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Top 10 Things To Do In Matsumoto City (Nagano, Japan)


by Riane Conaway


Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle, also known as Crow Castle due to its black exterior, is a stunning historical monument located in the heart of Matsumoto City in Nagano, Japan. Its construction dates back to the late 16th century, making it one of the oldest and most well-preserved castles in the country. The castle is renowned for its unique architecture, impressive defensive features, and picturesque surroundings, attracting tourists from all over the world.


As you enter the castle grounds, you’ll be greeted by a majestic wooden keep that stands on a stone foundation. The castle’s distinctive black walls, adorned with white plaster, create a striking contrast against the lush greenery of the surrounding gardens. Walking through the castle’s interior is like taking a step back in time, as you explore the various levels and rooms that have been carefully preserved to showcase the castle’s fascinating history.


One of the highlights of Matsumoto Castle is its five-story main keep, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Japanese Alps in the distance. As you climb the steep and narrow staircases, you’ll come across displays of samurai armor and weapons, providing insight into the castle’s military significance during Japan’s feudal era.


Matsumoto Castle is not just a visual delight; it also plays host to cultural events and activities throughout the year. The annual cherry blossom festival held in the castle grounds is a must-see, as the cherry trees burst into a sea of pink hues, creating a picturesque backdrop for visitors. Additionally, the castle often serves as a venue for traditional performances, such as ninja shows and tea ceremonies, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Japanese culture.


For those interested in learning more about the history and significance of Matsumoto Castle, the on-site museum provides detailed exhibits and informative displays. The museum showcases artifacts, documents, and interactive exhibits that shed light on the castle’s construction, its role in Japanese history, and the life of the samurai who once resided there.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply looking to immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to Matsumoto Castle is a must. Its grandeur, historical importance, and jaw-dropping beauty make it an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of this iconic Japanese landmark.


Nakamachi Street

Nakamachi Street is a charming, well-preserved historical district nestled in the heart of Matsumoto City in Nagano, Japan. This picturesque lane is lined with beautifully preserved traditional Japanese buildings, many of which have been converted into restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. Visitors flock to Nakamachi Street to take a stroll through its nostalgic atmosphere and experience a taste of old Japan.


As you enter Nakamachi Street, you’ll immediately be enthralled by the architecture. The buildings showcase a unique blend of traditional Edo-era design and the distinctive Matsumoto style. Many of the houses feature wooden lattices on their windows, called ‘namako-kabe,’ which give them a distinct charm. The narrow, meandering street and the neatly lined storefronts create a quaint and inviting ambiance that beckons visitors to explore further.


One of the highlights of Nakamachi Street is the opportunity to indulge in local cuisine at its many restaurants and cafes. The street is a food lover’s paradise, offering a wide array of delicious options. From traditional Japanese dishes like soba noodles and tempura to international flavors and fusion cuisine, you’ll find something to satisfy every palate. Dining in one of the historic buildings adds a unique charm to your culinary experience.


In addition to its culinary delights, Nakamachi Street is also a hub for art and craftsmanship. The district is home to numerous galleries and craft shops, where you can find exquisite pottery, lacquerware, textiles, and other traditional crafts made by local artisans. Exploring these shops is not only an opportunity to purchase unique souvenirs but also a chance to witness the dedication and skill that goes into the creation of these masterpieces.


While strolling along Nakamachi Street, take the time to admire the small details that make this district so special. From the intricate wooden carvings on the buildings to the well-maintained stone pavements, every corner tells a story. The street is especially enchanting during the spring and fall seasons when cherry blossoms or colorful autumn foliage adorn the surroundings, creating a picturesque backdrop for photographs.


Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of old-world charm, Nakamachi Street is sure to captivate you. It offers a unique glimpse into the past while still being a vibrant and lively destination in the present. So take a leisurely stroll, soak in the atmosphere, and let Nakamachi Street transport you to a bygone era.


Matsumoto City Museum of Art

The Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a cultural gem located in the heart of Matsumoto City in Nagano, Japan. Founded in 2002, the museum showcases a diverse collection of artwork from both Japanese and international artists, making it a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and cultural explorers.


