Matsumoto city in Nagano Prefecture is definitely a place that should be included on any Japan visitor's itinerary. There are just so many places to go within this area - the national treasure that is Matsumoto Castle and the beautiful mountains of Kamikōchi for starters, and even for the art enthusiast who wants to see the streets that world famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama once resided in.
If you are a JR East Pass holder, you can start off from Tokyo Station and take the Asama shinkansen, a 1 hour 46 minutes journey before changing to the JR Shinonoi line at Nagano Station, and will take another 77 minutes before reaching Matsumoto Station. However, if you like me are living on the Tokyo Den-entoshi Line, you can take a train to Nagatsuta Station and from there, it is free all the way to Matsumoto with the JR East Pass.
Nagatsuta Station consists of a few lines, namely, the Kodomonokuni line, the Tokyu Den-entoshi line and the JR East Yokohama Line which is instantly recognisable by its bright green signs. From here, you'd want to take the Yokohama Line train to Hachioji Station, which is about 30 minutes away. Hachioji Station itself is the gateway to Hachioji, and there are many reasons for you to want to stop here for a bit and explore. There is Seria, the 100 yen shop nearby, and you can even have a sit down udon meal for 105 yen at Sanuki Udon Hanamaru. For those a little adventurous, there is also Mt. Takao southwest of the city.
From Hachioji Station, you can take either the Limited Express Azusa, or the Super Azusa which saves you half an hour. The Super Azusa, although not as fast as the shinkansens, is pretty speedy as well. Comfortable, velvety chairs adorn the train, with toilets available should you need one on the long journey to Matsumoto. The train staff pushing up the food truck along the aisles ensure that you are well fed through the journey, with a variety of snacks, drinks and bento boxes available. The best thing about the train ride, however, is the scenic views. Some of Japan's most beautiful mountains are sighted along the journey, snow-capped treasures that still retains the blanket of white even during this time of year. It would be hard to sit in the train and not be captivated by the sights, and before you know it you would have already reached Matsumoto Station.