We love that people come from all over the world to visit Matsumoto. We love showing them all the cultural, historical, and just plain cool places that make up this castle town, and we are thrilled when they share their experiences with others. When someone comes to explore and experience for the purpose of introducing Matsumoto to everyone in Australia we could hardly be more excited. That is exactly what happened recently when Helen from JNTO-Sydney, the Australian branch of the Japan National Tourism Organization, came to share in some of the best Matsumoto has to offer.
Local Sake & Traditional Art
Helen met us at the train station with an appetite to take in all the things that make Matsumoto special. Though the weather wasn’t being very cooperative we were all in high spirits as we headed for the outskirts of town and the Kametaya Sake Brewery. There Oka-san showed us around in typical high-energy fashion, just as he always does when we bring guests by, and after an engaging lesson in the art of brewing sake and a tour of the beautiful old residence right on the grounds, we rolled down the road to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum. Boasting Japan’s largest private art collection and the largest collection of ukiyo-e art in the world, this rather small-scale museum rotates its exhibits every couple of months, always displaying a new series of woodblock prints based on a particular theme so there’s always something new to see,
Dark, Rich Miso & Bright, Brilliant Creations
Back downtown we introduced Helen to Kosuke Ishii, the 6th generation head of his family’s miso-making operation, Ishii Miso, established in 1868. Kosuke always does his best to make himself available when we are bringing guests around, and once again today we had the pleasure of learning straight from the source what makes Ishii miso so special. After a lunch featuring the best miso-rich meal you’re likely to find anywhere we took a quick walk over to the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. You can’t miss it, what with the museum’s polka-dotted façade fronted by a garden of massive, colorful flower sculptures. Inside we were treated to a special exhibition of the unmistakable work of Yayoi Kusama, Matsumoto’s very own world-famous artist.
Our Vibrant, Historical Castle Town
As no visit to Matsumoto would be complete without a stroll through the old castle town, we gave Helen an insider’s view of Nakamachi and Nawate Streets, which in tandem comprise the still-beating heart of the old castle town area. We followed this up with a walk down Daimyo-cho Street, which was once lined with the homes of samurai, and a climb to the top of Japan’s oldest castle tower, which has been standing right here in Matsumoto since 1596. Even in the rain, this jewel of our town is a magnificent sight. Helen, it seemed, would agree.
A Day Worth Reliving
Throughout the day we all chatted about the wide range of experiences we’ve had during the course of our time here in Japan. Helen herself had worked and lived in Tokyo for a while, so we all had plenty to talk about. Yet the conversation kept coming back to Matsumoto – the history of the castle town; the artistic flair, from the traditional to the modern; and all the fantastic food and drink that can be found right here. We finished our day wishing we had more time with Helen, but still, I think we were able to pack enough into our time together for her to have plenty to talk about upon returning home and introducing Matsumoto to everyone in Australia.