Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Matsumoto City

Brisk mountain air and local beers in Nagano's coolest city.

With a range of hotels and picturesque ryokan, plus the pristine Azusa River running through the city, Matsumoto is a mountain retreat with all the comforts of the city.

In Matsumoto City, you’ll find all the good stuff like a historic castle, local craft beer, clean water from the surrounding mountains, gorgeous onsen (hot springs) and even world-renowned pop art from legendary Yayoi Kusama. The city is also a great launch pad to go to other natural gems in Nagano Prefecture.

It’s a breeze to get to this chill getaway—only about three hours from Tokyo— so what are you waiting for? Here are some of the top spots, plus other highlights of Nagano if you decide to venture out of the city.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

We’ll start with the biggest and best highlight, the great Matsumoto Castle. This behemoth is one of the last standing 12 original castles of Japan and is packed with history. The classic view of red bridges crossing moats is enhanced at night when the castle seems to glow with the moon overhead. The castle’s iconic scenery makes it worth visiting in any season, though if you can catch the cherry blossoms in spring, go for it!  The impending black structure is one of the best places to experience a Japanese castle in central Japan.

Nearby is Nakamachi Street, where you can take atrip back to days bygone and visit old merchant houses.

 Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Sculpture matsumoto art museum

Photo by: Mimi Dietderich Another signature piece from Yayoi Kusama.

Matsumoto’s breathtaking landscapes have inspired artists all across Japan. As such, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, built in 2002, has devoted its entire collection to artists who have come from or whose work has been influenced by the city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture. Undoubtedly, the most recognizable artist among them is the world-renowned avant-garde living legend Yayoi Kusama.

Food, beer and onsen

Photo by: Visit Matsumoto Matsumoto Brewery has two locations in Matsumoto.

Fact: Nagano has its own distinct food culture and not trying it before leaving would be a sin. Matsumoto City offers up a range of izakaya and local spots to try regional eats like soba and even basashi (raw horse meat). For a taste of the local craft beer scene, hop (get it?) into Matsumoto Brewery, which has two locations in the city and has partnered with microbrewers in the U.S.

Hot Plaza Asama (Asama Hot Springs)

Photo by: Visit Matsumoto Hot Plaza Asama (Asama Hot Springs) facility located on the outskirts of Matsumoto.

Of course, the best onsen are located up in the mountains of Nagano outside the city, but access can be a hassle. On the outskirts of Matsumoto lie beautiful onsen ryokan (Japanese inns) in Asama Onsen town. Prices here can range from a modest ¥10,000 to over ¥50,000.

If you don’t have time to be scaling mountains, and just need a quick refresher, check out Ringo No Yuya Obu Spa in the city as well as Hot Plaza Asama (Asama Hot Springs) which is 20 minutes by taxi from Matsumoto station.

Other things to do in Nagano Prefecture

As you’d expect of the host of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Nagano’s credentials as a skiing and snowboarding destination are world renowned. The beloved Japanese Alps mountain range provide excellent hiking and mountaineering opportunities.

If that sounds a little too taxing, then you’ll also find plenty of gentle hills and lush forests waiting to be explored in the Yatsugatake Mountain area, as well. Camping and hiking are popular throughout the entirety of the prefecture.

The Shinhotaka Ropeway with a view of snowy pines.

Nagano’s best natural assets are its aforementioned plentiful and diverse range of natural hot springs, whether you want to soak in a hot mountaintop bath as you watch the misty morning clouds gather below or soothe away those aches and pains in one of the many mineral-infused baths, using the likes of sulfur, salt or radium. Try onsen resorts such as Karuizawa and the ski haven of Hakuba. Approximately 45 minutes from Nagano City by train, Shibu Onsen also offers the chance to take in the local wildlife at the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Nagano has a lot to offer and a trip to Matsumoto City will be the best way to start it all off!

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How To Get There

Address

Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan

By train

Take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen bullet train to Nagano City. From there, take the Shinano Express train to Matsumoto station.

Alternatively, you can take the Chuo Line Limited Express Azusa 25 train to Matsumoto station directly from Tokyo, but only at certain times. Here is a sample itinerary.

By bus

From Nagano station, walk one minute to the Naganoeki Bus Stop. Take the bus headed for Matsumoto about 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to the Matsumoto Bus Terminal.

Where To Stay

Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu
  • Ote 4-8-9 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0874
  • 8.7/10
  • 0.2 km
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Southern Cross Inn Matsumoto
  • Ote 4-9-3 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0874
  • 7.7/10
  • 0.2 km
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Candela Guest House Matsumoto
  • Kita-Fukashi 1-4-5 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0872
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.4 km
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Thank You Hippopotamus Hostel
  • Jousai 2-5-18 Matsumoto-Shi, Nagano 390-0875
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.5 km
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