Food & Art: A Cultural Tour of Japan
Peel back the layers of Japan’s cultural identity to uncover ancient traditions, spiritual heritage and the enduring influence of Japanese imagination.
Matsumoto is a picturesque castle city in the eastern peaks of the Japanese Alps, where many trips and hikes around the volcanic mountain ranges depart from. However, the charming town is a sight in itself; with pretty streets, galleries and cafes, as well as epic views of alpine landscapes and sunsets.
One of the main attractions in Matsumoto is the ominous Black Crow Castle, which is one of the best-preserved original feudal castles in the country and still bears the marks of the ancient battles it has seen over the centuries.
Other popular spots to visit include the Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest wasabi plantation in Japan, which makes for a fascinating visit. Be sure to try some of the wasabi-flavoured delicacies on offer, from wasabi beer to wasabi ice-cream, to wasabi chocolate!). Then, learn about Japanese art and culture at the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, which houses an impressive collection of woodblock prints.
Hidden deep in the valleys, Matsumoto has a reputation for producing creative talents, though with such a rousing mountain setting, it’s not difficult to see where the inspiration comes from.
World-famous violinist Suzuki, who created the globally-recognised Suzuki method of violin teaching, started out here. Other artistic exports from Matsumoto include ukiyo-e woodblock prints and tasty soba noodles, which can be eaten hot or cold.
You can also participate in a soba making class at Takagi, a soba noodle shop with a 130-year history, where you can learn to make these buckwheat noodles for yourself (though the class is in Japanese, it’s easy enough to understand).
Whether you’re just taking a pitstop before starting a mountain hike around the Japanese Alps or just exploring the mountains and lakes of rural Japan, don’t miss a visit to little Matsumoto for a taste of the traditions of ancient Japan, plus a mouthful of soba and wasabi.
The most picturesque time to visit Matsumoto is in the autumn, when the rich colours of falling leaves paint the mountains gold. In the winter, the region is also a popular destination for snow sports and the surrounding areas were once host to the 1998 Winter Olympics.
We feature a one-night stay in Matsumoto in our Food & Art: Cultural Tour of Japan itinerary, as part of a longer trip around the Japanese Alps. Your time in Matsumoto includes a soba-making class, as well as plenty of leisure time to enjoy sightseeing in the city and explore the lush woodland surroundings.
Wayfairer works with the Buena Vista Hotel in Matsumoto, which is conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from the train station. The property has a contemporary design, but the real beauty can be found in the breath-taking views of the mountain scenery, the best of which can be seen from the hotel’s top-floor bar and restaurant.