When you step inside the museum, you are immediately greeted by a modern and spacious gallery space that houses a wide range of artistic mediums, including paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, and multimedia installations. The museum’s collection covers various periods and styles, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of art history.


One of the standout features of the Matsumoto City Museum of Art is its focus on local artists and their connection to the region. The museum frequently hosts exhibitions that highlight the works of artists from Nagano and the surrounding areas. This emphasis on local talent creates a unique platform for artists to showcase their creations and gain recognition within the art community.


In addition to its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, the museum also offers educational programs and workshops for visitors of all ages. These interactive activities allow visitors to engage with art in a hands-on and immersive way, encouraging creativity and a deeper understanding of the artistic process.


Beyond the exhibitions and programs, the architecture of the museum itself is a work of art. Designed by renowned architect Arata Isozaki, the building’s sleek and modern design stands in contrast to its surroundings, making it a visual focal point in the city. The large glass windows not only allow natural light to flood the gallery spaces but also provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape, further enhancing the overall experience.


After exploring the exhibits, visitors can relax and rejuvenate at the museum’s café, which offers a selection of light meals and beverages. The café’s calming atmosphere and panoramic views make it an ideal spot to reflect on the art encountered during the visit.


Whether you’re a seasoned art connoisseur or simply appreciate the captivating power of artistic expression, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art offers a delightful and enriching experience. Immerse yourself in the world of creativity, be inspired by the works on display, and discover the vibrant artistic spirit that thrives in Matsumoto City.


Hotaka Shrine

Hotaka Shrine, located in Azumino City near Matsumoto in Nagano, Japan, is a sacred Shinto shrine that holds great historical and cultural significance. Nestled amidst the serene beauty of the Japanese Alps, this peaceful sanctuary is a spiritual retreat for both locals and visitors alike.


Hotaka Shrine is dedicated to the deity Oyamakui-no-Mikoto, who is believed to protect the surrounding mountains and ensure the prosperity and well-being of the local community. As you enter the shrine grounds, you’ll be greeted by a tranquil atmosphere and a sense of reverence. The winding pathway, lined with towering cedar trees, leads to the main shrine building, which exudes a sense of ancient wisdom.


The shrine’s architecture is a sight to behold. The distinct Nagano-style roofing showcases intricate woodwork and elegant design elements, creating a harmonious blend of nature and human craftsmanship. Visitors can admire the intricate details, including the gracefully curved eaves and the ornate decorative metalwork adorning the shrine’s entrance.


Hotaka Shrine is particularly renowned for its annual festivals, which draw crowds from far and wide. One of the most popular events is the Hotaka Shrine Autumn Festival, held in October. During this festival, grand processions and lively rituals take place, including the carrying of portable shrines (mikoshi) and traditional performances such as music and dance. These festivities provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region and offer a chance to witness traditional Japanese customs in action.


Aside from the festivals, the shrine’s tranquil surroundings make it a perfect spot for reflection and meditation. The peacefulness of the forest and the spiritual energy that permeates the air create a serene and calming atmosphere. Visitors are encouraged to take a leisurely stroll through the grounds, exploring the various smaller shrines and immersing themselves in the natural beauty that surrounds them.


The surrounding area of Hotaka Shrine also offers opportunities for outdoor activities. The nearby Hotaka Mountain Range is a popular destination for hiking enthusiasts, with various trails offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk or a more challenging climb, the trails cater to all levels of experience.


Hotaka Shrine is not just a place of worship, but a testament to the deep spiritual connection between man and nature. Whether you visit for the festivals, seek solace in its serene ambiance, or embark on an adventure in the surrounding mountains, Hotaka Shrine is a place where you can find peace, inspiration, and a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.


Matsumoto City Museum

The Matsumoto City Museum is a captivating cultural institution that offers a fascinating glimpse into the history, art, and heritage of Matsumoto City in Nagano, Japan. Located in the heart of the city, this museum is a treasure trove of knowledge and showcases a wide range of exhibits that both educate and inspire visitors.


Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a spacious and modern interior, designed to enhance the viewing experience. The museum is divided into various exhibition areas, each with its own unique theme and focus. From displays on local history to exhibitions on archaeology, folk culture, and contemporary art, the museum offers something of interest for everyone.


One of the standout features of the Matsumoto City Museum is its commitment to preserving and showcasing the rich history and heritage of the region. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs that highlight the city’s evolution over the centuries. From ancient artifacts excavated from archaeological sites to historical documents and photographs that shed light on Matsumoto City’s past, the exhibits provide a captivating journey through time.


In addition to its historical exhibitions, the museum also showcases contemporary art and hosts rotating temporary exhibitions. This dynamic approach ensures that visitors can always expect something fresh and exciting every time they visit. Whether it’s a display of traditional Japanese art or a thought-provoking contemporary installation, the museum’s dedication to presenting a diverse range of artistic expressions enriches the cultural landscape of Matsumoto City.


The Matsumoto City Museum actively engages visitors with interactive displays, educational programs, and workshops. These initiatives aim to inspire curiosity and learning among visitors of all ages. From hands-on activities that allow you to experience traditional crafts to workshops on calligraphy or making traditional Japanese toys, the museum provides an immersive and educational experience that goes beyond simply viewing the exhibits.


Another highlight of the Matsumoto City Museum is its beautiful outdoor garden. The meticulously manicured green spaces offer a peaceful retreat where visitors can take a moment to relax and reflect. The garden also serves as a venue for outdoor events and performances, further enhancing the museum’s connection with the local community.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply looking to enrich your knowledge and understanding of Matsumoto City’s culture, a visit to the Matsumoto City Museum is highly recommended. Immerse yourself in the fascinating exhibits and let the museum’s diverse offerings transport you on a journey of discovery.


Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum

The Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum is a hidden gem located in Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan. This museum is dedicated to showcasing the rich folkcraft heritage of the region and offers visitors a unique insight into traditional Japanese crafts and craftsmanship.


As you step into the museum, you are immediately transported into a world of exquisite artistry and cultural traditions. The museum houses a diverse collection of folkcraft artifacts, including ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, woodcraft, and metalwork. Each piece represents the ingenuity and skill of the local artisans who have preserved these traditional crafts for generations.


The displays in the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum highlight the distinct styles and techniques that have evolved within the region. Whether it’s the delicate motifs of Shimosuwa ceramics or the intricate woven patterns of Shinshu textiles, visitors can witness the attention to detail and craftsmanship that have been passed down through the ages.


One of the museum’s highlights is the opportunity to observe live demonstrations of various craft techniques. Skilled artisans showcase their talents, offering visitors a firsthand experience of the intricate processes involved in creating these folkcraft treasures. From pottery throwing to weaving and decorative metalwork, these demonstrations provide a deeper appreciation for the dedication and skill required to produce such masterpieces.


Alongside the permanent collection, the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum also hosts rotating special exhibitions that focus on specific themes or periods. These curated displays offer a deeper exploration into particular aspects of Japanese folkcraft, shedding light on their historical, cultural, and artistic significance.


Visitors to the museum also have the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops led by experienced artists and craftsmen. These workshops allow visitors to try their hand at various folkcraft techniques, creating their own unique pieces under the guidance of skilled instructors. It’s an interactive experience that provides a deeper connection to the art forms and promotes the preservation of these traditional crafts.


Located in a historic building with traditional Japanese architecture, the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum itself is a work of art. The wooden structure and serene garden setting create a tranquil atmosphere that complements the exhibits and enhances the overall museum experience.


For those seeking to delve deeper into the world of Japanese folkcraft, the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum is a must-visit destination. Immerse yourself in the beauty of traditional craftsmanship, gain insight into the region’s cultural heritage, and appreciate the timeless art forms that continue to thrive in Matsumoto City.


Agatanomori Park

Agatanomori Park is a tranquil oasis nestled in Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan. This expansive park offers visitors a serene escape from the bustling cityscape and provides a welcoming environment to reconnect with nature.


