city in Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Matsumoto (松本) is a city in Nagano at the eastern end of the Japan Alps. It is best known as the home of Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's 12 original castles.

Matsumoto Castle

Get in Edit

By plane Edit

From the closest major airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO IATA) near Nagoya, Matsumoto can be reached by rail in roughly three hours by the Meitetsu line and JR limited express train (change in Nagoya). Buses connect Centrair with Matsumoto in around 3½ to 4 hours for ¥3500.

From Narita Airport (NRT IATA), Matsumoto can be reached in 4½ to 5 hours by limited express rail service (change in Shinjuku).

By train Edit

Matsumoto station

Matsumoto is located on the JR Shinonoi Line. It is four stops away from Shiojiri, the "mid-point" of the Chuo Main Line between Tokyo and Nagoya. There is a tourist information center inside the train station.

Limited express trains run to Matsumoto from Tokyo's Shinjuku station. The Azusa (あずさ) makes the journey in about 2¾ hours (¥6500). Local trains also make the trip, but it's cheaper and faster to go by bus.

There's also the option of taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen Kagayaki (かがやき), Hakutaka (はくたか), or Asama (あさま) from Tokyo to Nagano station, then taking the Wide View Shinano (ワイドビューしなの) limited express to Matsumoto (2½-3 hours, ¥8470).

The Wide View Shinano also runs from Nagoya station, where there are connections with the Tokaido Shinkansen (towards Kyoto and Osaka). The run from Nagoya to Matsumoto takes 2 hours on the limited express and costs ¥5830; local trains cost ¥3350 and take between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the available trains and connections.

All of the above-mentioned rail trips are free when using the Japan Rail Pass.

By bus Edit

Highway buses from JR Matsumoto station connect to Shinjuku in Tokyo (3 hours, ¥3400), Nagoya (3 hr 15 min, ¥3460), and various destinations in the Japan Alps, notably the Oku-Hida Onsen Villages (90 min, ¥2300-2800).

Local bus Edit

There are bus and city bus Matsumoto Matsumoto Electric Railway. Matsumoto Electric railway. Discount admission of a tourist attraction to have a day pass co The "Town Sneaker" bus runs four routes around the inner city. One ride is ¥200 (take ticket from machine on entry, then drop the ticket and ¥200 in the clear box on exit) or a day ticket is ¥500 from the bus information office opposite the station. The bus runs infrequently so check the timetable. Town Sneaker Link[dead link]

Date July 16, 2010, in line 30 minutes east of the Northern Line, South Line Western Line that leaves every 40 minutes.

Get around Edit

Town Sneaker
  • You can walk to Matsumoto Castle, about a mile northeast of the station, in about 20 minutes.
  • Alternatively, the Town Sneaker[dead link] bus departs from in front of Matsumoto Station every 30 minutes and makes a circular trip to all city sights; it costs ¥200 each time you get off. ¥500 for a day ticket. Half-price for children.
  • To visit the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, however, you'll have to go by train or taxi or get the Town Sneaker to the City Government Office then walk for 25 minutes.
  • Free bicycles are available daily 08:30 to 17:00 at various locations throughout town, including the Matsumoto City Museum next to Matsumoto Castle and the Kaichi Gakko Primary School. They're convenient for visiting sights not accessible by Town Sneaker bus; ask the Matsumoto Tourist Information staff for details. Otherwise, you can rent a bike from JR Eki Rent-A-Car beside the station for ¥1,500 per day.

