Go Shopping in Nakamachi
Nakamachi is the name of the area just south of Matsumoto Castle, and lies along the bank of the Metoba River from Daimyocho Street to just past Ohashi Bridge. In the Edo Period, this was the center of town and was a prosperous merchant district. Today the area is easily recognized by the ubiquitous buildings decorated with namako kabe, a white and black traditional lattice pattern typical of storehouses in this part of Japan (actually, you’ll find this style of architecture all over the city). It’s nice to take a stroll through this picturesque area and check out the family owned cafes, shops, and local crafts. There are a few temples and shrines in the area, most notably Yohashira Shrine, famous for its large torii that rests near the river.
Take a Stroll Around a Beautiful Castle Town
Nakamachi isn’t the only area that retains a bit of Matsumoto’s feudal past. Actually, you can find old warehouses, shrines, and temples all around town. Even a leisurely stroll around the back of the castle (where most tourists don’t go), will bring you directly to Matsumoto Shrine which is home to the tutelary deities of the castle and gives you some alternative angles for viewing it that are of interest to photographers. The clean air and compact nature of the city means it’s easy to just explore alleyways and side streets without worrying about getting lost. You can also borrow free bikes from the city or rent electric-assist bikes at the station from Orix Matsumoto.
Take Part in a Citywide Festival
On November 3rd, which is Culture Day, the city combines two major events, the Matsumoto Citizens Festival and the Castle Festival. The castle grounds have a number of events, including people dressed up in Edo Period clothing, and children’s kendo and naginata competitions, all of which are free (climbing the tenshukaku still costs money). Also many of the roads from the station to the castle are closed to traffic and food stalls and booths of all kind are set up, with the local shrines bringing out their o-mikoshi (portable shrines) and parading them through the street.
See Reconstructions of Neolithic Homes
Hiraide Iseki is a collection of reconstructed dwellings of ancient settlements that were excavated in the area. The reconstructions demonstrate how the indigenous people of Japan lived in the Jomon Period, the Kofun Period, and the Heian Period. There area began as a village of neolithic hunter-gatherers, but eventually evolved into an Emishi settlement that traded with the Yayoi people and possibly the Yamato State. Though technically not in Matsumoto, Shiojiri is an easy 20 minute train ride away.