Thursday, January 10, 2008
My trip to Korea didn't quite cover all of my winter vacation time so I decided to take a day trip up to Matsumoto. It's about a 2 hour train ride away and is most famous for Matsumoto castle which is considered a national treasure.

When I arrived in Matsumoto I went straight to the castle as I had arranged a free English guided tour of the castle and had to meet up with my guide. I was running a bit late, but luckily managed to hop on a bus that took me straight to the castle for only 100yen. Once I found my guide, he showed me around and even quizzed me on a few things as we went on the tour. I managed to get all three of his questions right, so he gave me some cute samurai hat origami.

Inside the castle was a huge gun museum. The castle apparently played a large role in some famous battle where the attackers were using guns. The tapestry-like pictures are a depiction of said famous battle.

Matsumoto castle is much smaller than Himeji, but definitely has it's own charm. One interesting fact is that at one point in history, the castle started tilt so they used a bunch of ropes to help hold it up. The ropes caused denting on many of the pillars inside the castle. The tilting itself was said to be caused by a curse placed on the castle by the leader of a peasant rebellion who was executed.

After the castle, I looked around the Matsumoto City Museum as the ticket to get into the castle also includes a pass to the museum. Did a quick browse around and then went out to explore the city.

First I walked to the Anryuji Temple, which was pretty empty and sort of creepy, so I just took a few pictures and left.

Then I went to the Yohashira Shrine which had quite a bit going on. There was this big fire pit and, unlike most temple where there are special bars to tie bad fortunes, people tied there bad fortunes to the trees. While looking around and taking pictures, I noticed that there were still selling those new years arrows that I'm so fond of and picked one up.

Then I walked down Nawate Street. The street seems to have some sort of frog motif. Not sure why, but it was quite interesting see and temple devoted to a frog figure. There were also a bunch of older, more classic, style buildings with people selling various traditional good such as pottery, wood carvings, and local fruits.

Next I went to the Ryukoji Temple and then the Zuishoji Temple. At the Zuishoji temple, which was quite small, there was this well there, called the Genchi Well, that seemed really popular. When I went, there were a bunch of Japanese people with big water bottles and water containers collecting water, so I finished drinking my lemon water and filled it up with some of the well water. Not sure if there is some special meaning behind the well, but I figured if everyone else is taking some water home, I should too!

After the well, I went to Zenkyuin Temple and the Fukashi Shrine, which are right next to each other. The temple, like all the others I had gone to that day, was basically deserted, but once again the Shrine proved to be a popular spot. I even got to see some type of ceremony happen! They were selling new years arrows here as well so I got another one for a grand total of 4.

I hit up the Fukashi Gokurakuji Temple on my way back to the station. I didn't end up leaving right away as I thought I would because the next train back to Kofu wasn't until about 2 hours later. So I ate some dinner at Moss Burger and did a little bit of shop browsing.

All in all, Mastsumoto made for an excellent day trip. And I didn't even get to see half the things they have listed on the tourist map!

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