See Edit

  • 1 Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō) (15 min north of Matsumoto station on foot). 08:30 to 17:00 daily. Completed around 1593-94, this stately landmark is one of the 12 original castles remaining in Japan, having been spared from the ravages of war and time. Designated a National Treasure of Japan, today it's considered one of the top 3 to visit along with Himeji Castle and Kumamoto Castle. Visitors can climb up precarious stairways all the way to the top, and the castle also houses a comprehensive exhibit on the history of firearms in Japan. ¥700.    
  • 2 Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum (松本民芸館, matsumoto mingeikan) (Take the bus on the Utsukushigahara line for 15 minutes and get off that the Folkcraft Museum bus stop). Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, closed from December 29 through January 3.. This is a very small museum filled with a variety of arts and crafts that the museum's own pamphlet describes as not being of much value either artistically or monetarily. The museum is basically the collection of a private individual, Taro Maruyama, who ran a folkcraft shop in Matsumoto in the 1950 and 1960s. He presented the museum to the city of Matsumoto in 1983. While some of the crafts and artwork are interesting, the museum is probably not worth visiting unless you are spending a considerable amount of time in the vicinity or are particularly interested in Japanese Folkcrafts. On an interesting side note, a home near the museum, owned by a school principal, has a beautiful garden and is quite pretty, employing some traditional Japanese architecture. Our tour guide said many people found the home of more interest than the museum. ¥300 for adults. School children can get in for free and the museum offers group rates for groups over 20.
  • 3 Japan Ukiyo-e Museum. Featuring over 10,000 pieces of ukiyo-e (traditional woodblock prints), it is the largest private museum of its kind in the world. Though the building housing the museum is imposing, a rather small selection of the pieces is shown at any time (2 rooms, about 40 prints). Also reprints of famous Ukiyo-e are on display. The collection was begun over 200 years ago by Yoshiaki Sakai and was subsequently added to by succeeding generations of the Sakai family, including the current owner and CEO of the museum, Nobuo Sakai. The collection includes many pieces from the most famous ukiyo-e artists in history as well as works that are believed to be the last remaining examples of their kind. English signage at the museum is limited, but an English-language pamphlet is available. In addition to Matsumoto Castle mentioned above; it is a must-see for those looking for something truly 'Japanese.'    
  • 4 Uchibuse River French Waterfall (牛伏川フランス式階段工) (About 20 minutes' drive SSE from Matsumoto Station. Signs are lacking; GPS navigation is helpful.). These tiered waterfalls are located in a large scenic park. The falls themselves can be seen in ten minutes, though there are several kilometers of trails for more adventurous souls. There are dozens of picnic spots along the road to the falls. The parking lot closest to the falls has a restroom, though there is no tap water. free.    
  • Japanese Court and Open-air Architectural Museum (Rekishi no Sato) (next to Ukiyo-e Museum). Some old Japanese buildings, including the home of a samurai who became a social reformer, plus exhibits on female silk workers and other things - all in Japanese. One exhibit discusses Matsumoto's historical buildings - you can take photos of the maps to guide you on a walking tour downtown. ¥400.
  • 5 Matsumoto City Timepiece Museum (松本市時計博物館), 1 Chome-21-15 Chuo (On the street on the south side of the river). Daily 09:00-16:30. Small collection of interesting timepieces from Japan and abroad. ¥300.
  • 6 Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), 4-2-22 Chuo, +81 263-39-7400. This art museum has a large exhibit on Yayoi Kusama, who came from Matsumoto before moving to the United States for many years. It also has a photograph collection of mountains in Nagano.    

Do Edit

Walk along the river around Nawate-dōri

Matsumoto is surrounded by numerous campsites and onsen. A hiking map in English can be picked up from the information center, a 5-minute walk south of the castle.

  • 1 Daio Wasabi Farm (大王わさび農場), 3.2km from Hotaka station (JR Oito Line to Hotaka. Then take the Azumino bus East line (round trip ¥1000 adult, ¥500 child; bus only departs once every 1-2 hours), or taxi (¥1200; it can be difficult to get a taxi back), walk, or rent a bicycle). Daily 09:00-17:00, varying by season. This famous wasabi farm is a bit difficult to get to but is a fascinating farm in a beautiful location. A tranquil stream runs through irrigated wasabi fields and the alps provide a backdrop. You can buy wasabi products and food, including wasabi ice cream. Free.    
  • Hotaka, 30 minutes east on the local train, is the center of Japanese wasabi production. Bike rentals are right next to the station, and it is a short ride to a number of wasabi fields including the Daio wasabi farm which offers a tour of its fields, wasabi for sale for as little as ¥300 a root, wasabi icecream, and several tourist-oriented restaurants.
  • Hike to Misuzuko (美鈴湖). To go down, take the bus from Matsumoto bus station (beside the Epsa supermarket) to Utsukushigahara-kogen (美ヶ原), 51 minutes, ¥930 (May 2009) to Lake Misuzu; walk around the east side of the lake to the Toy Box (もりの国) campsite (start along the main road, take a footpath to the right; when you come to another road, turn left along it until a path goes up to the left; follow this up to and through the campsite). Exit the campsite by its main gate, turn left, at the first guardrail leave the road to the right and follow the path down along a ridge. (Pause in the first section to admire the eagles.) There are no signposts, but the path is clear, with some trail markers; after about an hour you will find yourself among houses uphill from Asama-onsen (浅間); Matsumoto station is another hour and a half, of which part can be along the Metoba River (女鳥羽川). Not having completed the trail I cannot say how to find it from below.

Buy Edit

Stores in Matsumoto offer pickled wasabi leaves, laquerware, and traditional crafts.

Shopping in Nawate-dōri
  • 1 Nawate-dōri (なわて通り). An old-fashioned shopping street running along the north bank of the river, full of small shops selling antiques, foods, used books, etc. The old movie theater shut its doors after its run of The Last Samurai, but the posters are still up as well as the nostalgic building itself. The street's ubiquitous mascot is a frog, originating from frogs in the river as well as a pun on the Japanese word for "return", kaeru — frogs were given as a charm so that loved ones would return safely from the treacherous mountains, and also so that money and goods would also return.
  • 2 Nakamachi-dōri (中町通り). A nice old street one block south of the river, with a number of clothing and curio shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.

