As a sort of epilogue to our Kiso Valley trip, we stayed one night in Matsumoto (松本), from where we returned home via Nagano.
Matsumoto is a small and pleasant town surrounded by the Japan Alps. Its main attraction is the castle, one of only four feudal castles in Japan of which the original structure has been preserved. Of course the comparison to Himeji castle can’t be avoided. While Himeji castle is nicknamed White Heron castle, the black and white exterior of Matsumoto castle has earned it the name of Crow Castle. In size and impressiveness, it can’t live up to Himeji-jo, which looms on a hill over the town. Until the visitor finally reaches the main keep of Himeji, one has to climb up quite a bit, and seen from below the keep looks all the more impressive. Matsumoto-jo sits nicely in the plain and looks almost cute, definitely not very imposing. It’s original wooden structure is a nice contrast to the concrete reconstructions of other castles we have visited. It’s surely worth seeing, and the view of the castle from across the moat is very picturesque.
But Matsumoto has some more to offer to the visitor. On one bank of the river, there is Nawate-dori which is lined by small traditional shops. Close by, on the other side of the river, there is Nakamachi-dori, another street along which a variety of shops selling all kinds of crafts can be found. Both invite for a pleasant stroll. The whole town of Matsumoto has an easy-going and cultivated air. I’m not sure it can keep a traveler busy for more than one day, but I would definitely recommend to include it as a stop during a trip in the region, or to use it as a base for excursions into the nearby mountains.
September 8, 2010 by sevenbrane