end-of-the-year cleaning ritual which is meant to purify the soot that has gathered over the year and prevent ill fortune from entering the castle for the next year. Read more information here.

Staff sweeping the soot off the castle tower

Staff sweeping the soot off the castle tower


Date: Thursday, December 28
Time: 9:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Location: Matsumoto Castle’s Kuro-mon (Black gate), the castle tower entrance, and Taiko-mon (Drum gate)
Admission: Adults ¥610, Children ¥300 (includes entrance into the castle tower and Matsumoto City Museum just outside the castle)

The Japan Alps Turn White With Snow

Last month, the Japan Alps got its first coat of snow. During the last couple of weeks, the snow has been gradually creeping down the mountains.

The mountains in the morning, after the sun has risen completely

The mountains in the morning, after the sun has risen completely

Because the air during the wintertime is much clearer than in the summer, you’ll get one of the best views of the mountains during this season. As for the best time of day, I’d say the Japan Alps are their prettiest in the early morning, as the sunrise often casts a beautiful pink glow across the mountains. If you’re staying overnight in Matsumoto during the fall or winter, I highly recommend setting your alarm clock for just before the sunrise so you can catch a glimpse of this gorgeous view!

The Japan Alps just before the sun rises

The Japan Alps just before the sun rises

The sunset can offer just as much of a breathtaking view, as well. The mountains themselves will appear as dark silhouettes, but on certain days when the weather is just right, the sky will turn brilliant orange, pink, and purple hues.

An especially beautifully sunset in Matsumoto

An especially beautifully sunset in Matsumoto

But really, anytime of day when the sky is clear, you’re still going to have an amazing view!

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