If you’re an outdoorsy person and would like to see the Japanese Alps, your gateway is Matsumoto. It is the second biggest city in Nagano. It is famous for attractions such as Matsumoto Castle, Kamikochi, Alpine Route, and cool mountain weather and a laid-back vibe. A visit to this part of the country is relaxing and is a good break from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities such as Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. If ever you find your way to Matsumoto, here are some of the things you can do and see.

Matsumoto Castle

The most famous attraction and landmark of the city is Matsumoto Castle. It is considered one of the prettiest in the country. Another distinguishing trait of this castle is that it is on a plain compared to the others that stand on high ground. The exterior exudes simplicity and elegance, characteristics of many castles in Japan. The black and white colors blend well with the background of blue sky, cherry blossoms (during the right season) and the surrounding trees.

The best time to visit is during sakura season; locals flock to the castle to take photos and admire its beauty. Visit at night to see the structure light up the night sky.

Entrance Fee: ¥610
Opening and Closing Time: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Directions: You can reach the castle in 15-20 minutes on foot from Matsumoto Station


If you’re an outdoorsy person, you can do a couple of day hikes and trips to Kamikochi from Matsumoto. The park is easily accessible from the city by train and bus. Kamikochi has a number of trails for those who want to climb a mountain peak and those who want a leisurely flat trail to enjoy the landscape. There are some hotels where you can spend the night, but there are also camping spots for those who want to rough it out.

The trails to the Taisho, Tashiro, and Myojin Pond are flat and scenic. You’ll walk through the forest and by the rivers to see spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. At the Kappa Bridge, you’ll see the turquoise water flowing with the snow-capped mountain (depending on the season) in the distance. The higher peaks of Yakedake, Nishihotakadake, Okuhotakadake, and Maehotakadake take more time and experience climbing and are only passable during hiking season. The area is also a good place to take pictures of autumn foliage.

Entrance Fee: Free unless you enter some of the places in the park
Opening and Closing Time: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Visitor Center)
Directions: Board a train on the Matsumoto Electric Railway Line from Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station then a bus to Kamikochi. Alternatively, you can board a bus directly to the park from Matsumoto Bus Terminal; the bus isn’t regular and costs ¥2450 one way.

Old Post Towns


If you’re a history buff and would like to learn about the country’s past, visiting some post towns is one way to do it. Matsumoto’s location makes it easier for you to go to Tsumago, Magome, and Narai. All three used to be rich and important towns because they were important stops to and from Tokyo and Kyoto during ancient times.

You can do the three on different day trips from the city; you can combine Magome and Tsumago in one trip and walk part of the Kiso Valley Trail. The latter provides you with scenic views and a glimpse of what traveling was like centuries ago. You’ll see traditional houses and inns where locals and governments spend a night or two during their journey.


Narai is one of the wealthiest post towns along the ancient route to and from Edo and Kyoto. The area has more remaining and preserved traditional shops, structures, homes, and inns compared to the others. As you walk the streets, you’ll imagine the hustle and bustle of people coming and going, buying supplies for their long journey or spending the night before resuming their trip.

Entrance Fee: Free unless you enter the museums
Opening and Closing Time: Always Open

  • For Magome, you can get to this post town by bus from JR Nakatsugawa Station; the ride takes about half an hour and costs ¥560.
  • For Tsumago, there are infrequent buses that travel between JR Nagiso Station and Tsumago; the fare is about ¥300. You can also walk to this post town from Magome or to and from Nagiso Station.
  • For Narai, you can get to Narai Station (the closest to the post town) from Nagoya via the JR Chuo Line from Shiojiri Station or via local train from Kiso-Fukushima Station. You’ll have to make a transfer in between trips.

Nawate Street

After exploring Matsumoto Castle, Kamikochi, and the old post towns, you can walk around, dine, get a snack or shop in Nawate Street or also known as Frog Street. The latter is a quaint strip with cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants, and local stores. You can try the delicacies and desserts and purchase items you can bring home or use during your trip.

Entrance Fee: Free
Opening and Closing Time: It depends on the establishment
Directions: Walking distance from either Matsumoto Castle or Matsumoto Station.

Alpine Route

This route is famous because of the spectacular landscapes you’ll see during your trip. Visitors will see a mix of walls of snow, autumn foliage, and towering peaks as far as the eyes could see. You’ll see a mix of colors during autumn, reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. There are different trails of varying difficulties for both the experienced and beginner. You have options on how to explore the area such as bus, ropeway or cable car.

The Alpine Route isn’t open the entire year; this opens sometime around April until November. If you’re coming from Matsumoto, start as early as possible when doing just a day trip.

Entrance Fees:

  • ¥9000 one way traverse ticket (foreigners only) from Nagano Station
  • ¥720 Tateyama Cable Car
  • ¥1710 Highland Bus
  • ¥2160 Tateyama Trolley Bus
  • ¥1300 Tateyama Ropeway
  • ¥860 Kurobe Cable Car
  • ¥1540 Kanden Trolley Bus
  • ¥1360 Ogizawa-Omachi Bus
  • Opening and Closing Time: dates may vary but the route is generally open from mid-April to late November
    Directions: From Matsumoto, get on a train on the JR Oito Line bound for Shinano-Omachi Station. From Nagano Station, foreigners can purchase the ‘Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket’ which includes the bus from the station to Ogizawa and a traverse of the Alpine Route for ¥9000.

    Top Matsumoto Hotels

    Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

    Premier Hotel Cabin Matsumoto

    Hotel Buena Vista

    Fukashisou Ryokan

    Japan Hotel Discounts


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