Spring is on its way and that means it’s time to break out those blue tarps, make some rice balls and drink plenty of local beer and sake. It’s cherry blossom viewing time! There are a lot of beautiful spots to enjoy them here in Nagano prefecture, where the mountains add a beautiful touch of white to the spring scenery. Who knew you could see sakura and snow at the same time?
Cherry blossoms are now blooming in many places in Nagano. I went to the Matsumoto Castle yesterday and cherries there are in full bloom.
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In Japan, the winter is a season of “illumination”. There are some beautiful illumination spots lighted up by LEDs. In Nagano, Karuizawa, Azumino, and Suzaka’s illumination events are famous.
This winter, not large but unique illumination has started at Asama Hot Springs in Matsumoto. It is Japanese taste design lighting in front of Hot Plaza Asama, a day trip hot spring facility. You can watch the “healing illumination” while soaking your feet in the free foot hot spring.Because of the M 6.7 earthquake that occurred on 22nd November and damaged some portions in Hakuba and Northern Nagano, even hotels in Asama Hot Springs suffered from cancellations, even though Matsumoto is in the center of Nagano Prefecture and didn’t have any direct damage.
Now, there are no problems at all sightseeing spots and ski resorts in Nagano, including transportation.People in Asama Onsen hope this beautiful illumination will overcome the quake.
Asama Hot Spring is located in a convenient place in Matsumoto, Nagano. It is just a ten minute bus ride from Matsumoto Castle. It also has a very long history, 1,300 years or more and feudal lords of the Castle visited there in the Edo period (17th century).The illumination is shining 5pm to 0am until April 19.
More than twenty traditional Japanese ryokans in Asama Onsen and the illumination are wating for you.
On Friday night of June 20, which is one day before the summer solstice, the “Candle Night” event was held at Matsumoto Museum of Art.
The “Candle Night” is held on the summer and winter solstice every year to enlighten people on environmental issues. But it is also a nice (and free of charge!) event to enjoy the fantastic night by only the light of candles on green glass in the yard of the museum with art and live music.
Matsumoto is popular with its oldest castle in Japan and surroundings of beautiful nature, but also it is a town of a modern culture of music, art, and crafts.
Kids enjoyed running around and adults enjoyed sitting on turf in my favorite courtyard of the museum.
A big objet d’art “The Visionary Flowers” by the world famous modern artist Yayoi Kusama, who is from Matsumoto, was also lit up by candles. and more mysterious than usual during Candle Night.
During the full moon period from 15th- 20th of September this year, a Moon-viewing Festival was conducted inside the main circle of the Matsumoto castle.
In the evenings during the period, people can go into the garden freely to stroll and see the full moon shining just beside the castle tower.
Inside the red-and-white curtain you can see on the right half of the picture, they performed an easy-going tea ceremony to let people have tea and japanese cake for 5ooyen.
Also played were serene pieces of music by flutes and Japanese flutes exactly on the Moon Viewing terrace attached to the tower in the Edo Period some 3ooyears ago.
I felt so lucky to be in the city while the event was on!
The old house street, Nakamachi, is a popular shopping and also sightseeing spot in Matsumoto among foreigners and Japanese.
There are also more than 40 restaurants along the street so now it is a “gourmet street”.
Now, new free Nakamachi gourmet guide leaflets (English edition and Japanease edition) have been editted and printed. Restaurants owners shared its cost.
It gives you information on some menus and prices, location, hours, closed days, western/Japanese seating, no-smoking area, C/Card availability, and cover charge which is a Japanese custom so sometimes causes troubles, of each restaurant.
So, now you don’t need to be scared before you enter restaurants in Nakamachi!
You can get this guide leaflet in Nakamachi, TICs in Matsumoto Station and in front of the Matsumoto Castle, and some hotels.
You can see PDF version here.
The world famous and popular contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama’s special exhibition “Eternity of Eternal Eternity” is now held in the Matsumoto Museum of Art.
Kusama was born in Matsumoto and lived until she moved to NY when she was 28 years old.
The entire museum is now occupied by Kusama world.
A big white-dotted red dog and a huge Kusama Yoyoi doll greet you.
In the quad of the museum, you can watch her famous work, yellow pumpkin.
In Japan, vegetarian tourists might face difficultly in finding resaurants which have vegetarian menus.
Now, Matsumoto has two perfect places for vegetarians, macrobiotic&organic fans, and any people who want to eat healthy and tasty dishes.
A macrobiotic cafe “Hitsuki” has opened at the east end of Nakamachi Street in November.
They serve their original bread made from brown rice porridge. They never use yeast, but the “bread” is really bread.
Their policy is “tasty macrobiotic”.
They never use animal protein and even their soup stock is made of vegetables.
Their sister restaurant “Gen” exists on the crossing near Matsumoto Museum of Art. Gen serves brown rice, not bread.
If you don’t know macrobiotic, please browse Wikipedia or somewhere else. The Japanese Wikipedia says the philosophy of macrobiotic was invented in Japan before World War II and has been getting popular in Western countries. Steve Jobs believed it too much and died of cancer because he didn’t accept normal remedies in the hospital. Check out this web page in "Matsumoto Welcomes You!" for hours and close days, this Google Map for the location.
Taiko Drum festival is very popular among local foreign regidents and Iida Puppet Festival is now a large international puppet event (400 shows will be performed at 120 venues and 40,000 attendants will enjoy them!).
We made multilingual (English, French, Korean, Chinese, Thai) leaflets of the two events this year. You can get it in TICs, some hotels, and Narita Airport. Otherwise, you can download PDF files.
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