Matsuda (松田町) is a small town located in Kanagawa prefecture.
Matsuda is a small town known mostly for its beautiful nature, and offers plentiful opportunities for people who enjoy hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities.
Being a small provincial town, English signage is very limited, and most people don't speak English. That said, the town is currently working to improve its accessibility for foreign visitors and tourists.
Matsuda is easily reached by train, as both the JR Gotemba line and the Odakyu line pass through it.
From Tokyo, fastest option is to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo or Shinagawa station to Odawara and then transfer to the Odakyu bound for Shinjuku. The trip will take you roughly an hour, but will cost you at least 3270 yen if departing from Shinagawa.
The cheaper and easier option is to depart from Shinjuku and take the Odakyu line bound for Odawara. The trip will take roughly 90 minutes, but costs only 780 yen and is by far the cheapest option.
When departing from Yokohama, you have two options.
The first option is to take the JR Tokaido Line bound for Atami, and transfer to the JR Gotemba Line bound for Yamakita at Kozu (Kanagawa). The trip will take roughly 65-70 minutes and set you back 970 yen.
The second option is to take the Sotetsu Main Line to Ebina, and transfer to the Odakyu Line bound for Odawara. It takes slightly longer, but it's cheaper at just 680 yen and the trains run more regularly.
Note that the JR Gotemba Line stops at Matsuda station, while the Odakyu Line stops at Shin-Matsuda. The stations are right next to each other however. In most cases, you'll want to use the Odakyu line as the trains run more regularly. In addition, be sure to exit Shin-Matsuda by the north exit, as there is nothing of interest at the south exit.
The town center is very compact and can easily be traversed on foot. However, many of the town's attractions are further away and most easily reached by car.
Buses are also available, but completely lack English signage and explanation, and thus may be hard to navigate if you can't speak or read Japanese. If you do take the bus, make sure that you know at what time to take the bus back, as you might have to wait well over an hour (more) if you happen to miss one.
- Matsuda Herb Garden (松田山ハーブ公園), A herb garden on a hill overlooking Matsuda, with another park (see below) right next to it. Worth it for the view alone - on a clear day you have an amazing view of the Ashigara plains and even Mount Fuji. There's a restaurant in the main building on the third floor where you can have lunch or order some herb tea. It is easily reached on foot - it takes around 20 to 25 minutes from either of the stations, though it's quite a steep climb. Entry to the park is free.
- West Hirata Park (西平畑公園), A park next to the Herb Garden. It has an observation point from which you can get an excellent view of the Ashigara plains and even Mount Fuji on a clear day. There's also a big slide (for children). In addition, there is a large number of cherry blossom trees which blossom earlier in the year, around February and March. The park can be quite crowded around this time as people from neighbouring cities - and further afield - flock to it to enjoy the sakura. Entry to the park is free.
- Matsuda Sakura Festival (まつだ桜まつり). A cherry blossom festival which starts in February and ends in March - the exact dates depend on when the cherry blossoms bloom. It takes place at East Hirata Park, and is easily reachable on foot, though busses are made available during this time to take visitors up to the park. The event (and the early-blooming cherry blossom trees) are quite well known, and as such it can be quite crowded. It can still get quite cold this time of the year, so if you decide to have a Hanami (cherry blossom viewing party, make sure to dress appropriately.
- Wakaba Fesitval (若葉祭). A small scale festival which takes place in the Yadoriki area on the 5th of May (a public holiday), with various shows on the main stage. Elementary school children can also participate in a fish-catching event in the afternoon, where the children try to catch fish with their bare hands. One can easily get to Yadoriki either by car or by bus (from Shin-Matsuda station), though it's wise to head there before 9 AM as parking space is limited, which in turn can lead to traffic congestions and delays. There's also a pre-event the evening before (4th of May) which includes a short fireworks show. However, the last bus back to Shin-Matsuda leaves well before the fireworks show, so keep an eye on the timetables if you decide to go by bus.
- Saimyouji Park (最明寺史跡公園). A park situated around the remains of the old Saimyou temple. A remote and usually very quiet park - depending on when you go there, you might be the only visitor. One of the best times to visit is when the cherry blossoms bloom, moreso because there are various different kinds of trees with differently coloured blossoms to be found there. It gets a little busier around this period, but due to it's remote nature you shouldn't expect big crowds. The temple remains themselves are nothing to write home about however. Most paths there take around an hour to walk (around 80 minutes in total when leaving from the train station), but be sure to wear good shoes - it can be quite steep at times, as the park is around 550 meters above sea level.
- Yadoriki area (寄). Officially designated as a nature resort village, the yadoriki area has abundant nature and plenty of roads and paths to explore. It is easily reachable by car or by bus from Shin-Matsuda station. That said, keep an eye on the timetables, as buses are infrequent and the last bus back to Shin-Matsuda leaves early in the evening.
Note: You can get to most of these locations by car as well, but it is ill advised unless you're an experienced driver who's comfortable with narrow Japanese mountain roads.
There is a decent number of small restaurants (and bars) around the station area.
- Hakone Soba (箱根そば). A part of a restaurant chain. Sells cheap soba and udon - buy a ticket at the vending machine, then hand it to the staff. Prices start at 350 yen.
- Genya Ramen (小田原系担々麺 玄や). A ramen restaurant near the station. Buy a ticket at the vending machine, hand it to the staff and sit down. Prices start at 700 yen. The taste is good, but nothing special to write home about.
- Yakiniku Daimatsuen (焼肉大松園). A Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled meat) restaurant where you grill your own meat the Japanese way. Expect to spend at least 1000 yen, and probably a lot more.
- Oonishi Ramen (大西). A small ramen restaurant near the hospital, roughly a 10 minute walk from Shin-Matsuda station. A fairly popular restaurant with a lot of regular customers who swear by its great taste, but it's also quite expensive, with the cheapest ramen costing around a 1000 yen. You do get a very large portion however - don't be afraid to leave any leftovers if you can't finish your bowl, as that isn't an uncommon occurance.
There's free wifi at Shin-Matsuda station, though it requires you to register for the service (or you can use a free wifi app on your phone such as Japan Wi-fi).
- Odawara is a short trip by train. Take the Odakyu line.
- Hakone is just 30 minutes away from Matsuda. Take the Odakyu line to Odawara, then switch trains to Hakone. It should set you back by just a little over 500 yen.