| Centrip Editorial Board
Matsumoto Castle's Cherry Blossom Season: A secret spot to see cherry blossoms with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop
Japan is home to many castles, but only 12 still have their Tenshu (Keep), and only two of those keeps are five stories high: Matsumoto Castle and Himeji Castle. Matsumoto Castle, located in the central region of Japan, with its unique contrasting black and white walls, and is a definite highlight for any trip to Central Japan.
Spring is the best time to visit Matsumoto Castle. The beautiful silhouette of the castle and cherry blossoms is best to enjoy against the backdrop of the snowcapped Northern Japanese Alps. Join us as we introduce some of Matsumoto City's best cherry blossom spots and dish out the details on Matsumoto Castle.
While the cherry blossom season has passed for 2021, you can use this article to plan for your next trip to Japan and Matsumoto. With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway, we hope that tourists worldwide will enjoy the cherry blossom season next year in Matsumoto.
1. Matsumoto Castle
The best place to start is with a visit to Matsumoto Castle.
When you arrive at the castle, take a walk around the moat and enjoy the beauty of the keep and snowcapped mountains reflected in the moat's waters.
Cherry blossoms are all over the castle grounds. So, where is the best spot to take a picture, you ask? Well, depending on when you've timed your visit, the answer varies. Your best bet is to take a walk around and try and find the perfect spot for you.
If you are lucky, you might even meet the samurai, ninjas, and princesses of the Matsumoto Castle Hospitality Team. For the article, we met Matsudaira Naomasa, the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the seventh lord of Matsumoto Castle, born in 1601. Historically he was a brave samurai that fought against the famous warlord Yukimura Sanada. The reenactor is very friendly, so don't miss your chance to pose with him for a picture.
When you finished walking the castle grounds, head over to Matsumoto City Hall on the east side of Matsumoto Castle; a little-known secret is the observation deck on the roof is open to the public and free of charge.
This observation deck gives you a view of the castle from above and a panoramic view of Matsumoto Castle and the Japanese Alps.
2. Koboyama Kofun
Three kilometers south of the castle is a small hill that turns pink in the cherry blossom season called Koboyama Kofun. It is a burial mound and a historical site built in the late 3rd to mid-4th century, long before the samurai era.
The Koboyama Kofun is an important historical site and one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Matsumoto. The tomb is at the top of Koboyama, 650 meters above sea level, and the plaza at the top of covered with a profuse amount of cherry blossoms.
Take a walk through the aptly dubbed Tunnel of Cherry Blossoms for a beautiful and unforgettable sight. From the top or bottom of the hill, you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps paired with the fantastic pink of the cherry blossoms makes the vistas breathtaking.
3. Matsumoto Alps Park
Next, we'll head over to Matsumoto Alps Park.
The park lies on a plateau and is home to Matsumoto City Mountain and Nature Museum. The park has lush grass, and around 500 Someiyoshino cherry trees are scattered throughout.
However, with the park located on a plateau, the cherry blossom season begins later than in the city center. A small zoo and a long slide named the Alps Dream Coaster are also in the park and are great for families to have fun, relax, and enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The park is 3 kilometers north of Matsumoto Castle, which sounds close, but the walk is along a steep and winding road, so going by car is recommended. Buses are also available, but infrequent.
4. Joyama Park
South of the Alps Park is Joyama Park. Along with Alps Park, Joyama park is a place where Matsumoto locals have fun and relax.
Here you'll find an observatory overlooking Matsumoto City and the Japanese Northern Alps, with amazing views along with rows of cherry trees in the park. The history of cherry blossoms in this park goes back to the mid-19th century when the feudal lord of the time planted cherry trees and opened them to the general public to enjoy.
5. Anyouji Temple
Anyouji Temple has a long history as a Buddhist temple in the Matsumoto area. Despite its distance from the city, the temple receives numerous visitors who flock to see the cherry blossoms.
Two formidable weeping cherry trees said to be 500 years old are on the temple grounds. With the cherry blossoms in bloom, the bell tower and pond on the temple grounds take on an air of mystique that you won't want to miss.
6. Matsumoto Castle: Nighttime Illumination
When the day fades into the night, make your way towards Matsumoto Castle. Every night during the cherry blossom season, Matsumoto Castle is awash in illumination. (Schedule varies by year)
In daylight, the blue sky contrasts with the pink cherry blossoms. At night the illumination from the lights plays off the colors of the cherry blossoms creating an ephemeral atmosphere with the reflections on the moat water only enhancing the spectacle.
The cherry blossom season in Matsumoto can be cold for some so remember to bring a light jacket, especially after dark when the temperature dips, and enjoy the nighttime scenery.
7. Lunch Recommendation: Sanzoku-yaki
During our visit, we had sanzoku-yaki for lunch near Matsumoto Castle.
Sanzoku-yaki is made by marinating a single piece of uncut chicken in a ginger and garlic-based sauce and then deep-fried. It is a popular local dish in Matsumoto City, and many restaurants serve it. Depending on the restaurant, there are various ways to serve it. You can get Sanzoku-yaki curry and rice or a Sanzoku-yaki burger, for example. It comes in large serving sizes and is a great way to recharge your batteries after a long day.
Matsumoto can be reached in about 2 hours from Nagoya by the limited express Wide View Shinano. Starting in Tokyo, it takes from two and a half to 3 hours to reach Matsumoto riding the limited express Chuo Main Line.
Matsumoto has incredible cherry blossoms and a unique atmosphere with many opportunities for interaction with the nature of the Japanese Northern Alps, Japanese culture, and history. It's also become a location for filming movies and TV dramas. Matsumoto is the birthplace of world-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama; the Matsumoto City Museum of Art has many of her works on exhibit (as of April 2021, the museum is closed for renovation). We hope you will include Matsumoto on your itinerary for your next trip.