My Favorite Cities of Japan: Matsumoto

A quiet city surrounded by mountains

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

I fell in love with Matsumoto right away, even before I saw its famous castle Karasu-jo. It was a very calm, clean, and beautiful place and I understood my fellow artists who’d moved to Matsumoto – it was a quiet place with a leisurely life, just perfect for creative work!

Matsumoto is surrounded by the Hida Mountain Range
Matsumoto is surrounded by the Hida Mountain Range

Unlike big cities, there are no trains or trams in Matsumoto, and the only form of public transport is the city bus. Matsumoto's buses are unusual – they have dotted red and white prints, a design style created by the famous artist Yayoi Kusama, a citizen of Matsumoto. Some of her works are on display at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

The city center is easily accessible on foot. In Matsumoto you will not find tall buildings -- most commonly there are two, three or five-storied houses and some of them are old but well-preserved. One quite noticeable building a is small book shop located in an old house, sandwiched between two newer ones. Other houses are home to restaurants and art galleries. The old houses are a reminder of the Edo period, when Matsumoto developed under the Tokugawa shogunate. My favorite doll shop Bell Ami is located in that district. It also acts as a studio, as they produce traditional oshie dolls and paper dolls.

City buses are decorated with the designs of Yayoi Kusama, a citizen of Matsumoto
City buses are decorated with the designs of Yayoi Kusama, a citizen of Matsumoto

Another interesting spot is the Nawate trade street, which stretches along the Metoba River. Along Nawate Street you can see many different images of frogs, and the street even hosts an annual Frog Festival. Another famous festival of Matsumoto is the Taiko (Japanese drums) Grand Festival, held annually at the end of July. On usual days outside of these festival periods, the streets of Matsumoto are almost deserted. Walking along the streets of Matsumoto, I found many wells with pure water that can be used for purification as well as for drinking. The Matsumoto district is also a popular region for onsens, and they are my favorite places for relaxation.

Wells are everywhere in Matsumoto
Wells are everywhere in Matsumoto

The quiet atmosphere of Matsumoto is supported by its magnificent surroundings – the Hida Mountain Range can be seen from any place in the city. By late evening, Matsumoto soaks into darkness and walking on streets with few passers by doesn’t feel comfortable except for some illuminated areas such as around JR Matsumoto Station. The station area contains numerous shops and restaurants.

Night time in Matsumoto
Night time in Matsumoto

Getting there

Matsumoto Station is served by the Shinonoi, Oito, and Kamikochi Lines.

Was this article helpful?

Suggest an edit

Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo!

Join the discussion

Kim a year ago
The bus is adorable, and easy to recognize!
Kim a year ago
I imagine that's good for inspiration, though!
Sleiman Azizi a year ago
I think my body tingled with excitement the first time I visited Matsumo castle.
Elena Lisina Author a year ago
Yes, it is impressive! We visited it in March and our feet were cold as we took off shoes on the entrance.