10 years ago, in March 2004 I visited Japan for the first time. One of the stop on that trip was Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. We didn’t spend much time there – one afternoon and the night. I really only remember three things from my first visit:
- How cold it was in Matsumoto-jo, one of the few original castles still standing in Japan, where we had to remove our shoes as we walked up to the top, everyone had frozen toes and it was snowing when we left
- A used Kimono shop on Nakamachi-dori, where we spent a long time browsing the beautiful kimonos
- The sound of the recorded woman announcing arrival in Matsumoto on the train as it pulled into the station
Ten years later, in February 2014, I visited Matsumoto again. The goal was to go somewhere where my daughters could see snow. Turns out Matsumoto was not really a good choice as it apparently does not get that much snow. We used Matsumoto as a home base to and went to Kambayashi Onsen in Yamanouchi — famous for its snow monkeys as well as seeing Zenkō-ji in Nagano and taking a bus to Hida-Takayama for an afternoon.
Matsumoto is an even quieter town than I remember and the early sunsets a late sunrises of winter made it seem ever quieter. But some things don’t change:
Even though it was quiet, we all enjoyed ourselves; my wife had a good time eating, including horse sashimi and more soba then you can shake a limp buckwheat noodle at. We took advantage of my mom and sister being with us to leave my daughters with them in the evening so we could go out and try different restaurants since my wife is really the only adventurous foodie in the group. My daughters enjoyed the soba too but their favorite things were ham from Lawson’s and the popcorn from 7-11.
As for snow, we got some in Yamanouchi when we hiked up to see the snow monkeys and we drove through a lot on the way to Hida-Takayama but none in Matsumoto until the last morning. On the last morning we got a lot of snow we had to catch a train at 10AM but we know the forecast was for early snow. So I woke up at 5AM and sure enough there was about 10cm on the ground. I woke Tori up and we walked to the castle to take some photos and play for an hour or so.