I have walked away from doing Japan walking tour type photo posts but I miss simply showing photos. I’m also very happy to show photos around the Nagano area. It’s my favorite place in Japan and I do hope to live there one day. This special walk was from the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Matsumoto Museum of Art to Matsumoto Castle.

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Sometimes you go walking and discover a weirdass wooden scultpure of a what is known in JP wikipedia as a “Samurai stature”

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One part derp one part hideous it’s a frog statue of a Frog Samurai riding in on a…frog? Matsumoto’s old shopping street’s mascot is the frog. A pun on kaeru (to return) and frog (kaeru). They even have a Frog Matsuri in June. It looks like a childrens fun event.

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The beginning of Nawate Dori (なわて通り) it’s only a walking street no bikes or cars. Check out that side derp. There’s another concrete frog on the right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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There’s such a cool balance of architecture in Matsumoto. And of course always beautiful mountains in the distance. Despite being a small town (population 227,392) it’s really a thriving town lately.

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On such a pretty day lots of Matsumoto citizens were out enjoying the scenery. Except for the castle and coming down from the mountains in Nagano it doesn’t get a lot of tourist hype which is one of the reasons I try to recommend it.

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I’m forever a sucker for an old building and a weepy sakura
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Matsumoto is mostly a car city and there’s lots of lanes. It makes the city feel a bit more open.

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The Matsumoto manhole covers remind me of Yayoi Kusama’s dots. It is her hometown.

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The street looks mostly filled with small snack shops and little classic stalls. Not really the typical souvenir items either. Some used stores with just about everything inside as well.

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A vending machine advertising the Japan Basketball League or B-League. Nagano prefecture was originally called Shinshu (信州) so many Nagano things (food, culture, sports) are called Shinshu. The Brave Warriors are on the B2 or bottom level of the two tier B-League system.  Side note: It’s nearly impossible to get B-League swag. As a Basketball stan I would fully rock the apple yeti mascot merchandise.

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All throughout Matsumoto lots of pretty rivers run in the main part of town. There’s a lot of walkable space on each side.

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I’m always in love with how many tiny plants and ecosystems Japanese places can fit on such a small place. Where else to find a pond but in the corner of an Okonomiyaki place?

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Matsumoto castle in one of its best seasons. I previously blogged about Matsumoto Castle and the sakura when I visited in 2015. But I feel I got even better shots of the castle at golden hour.

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Since castle grounds are free lots of people walking their dogs in the area. Shiba alert!

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Casual hanami and coverage was great!

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Matsumoto’s sakura as always lovely.

I’ll have more Matsumoto and “Shinshu” posts because I really love the area.

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Matsumoto Castle sakura viewing wasn’t something I expected to do last Spring. Actually I thought I had planned my two week Spring trip to sakura forecast perfection. HAHAHHAA I WAS WRONG!

Sakura are gorgeous super fickle flowers. Forecasts change quickly and even if you wait until a month before to book your travel plans, the predictions can STILL BE off. Six days before I was set to leave for Japan the sakura flood came scrolling across my instagram and twitter and all I could do was sit there and glare. DAMN YOU SAKURA! But that’s one of the big things about sakura planning. You just have to be flexible.

The full pink of sakura season. The pinkness happens at the end of the main variety of sakura blooming.

Matsumoto Castle is one of those great flexible locations. It’s in Nagano prefecture but a very easy day trip from Tokyo (2 1/2 hours by train). Since it’s further up to the north, Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jo) sakura bloom later than Tokyo. It’s a popular sakura location for Japanese and the castle appeared ready to with lots of volunteers for their “mankai” or full bloom season. Spring is the most popular time to visit and with good reason!

Matsumoto Castle is known as Crow Castle because of its black exterior. I think its dark look really sets off sakura well.

Matsumoto Castle in its full glory. Along with Matsumoto City’s mascot Alp-chan (アルプちゃん) dressed in samurai armor. For the sakura season there was also a roaming guy dressed in samurai armor that you could take photos with (top right).

Anything x sakura or red maple is my WA OTP so when I’m able to get blossoms x castle… so much bonus!

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The castle peaking out from behind the sakura.

There were a few weeping sakura. Weeping sakura bloom later than regular sakura. They’re very plentiful in Kyoto but not so much around Matsumoto castle.

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I usually don’t take many pictures inside of castles because they’re essentially darkened old buildings that house museum examples and mainly great for their exterior and for having wonderful views when you get to the top. I am so amused by old art though.

Climbing the castle was definitely worth it for this view. The moutains in the back are part of the Japanese Alps.

Inside the castle looking out to the grounds and city of Matsumoto.

Mankai or full bloom in all its glory. Matsumoto Castle sakura gave me hope I’d see more sakura that trip.

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Reasons I’m not on this blog, top being –  I cannot pose, I am more like a bakery possum than a human, and I make stupid faces. But damn it’s the only photo I got of the full glory of the line of sakura trees leading up to the castle. Check out that lovely pink sakura rain.

All I did was resize this photo because I wanted to show how some of the sakura very beautifully pink that day.  :dotbow:

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I love when sakura fall because they their whole blossom tends to fall.

We snuck in for the last full blossom day of Matsumoto’s sakura season. It was an overcast day and storms were brewing to rain the next day and take down the fragile blossoms.

How to get there: From Shinjuku take the Super Azuza (スーパーあずさ) limited express to Matsumoto station. There is reserved and unreserved seating which you can sort out at Shinjuku station. It’s free if you have JR Rail Pass or it’s 8,000 yen round-trip for unreserved. It’s a 15 minute walk to the castle from the station.

More information at: myoko-nagano

 

And to think this is just the sakura opener for the blog. So many more sakura posts to do. And many Nagano posts to do, too!

If you missed any previous sakura posts on the Doll check them out here I’ve got a fourth in a series of sakura foods posts coming up too.  :hearts3:

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