Spanning over 31 hectares, Agatanomori Park offers a variety of outdoor spaces and recreational facilities. The park boasts beautifully manicured gardens, open lawns, and picturesque walking paths that wind through groves of trees, creating a peaceful atmosphere for leisurely strolls and picnics.


One of the park’s main attractions is its stunning seasonal beauty. During springtime, cherry blossom trees burst into bloom, blanketing the park with delicate pink petals. Visitors can enjoy hanami (flower viewing) picnics under these magnificent trees, creating cherished memories of the ephemeral beauty of the cherry blossoms.


In summer, Agatanomori Park provides respite from the heat with its lush greenery and shaded areas. The park is a popular spot for outdoor activities, including frisbee, soccer, and cycling. There are also playgrounds for children to enjoy, making it a family-friendly destination.


As autumn approaches, the park transforms into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors as the leaves change. Shades of red, orange, and gold paint the landscape, creating a breathtaking sight for visitors. Taking a leisurely walk along the park’s pathways during this season is a feast for the senses.


Even in winter, Agatanomori Park retains its charm, with traces of snow transforming the park into a winter wonderland. The peacefulness of the park during this season offers a serene environment for contemplation and reflection.


In addition to its natural beauty, Agatanomori Park is home to various facilities and amenities. The park features tennis courts, a baseball field, and a fitness area, catering to sports enthusiasts. There is also a large pond where visitors can enjoy paddle boating and feeding the ducks that call the park home.


Throughout the year, Agatanomori Park hosts various events and festivals that celebrate the seasons and showcase local culture. From traditional music performances to food stalls offering local specialties, these events add vibrancy and excitement to the park’s serene ambiance.


Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat, a place for outdoor activities, or a scenic spot to appreciate the changing seasons, Agatanomori Park offers something for everyone. It’s a place where nature and tranquility harmonize, inviting visitors to unwind, reconnect with the natural world, and experience the beauty that Matsumoto City has to offer.


Kurassic-kan Museum

The Kurassic-kan Museum, located in Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan, is a unique cultural institution that offers visitors a glimpse into the fascinating world of automobiles and transportation. The museum showcases a diverse collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles, making it a must-visit destination for automotive enthusiasts and history lovers.


As you enter the Kurassic-kan Museum, you’ll be transported back in time to an era when automobiles revolutionized transportation. The museum’s collection includes a wide range of classic vehicles, from early horse-drawn carriages to iconic cars from the 20th century. Each vehicle is meticulously restored and displayed in a way that allows visitors to appreciate the craftsmanship, engineering, and historical significance of these automotive treasures.


One of the highlights of the museum is the opportunity to see rare and unique automobiles up close. Whether it’s a vintage Rolls-Royce, a sleek Jaguar, or a beautifully restored Volkswagen Beetle, each vehicle tells a story and represents a different era of automotive design and innovation. The museum’s knowledgeable staff is always on hand to provide insights into the history and features of the vehicles on display.


In addition to the impressive collection of vehicles, the Kurassic-kan Museum offers interactive exhibits and educational displays that delve into the evolution of transportation. Visitors can learn about the technological advancements that transformed the industry, explore the impact of automobiles on society, and discover the connections between transportation and daily life through the decades.


The museum also showcases the cultural and artistic aspects of automotive design. From the elegant curves of vintage cars to the sleek lines of modern sports cars, the aesthetic appeal of these vehicles is celebrated. The museum often hosts special exhibitions that explore the intersection of art and automobiles, showcasing the creativity and artistic vision of designers.


Aside from the exhibitions, the Kurassic-kan Museum features a souvenir shop and a café where visitors can relax and reflect on their visit. The shop offers a range of automotive-themed souvenirs, including books, model cars, and clothing, allowing visitors to bring a piece of the museum’s charm home with them.


Whether you’re a classic car enthusiast, a history buff, or simply curious about the evolution of transportation, the Kurassic-kan Museum provides a captivating and informative experience. Step into a world of automotive nostalgia, appreciate the beauty of these vintage vehicles, and gain a deeper understanding of their cultural and historical significance at this extraordinary museum.


