Matsumoto (松本) is located in central Nagano Prefecture and used to be a provincial capital from the eighth century. It was the base of the senior branch of the Ogasawara clan (小笠原氏), the shugo (守護, military governors) of the Shinano Province during the fourteenth and the fifteenth century and turned into a prosperous castle town during the Edo Period (1600-1868).


The city is home to over 240,000 inhabitants as well as to Shinshū University (信州大学) and a Ground Self Defense Force base. The Matsumoto Basin is flanked by the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈), part of the Northern Alps, on the west and the Chikuma (千曲山脈) Mountains on the east. The area is famous for Japanese horseradish (わさび wasabi) and mulberry trees.

Things to see

Matsumoto CastleKaichi SchoolJapan Ukiyoe Museum
One of the most famous Japanese flatland castles also known as ‘Crow Castle’.One of Japan’s first modern elementary schools, founded in 1873.A Japanese woodblock print museum established by the local business family Sakai.

Tickets to Matsumoto Castle also include admission to the Matsumoto City Museum which holds historical artefacts from the region, such as samurai armour, local handicraft, and utensils of daily life. It is located on the castle grounds and is open daily from 08:30 to 16:30 (admission JPY 600). The Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum is a small privately-owned museum displaying Japanese crafts and artwork. It can be reached by bus (Utsukushigahara line). Open 09:00 to 17:00 (admission JPY 300, free for students). Worth visiting is the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, another private collection established in the early eighteenth century by the local business tycoon Yoshiaki Sakai. It holds over 10,000 pieces of Japanese woodblock prints. Open daily except Monday 10:00 to 17:00, closed from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, admission JPY 1,200, children 600.

In Matsumoto, don’t miss Nawate-dōri (なわて通り), a picturesque shopping street along the river that crosses the town. Other destinations around Matsumoto City include the Daio Wasabi Farm in Hokata, where you can visit fields of Japanese horseradish and purchase an array of wasabi-based products like wasabi ice cream and crisps, as well as an abundance of camping grounds and hot springs.


Matsumoto can easily be reached by train from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, either on the Super Azusa (スーパーあずさ) in about 2.5 hours or on the Azusa (あずさ) in three hours (JPY 6,710 for both); by shinkansen (Nagano Shinkansen Asama) first to Nagano and then on the Wide View Shinano (ワイドビューしなの), which is a limited express, to Matsumoto which takes about 2.5 hours and costs JPY 8,470.

Another option is highway buses to JR Matsumoto station, which leave for instance from Shinjuku and take three hours (JPY 3,400), from Nagoya (JPY 3,460) and other cities.

There are flights to Matsumoto’s domestic airport from Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Ōsaka; the next larger airport is Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya, which has train and bus connections to Matsumoto.

In addition to public buses within the city, there is a ‘Town Sneaker Bus’ departing every thirty minutes from JR Matsumoto station (JPY 190) that loops the city and stops at most of the local sightseeing spots.