Eat Edit

Matsumoto is mildly famous for its soba noodles, hopefully served with a dab of product from the world's largest wasabi farm nearby. You can have them as chilled zaru-soba in the summer, an refreshing way to experience the pure taste of the noodles, or in the winter as toji-soba, where you eat them by dipping a little bamboo basket into a pot of broth.

Matsumoto is also famous for its raw horse meat (basashi).

  • 1 Teppan Restaurant Bonchan. Okonomiyaki and grilled vegetables/seafood. The set menu (from 2 persons) is a great way to get a bit of everything. ¥1000 set menu.
  • Restaurant Kura. The basashi set meal is great. Set meals ¥1500.
  • 2 Katsugen (麓庵かつ玄). Katsu, fried shrimps, fried oyster in a nice traditional style building. Free pickles.
  • 3 Karaage Centre Matsumoto (next to east exit of station (turn right)). Daily 10:00-16:30. Japanese fried chicken with a soft batter. Standing room only. Staff speak some English but the menu is in Japanese. ¥480.
  • 4 Sakura, 1 Chome-1-20-26 Chuo (opposite PARCO mall). Daily 11:00-15:00, 17:30-22:00. 8-seat restaurant serving excellent miso ramen. Vending machine has pictures. Busy for lunch but not for dinner. From ¥680.

Drink Edit

The backstreets of Nawate-dōri have small lively places where local people have food with drinks.

  • 1 Japanese Sake Bar, Nakamachi-dori. Daily 17:30-23:00. There are a few sake bars around here but the owner of this one knows some English and put up English signs outside (typical customers are Japanese though). There is a range of local sake and wine to try and you may meet some colorful locals. A range of light meals including horse sashimi are available. ¥500 for drinks, ¥500 cover charge.

Sleep Edit

  • 1 Marumo Ryokan (まるも), Chuo 3-3-10, +81 263 320 115. A beautiful Japanese style hotel, situated in an old house that was re-built after the big Matsumoto 1889 fire. The hotel is situated along the south bank of the river, opposite the east end of the Nawate-dōri shopping street. The Hotel also has a very nice tea house attached to it. Very good English spoken. ¥6300 with breakfast, cash only.
  • 2 Ryokan Matsukaze (旅館松風) (10 min walk south from the station, on the southern bank of the river), +81 263 257 318. A spacious and new ryokan, which is still somewhat under renovation. Despite the construction, the place is comfortable and the owners are cheerful. Ask the station's tourist info to reserve a room for you and the owner can pick you up from the station. ¥3500 per person without breakfast.
  • 3 Ryokan Seifu-so, 634-5, Minami-asama (Take #2 bus from train station, get off at minami asama (its around the corner)), +81 263-46-0639. Very nice, traditional Ryokan with very helpful staff and plenty of amenities. Free bicycle rental (10 min to train station). Free pickup from train station during certain hours (just call when you get there). Both Japanese and western style rooms. ¥4800.
  • 4 Ohgato Hotel (王ヶ頭ホテル). On the top of a mountain, with a very nice view. ¥30,000.
  • 5 Hotel New Station (turn left from east exit of station and go about 100m north). Convenient hotel with small rooms, good staff, onsen baths, and good breakfast (Y900) From ¥7000.

Go next Edit

  • Hakuba - a popular ski resort
  • Oku-Hida Onsen Villages - some of Japan's best hot springs, 90 minutes away by bus
  • Kamikochi - one of the best hiking points in the Japanese Alps, en route to Takayama.
  • Chikuma - take the Shinonoi railway northeast to Obasute or Inariyama stations and visit the onsens, mountains and temples of this small city on the Chikuma River
  • Norikura Kogen (乗鞍高原) - an alpine plateau alongside some of Japan's highest mountains and makes for a great day trip or longer stay in the mountains. There are hiking trails, cycling routes, skiing and spectacular mountain roads. There is the renowned milky-water valley onsen at Shirahone and a milky-water onsen at Norikura (near Kanko tourist centre) with mountain views, including Yukemurikan opposite the tourist centre and bus stop. For a day trip from Matsumoto, buy a combined train/bus return ticket from the first machines next to the ticket office - ¥3,300 to Norikura or ¥3,500 to Shirahone - and take the electric railway from track 7 to Shin-Shimashima, then transfer to the Alpico Highland Shuttle right outside the station gate. For Norikura, the best stop is probably "Kanko center mae", outside the tourist office and Yukemurikan. Check timetables first.
  • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Routes through Matsumoto
NaganoToyoshina (Azumino)  N   E  ShiojiriOkaya
OnoTakayama  W   E  END

This city travel guide to Matsumoto is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.