Matsumoto Timepiece Museum

The Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, located in Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan, is a captivating destination that takes visitors on a journey through the fascinating history of timekeeping. This unique museum showcases an impressive collection of clocks and timepieces from various eras, allowing visitors to explore the evolution of timekeeping technology.


As you enter the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, you’ll be immersed in a world of mechanical marvels and intricate craftsmanship. The museum houses a diverse collection of timepieces, ranging from ancient sundials to intricate pocket watches and magnificent grandfather clocks. Each timepiece tells a story and represents a different chapter in the history of timekeeping.


One of the highlights of the museum is its focus on Japanese timepieces. The collection includes a variety of beautifully crafted Japanese clocks, reflecting the unique styles and techniques that originated within the country. Visitors can admire the precision and artistry behind these stunning timepieces, gaining a deeper appreciation for the ingenuity of Japanese clockmakers throughout history.


The Matsumoto Timepiece Museum not only showcases traditional clocks but also explores the innovations and advancements that shaped the world of timekeeping. Visitors can learn about the mechanical intricacies of various clock mechanisms, such as pendulum clocks and spring-driven watches. Interactive displays provide an opportunity to witness the inner workings of these timepieces, gaining insight into the science and engineering behind accurate timekeeping.


Beyond the display of timepieces, the museum offers insightful exhibitions that focus on the cultural and historical aspects of timekeeping. Visitors can learn about the significance of clocks in different cultures, discover how the notion of time has evolved over the centuries, and explore the impact of timekeeping on society and everyday life.


The Matsumoto Timepiece Museum also features a workshop where visitors can experience the art of clockmaking firsthand. Under the guidance of skilled craftsmen, participants can learn the basics of clock assembly, disassembly, and maintenance, gaining a deeper understanding of the intricacies of these mechanical wonders.


Before leaving the museum, visitors can browse the museum shop, which offers a selection of clock-themed merchandise and souvenirs. From miniature replica clocks to books on horology and timepieces, these unique mementos allow visitors to take a piece of the museum’s fascination with timekeeping home with them.


Whether you have a passion for horology, a curiosity about the history of timekeeping, or simply appreciate the artistry of mechanical craftsmanship, the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum offers an enriching and captivating experience. Step into a world where time is both measured and cherished, and discover the intricate beauty and cultural significance of these timeless treasures.


Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center

The Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center, located in Matsumoto City, Nagano, Japan, is a vibrant hub for artistic expression and cultural performances. This state-of-the-art facility showcases a wide range of performances, including theater, dance, music, and more, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rich world of performing arts.


The architecture of the Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center is an artistic masterpiece in itself. The sleek and modern design of the building, complemented by the use of glass and steel, creates a visually striking structure that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape. Inside, the performance spaces are thoughtfully designed to provide optimal acoustics and visibility, ensuring a memorable experience for both performers and audiences.


The center’s diverse programming caters to a wide range of artistic tastes and interests. From classical symphony orchestra concerts to engaging theater productions and contemporary dance performances, there is always something for everyone. The center also hosts internationally renowned artists and touring companies, providing an opportunity to experience world-class performances in the heart of Matsumoto City.


In addition to professional productions, the Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center actively supports and encourages local talent. The center serves as a platform for local artists and performing arts groups to showcase their work, fostering creativity and nurturing the artistic community. This commitment to promoting local talent contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the city and fosters a sense of pride among residents.


Alongside the main auditorium, the performing arts center offers smaller performance spaces for more intimate performances, lectures, and workshops. These spaces provide a platform for emerging artists, experimental performances, and educational outreach programs, ensuring that the center remains dynamic and accessible to all.


Attending a performance at the Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center is not just about the entertainment value; it is an opportunity to appreciate the power of artistic expression and the transformative effect it can have on individuals and communities. The center’s commitment to excellence in the performing arts enriches the cultural fabric of Matsumoto City and creates a space where artists and audiences can come together to celebrate creativity and shared experiences.


Whether you are an avid lover of the performing arts or simply looking for a memorable experience during your visit to Matsumoto City, the Matsumoto City Performing Arts Center is a must-visit destination. Immerse yourself in the captivating performances, feel the energy of the live performances, and embrace the transformative power of the performing arts in this exceptional venue.