Blog: Destination – Japan (Nagano) by Leon Matigian
The tourist information at the Matsumoto train station was one of the best we visited on our trip. All the information we needed for our visit (and the hike) was given to us and they even suggested visiting the annual Art and Craft markets held at the Gardens which draws a lot of people from around Japan. Must admit the markets and the jubilant atmosphere was great especially on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and to top it all off we picked up a few bargains.
Hiking the OLD NAKASENDO HIGHWAY, an 8km stretch between Magome and Tsumago through the forest was one of the best walks we’ve ever done. The trail is not that difficult and it is very well marked in English. It took us around 4 hours to complete with lots of time for admiring the waterfalls and the beautiful forest. The tea house in the middle of the trail is a wonderful meeting place where people stop for tea prepared by this most well mannered Japanese man in his eighties. We exchanged our experiences with other travellers from around the world sipping Japanese green tea. We came prepared, of course, with our lunch and drinks as we stopped by the waterfall shown below for a bit of a rest.
Matsumoto is a beautiful city surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges. The feudal castle, originally built in 1504 is the main attraction in town. It truly is a photographers dream especially on a good day like the one we had. We were approached by a young Japanese lady asking us if we wanted a free tour of the castle and a bit of history about the oldest donjon (keep) in the country. It was free and well worth the one hour tour of the castle. She said she wanted to practice her English and we obliged.
Although it appears to have 5 stories from the outside, it’s actually a 6 story structure. It is surrounded by a moat with ducks and white swans and it is lined with willow and cherry trees. We had to take our shoes off and climb very steep stairs up the 6 story structure – some might find it challenging. Well worth the experience though. We went back to see it again after dinner as the castle looks completely different with all the lights shining upon it.
All images by Leon Matigian. All rights reserved.
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