*This post was supposed to be published on 09 July 2013.
Left the highly urbanised Tokyo for Matsumoto. Due to lack of sleep(6 hours for the past 2 nights), I could not help but sleep through most of the trip to Matsumoto on the Chuo Line Limited Express Azusa 7. Kind of wasted a lot of sightseeing and I have a feeling that subsequent long train journeys will continue to induce sleep and I’ll miss out all the nice sceneries while on the train(NO!!!). Upon arrival, my 1st impression of this city is that it is more peaceful compared to the bustling city in Tokyo. It’s kind of my preferred type of city, though you can’t get much of the things you would want to get in cities like Singapore, but still enough to more than barely survive 🙂
The ryokan was not hard to find. It’s just within the Nakamachi shopping street. Nunoya ryokan has good recommendations from tourists online. It provides traditional Japanese rooms(the whole building is traditional Japanese style), and the owner speaks some English and is quite helpful too. The only, downside is that there is no washing machine, nor Internet access(which is why this post was held back for 2 days). Still, it is decent and you might want to come here to experience some Japanese-style living. If you have time in the day, you might want to take a walk there(we came back here for the ryokan at 7pm and everything was closed, typical of Japanese shops).
Ok, first up is the main highlight of today: Matsumoto Castle. It is one of the 3 most highly-ranked castles(ranked 2nd, just right below Himeji Castle, if I’m not wrong), as well as a national treasure. Due to its colour scheme, it has a nickname of “Crow Castle”. As with most castle, it consists of a honmaru(primary defence line), a ninomaru(secondary defence line), and a main castle keep(in this case, it’s the Tenshukaku). If you ever(or will be planning to in the future) visit any castle, be prepared to some serious stair-climbing. As with my previous visit to Kumamoto Castle(the 3rd of the 3 highly-ranked castles), the stais are very steep in a sense that they have higher inclination than the stairs we take in normal life, and the distance between each step is almost twice that of any normal stairs. So, prepare to take big steps when climbing, muahahaha! Poor-walkers/people with leg problems will find this a torturous experience 😦 I took a much longer time to finish touring the Tensukaku than my parents as I was busy trying to appreciate everything in the building, plus taking as many photographs as I can. The whole thing took us about 2 hours, but you are welcome to set aside more time for it. Japanese castles have become another of my main interests in Japan and thankfully there will be more in the coming days, such as the Nijo Castle(oops, spoiler again. My bad :P).
Next up, we took a short trip to Yohashira Shrine. It’s not say very well-known(just another typical Shinto shrine, I guess) and I am not sure what it enshrines. Decide to have a firsthand experience at making a wish in a shrine. As it was the 1st time, it kind of felt weird. From what I read about Shinto and shrines, the emphasis is more about having a sincere heart.
Moving on, Nawate-dori is another street where you can shop for souvenirs and also try out some local snacks like Taiyaki, as briefly shown in the following picture(I forgot to take picture of the real thing). It is symbolised by frogs(you can see frog statues and goods with frog design). Since it was a weekday afternoon, business was bad as there was almost no one there.
After that, we went for the Genchi Well(there wasn’t much places of interest in Matsumoto City, unless you have an eye for the arts, which will bring you to the various museums in Matsumoto). The water in the well comes from the spring in the surrounding highlands. The locals there bring a whole plastic bag of empty bottles just to fill up drinking water from the well. The water there is very cooling, very suitable for a hot summer day like today.
Following that was a trip to Fukashi Shrine, which is somewhat famous in Matsumoto as it was believed to make almost any wish come true(Hmm…). Nothing much to see anyway, but I like to visit this kind of places. Maybe for its cultural or religious value?
Finally, I had soba(cold buckwheat noodles) for dinner. It was so many years ever since I last ate soba. Since none of us had anything to shop for in the nearby department stores, we decided to head back to the ryokan and rest early for tomorrow’s hike. Well, that’s all for today’s long post.