Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. November 2018 – February 2019 (18 photos)
This is part 8 of my Japan 2018-19 photo series.
Matsumoto (松本市) is a city located in Nagano Prefecture, Japan with an estimated population of just over 240,000. Back in November 2018, I was checking the Tokyo weather report one evening. It was supposed to be raining in Tokyo the next day. So I went to the Japan Rail ticket office at 8pm and bought a return train ticket for the next day to Matsumoto for a day trip which I had planned to do at some stage during my trip. Fortunately I made the right choice in regards to the weather. Here are some of my Matsumoto moments…
“Autumn leaves at the Yohashira Shrine”
This is a classic looking Japanese wall I found at the Yohashira Shrine, and I expected to find ninja silently stalking the area, at least based on the TV shows and movies I’ve seen. I half expected to see a ninja being thrown through that wall whilst battling a samurai or secret agent but there was no such action that day.
Nawate dori is a street lined with quaint small shops with a recurring frog theme. The banks of the river once echoed with the voices of frogs. Kaeru, the Japanese word for “frog” can also mean “to return home.” Thus, as a symbol of the frog history and to invoke a safe return home, statues of frogs can be found along the street. There’s also a great rice cracker shop on this street, with many varied flavours to enjoy.
“A frog shrine on Nawate dori”
“Autumn in Agatonomori”
Strolling through Agatonomori, the Agata Forest Park.
By the way, most regions in Japan have a food specialty. Luckily for me, Matsumoto is famous for its Shinshu soba noodles, wasabi and sake. I ate well that day.
“The Crow Castle”
Matsumoto Castle is the major attraction of Matsumoto and is among Japan’s oldest fortresses. It is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.
Matsumoto’s black, wooden keep (donjon) is the oldest such structure in Japan, dating from 1595. The black paint gave the castle its nickname “Karasujo” (Crow Castle) and the dark color was designed to intimidate approaching opponents. Matsumoto Castle is built on level ground and has a wide moat as its primary means of defense.
“The defence of Matsumoto Castle”
Tourists can enter Matsumoto Castle for some great views from the top floor. Of course, you must first get past the shogun warrior to be allowed in. Not a problem to this dragon warrior.
In 1872, following the Meiji Restoration, the site, along with many former feudal/shogun castles, was sold at auction for redevelopment. When news broke that the keep was going to be demolished, however, an influential local Ichikawa Ryōzō, along with residents from Matsumoto, started a campaign to save the building. Their efforts were rewarded and the site was saved.
“Autumn at Matsumoto Castle”
“Matsumoto City Museum of Art”
The Matsumoto City Museum of Art showcases Japanese modern art with an emphasis on locally-born artists. Of particular note, it includes contemporary works by Yayoi Kusama. Born in Matsumoto in 1929, Yayoi Kusama is commonly regarded as the most popular living artist in the world, thanks in large part to Instagram. In the past five years, more than five million visitors have queued at museums to see her stuffed sculptures, mirrored rooms and expanses of brightly coloured spots.
“Random shop frontage”
Again, no luck with seeing a ninja. But ninja are skilled in the art of stealth, so just maybe…
I lost my wallet on the train trip back from Matsumoto to Tokyo. About 80 000 yen, 3 credit cards and my driver’s licence were gone, the wallet probably having slid out of my back pocket when I fell asleep on the train. Twelve hours afterwards when the lost property office opened, I called but no luck. However, another ten hours later, the kindly people of Japan Rail contacted me to tell me my wallet was found. Nothing had been taken from the wallet. I was immensely grateful that the stories one hears about honesty in Japan were true.
So, as I mentioned in my previous post about Snow Monkey Park I returned to Australia barely a week ago from another trip to Japan to visit the snow monkeys in Nagano Prefecture. Since it was just a short train ride from Nagano to Matsumoto before continuing to Tokyo, it was easy to decide to return to Matsumoto to take another wander around town, eat more soba and drink more sake.
“Lost in the crowd”
By the way, snow monkeys and humans mingle freely at Snow Monkey Park. There are no fences, just natural landscape features which restrict the humans, not the monkeys. People are asked to stay at least a metre away from them. In putting my previous post together, I forgot to include this photo of a baby snow monkey as it scrambled past me.
Round two in Matsumoto. Given the great snow at snow monkey park I was hoping there’d be more snow cover on the surrounding mountains but it wasn’t to be. The old merchant area of Nakamachi dori, is a street of restored Japanese inns, restaurants, sake breweries and shops.
“Prayer cards in the afternoon sun”
Prayers and wishes are written onto wooden plaques at Tenjin Fukashi Shrine. I liked the sight of the afternoon sun shining around the plaques. I liked even more, the soothing sounds the plaques made as they swayed and rustled in the gentle breeze.
“Life and death in Matsumoto”
The cemetary at Daisho-ji. I liked the way the memorials seemingly blended in with the surrounding buildings.
A crow on a branch looking over the Crow Castle. From here I went back to the train station to return to Tokyo. I was careful not to lose my wallet on the train a second time.
This is part 8 of my Japan 2018-19 photo series.