Matsumoto (松本; ) is in Nagano at the eastern end of the Japan Alps.
Matsumoto has a small local airport, with commercial flights only from Osaka, Sapporo, and Fukuoka. Travel time to downtown is roughly 20 minutes.
From the closest major airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya, Matsumoto can be reached by rail in roughly three hours by the Meitetsu line and JR limited express train (change in Nagoya). Buses connect Centrair with Matsumoto in around 3 1/2 to 4 hours for ¥3500.
From Narita Airport, Matsumoto can be reached in 4 1/2 to 5 hours by limited express rail service (change in Shinjuku).
Matsumoto is located on the JR Shinonoi Line. It is four stops away from Shiojiri, the "mid-point" of the Chuo Main Line between Tokyo and Nagoya.
Limited express trains run to Matsumoto from Tokyo's Shinjuku station. The Super Azusa (スーパーあずさ) makes the run in about 2 1/2 hours; the Azusa (あずさ) makes the journey in about three hours (¥6710 for both).
Taking several local JR trains will cost roughly ¥4000, getting you from Shinjuku to Matsumoto in around six hours... in which case, you're better off using a bus (see below).
There's also the option of taking the Nagano Shinkansen Asama (あさま) from Tokyo to Nagano station, then taking the Wide View Shinano (ワイドビューしなの) limited express to Matsumoto (2 1/2 hours, ¥8470).
The Wide View Shinano also runs from Nagoya station, where there are connections with the Shinkansen line (towards Kyoto and Osaka). The run from Nagoya to Matsumoto takes 2 hours on the limited express and costs ¥6070; local trains cost ¥3260 and take between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the available trains and connections.
All of the above mentioned rail trips are free when using the Japan Rail Pass.
Highway buses from JR Matsumoto station connect to Shinjuku in Tokyo (3 hours, ¥3400), and various destinations in the Japan Alps, notably the Oku-Hida Onsen Villages (90 min, ¥2300-2800).
- You can walk to Matsumoto Castle, about a mile northeast of the station, in about 20 minutes.
- Alternatively, the Town Sneaker Bus departs from in front of Matsumoto Station every 30 minutes and makes a circular trip to all city sights; it costs ¥100 (85¢) each time you get off.
- To visit the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, however, you'll have to go by train or taxi.
- Alternatively, free bicycles are available daily 8:30am to 5pm at various locations throughout town, including the Matsumoto City Museum next to Matsumoto Castle and the Kaichi Gakko Primary School. They're convenient for visiting sights not accessible by Sneaker Bus; ask the Matsumoto Tourist Information staff for details. Otherwise, you can rent a bike from JR Eki Rent-A-Car beside the station for ¥1,500 ($13) per day.
- Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō). Completed in 1614, this stately landmark is considered one of Japan's Top 3 Castles. Visitors can climb up precarious stairways all the way to the top, and the castle also houses a comprehensive exhibit on the history of firearms in Japan. Located 15 min north of Matsumoto station on foot, admission ¥600, open 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily. Tickets include admission to the Matsumoto City Museum on the castle grounds, with artifacts documenting the history of the city.
- The Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum. This is a very small museum filled with a variety of arts and crafts that the museum's own pamphlet describes as not being of much value either artistically or monetarily. The museum is basically the collection of a private individual, Taro Maruyama, who ran a folkcraft shop in Matsumoto in the 1950 and 1960s. He presented the museum to the city of Matsumoto in 1983. While some of the crafts and artwork are interesting, the museum is probably not worth visiting unless you are spending a considerable amount of time in the vicinity or are particularly interested in Japanese Folkcrafts. (On an interesting side note, a home near the museum, owned by a school principal, has a beautiful garden and is quite pretty, employing some traditional Japanese architecture. Our tour guide said many people found the home of more interest than the museum.) Admission is ¥300 for adults. School children can get in for free and the museum offers group rates for groups over 20. Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is also closed from December 29 through January 3. You can take the bus on the Utsukushigahara line for 15 minutes and get off that the Folkcraft Museum bus stop.
- Matsumoto is surrounded by numerous campsites and onsen. A hiking map in English can be picked up from the information center, a 5 minute walk south of the castle.
- Hodaka, 30 minutes east on the local train, is the center of Japanese wasabi production. Bike rentals are right next to the station, and it is a short ride to a number of wasabi fields including the Daio wasabi farm which offers a tour of its fields, wasabi for sale for as little as ¥300 a root, wasabi icecream, and several tourist-oriented restaurants.
- Nawate-dōri (なわて通り) is an old-fashioned shopping street running along the north bank of the river, full of small shops selling antiques, foods, used books, etc. The old movie theater shut its doors after its run of "The Last Samurai", but the posters are still up as well as the nostalgic building itself. The street's ubiquitous mascot is a frog, orginating from frogs in the river as well as a pun on the Japanese word for "return" 'kaeru' (the mountains could be treacherous, frogs were given as a charm so that loved ones would return safely. It was also hoped that money and goods would also return.)
Matsumoto is mildly famous for its soba noodles, hopefully served with a dab of product from the world's largest wasabi farm nearby. Stores in Matsumoto also offer pickled wasabi leaves, laquerware, and traditional crafts.