Day 15 – A day of sightseeing in Matsumoto, Japan
Matsumoto is not located on the Nakasendo trail, but we couldn’t resist taking a detour to visit this charming castle town, with its well preserved old streets by the river.
We left the Nakasendo trail yesterday in Shiojiri, and took the train to visit Matsumoto.
We plan to return to Shiojiri the following day, and continue walking towards the Kiso Valley.
Our timing was good, since it started raining yesterday in the late afternoon, and continued raining until about midday today.
We were already in Matsumoto, not walking in the rain.
We enjoyed a healthy breakfast of pickles and cooked vegetables with seaweed, miso soup and rice at our very comfortable hotel, the Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu.
Then we took the time to meditate in our room, and did some route planning.
We booked some more accommodations along the Nakasendo, and asked the front desk of our hotel to call on our behalf and make a booking in small, rural places.
We walked over to Matsumoto Castle, the most important tourist site in town, because it is an original castle, not a reconstructed one.
It is also known as the “Crow Castle,” because of its black exterior.
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most complete and beautiful among Japan’s original castles.
It is a “Hirajiro” – a castle that is built on flat land, rather than on a hill or a mountain.
Matsumoto Castle and its smaller, second Donjon (fortified tower) were built from 1592 to 1614.
Both these structures were well-fortified, as peace was not yet fully achieved at the time.
In 1635, when military threats had ceased, a third, barely defended turret and another for moon viewing were added to the castle.
There were many tourists visiting the Castle today, despite the rather questionable weather.
It is possible to see the inside, but we contented ourselves with strolling around the outside, seeing it from all directions.
It is a beautiful, scenic view, especially framed against the surrounding mountains, which today were partially obscured by wispy clouds.
We sampled a few of the local and regional delicacies on our stroll.
We had steamed flattened rice buns, one stuffed with pumpkin, and one with local mountain greens.
Both were delicious.
Then we stopped at the sweet potato shop, which offers superb warmed up sweet potatoes, baked and then cut in half and served with small plastic spoons for scooping out the creamy flesh.
It was a good snack for a cold weather day.
We also sampled their sweet potato gelato, which had pieces of sweet potato in it, and it was quite good.
We strolled down the two famous shopping streets in Matsumoto, Nawate Dori and Nakamachi Street.
The old shop buildings were beautifully preserved and the stroll was easy.
There was also a small flea market by the bridge.
There were the usual souvenirs found in most Japanese tourist towns, and we stopped to play with a small stuffed animal, who repeated everything we said to it in the same pitch and tone of voice that you used when speaking to it.
It was Soooo cute.
It’s easy to see why Matsumoto is such a popular tourist town.
Its attractions are centrally located and easy to stroll through.
There are lots of pleasant streets to stroll, lots of places for a quick bite or drink, and the downtown is laid out very well, with great views of the surrounding mountains.
There are also lots of places to dine and to stay.
We visited the newly opened Aeon Mall, in order to have a tea and continue to write and work on trip planning.
Most of the tourists in town were strolling on the old streets, while most of the local Japanese families seemed to be doing their strolling (and shopping) inside the new Mall.
Our hotel has a nice public hot bath, and it was filled with women when I went there late in the evening.
It was not empty, as the hotel hosts many weddings, and there are lots of tour groups that come to see Matsumoto.
Luckily most of the women found the hot spring pool too hot, and I had a quiet and meditative night soak.
Tomorrow we continue walking the Nakasendo.
It was nice to be a tourist for a day, not just a tired pilgrim who walks all day, looking for an inner landscape that is invisible to the eyes…..