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3-day Matsumoto itinerary: Castle, art and natural wonders

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By Burcu Basar

Matsumoto is having quite a moment among the foreign residents in Japan. In addition to its proximity to Tokyo and a lively mid-size town vibe, the city in Nagano Prefecture has two big-deal attractions that make it punch above its weight.

Matsumoto is home to the oldest one of the only 12 remaining original castles in Japan, built during the Edo Period or earlier. On top of it, it is also the birthplace of one of Japan’s most famous contemporary artists, if not the most — Yayoi Kusama, whose work is the main draw of the Matsumoto City Museum of Art and dramatically elevates its profile.

On a Thursday evening, I hopped on the JR Azusa Limited Express train from Shinjuku, which took me to Matsumoto in just 2.5 hours. During a three-night visit to Matsumoto, I explored the city, took a half-day trip to Narai, one of the historical Nakasendo Route towns and visited nearby Kamikochi for a nature outing.

Day 1: Cafes, Art and The Crow Castle

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Sioribi Cafe Image: Burcu Basar

I started the day at Sioribi Cafe, across the street from the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. By morning, the cafe—famous for its library aesthetic and comfortable sofa seating—was already full. It was a perfect morning for the delicious coffee served with buttered toast and the relaxing atmosphere, complimented by high ceilings and minimalistic design. The cafe is a testament to Matsumoto’s vibe, combining the feel of a small historical Japanese town with a youthful and urban energy.

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

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One of Yayoi Kusama’s famed pumpkins Image: Burcu Basar

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3 Comments
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Matsumoto City Museum of Art  is really great. A lot of great work.

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That riverside is one of a kind!

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Not bad advice. The pumpkin room is the only part of the Kusama exhibition where you can take photos. Next to the pumpkin though, the staff will take them for you.

If you are not a cafe person, the icecream shop on Frog Street does great flavours. Matsumoto also has a crepe place that does crispy filled crepes which are really good, much better than the floppy Harajuku style ones you get everywhere.

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