Matsumoto is perhaps the best place to be afflicted with temple tiredness, like the old town fatigue backpackers get in Europe, for me it’s that point in the trip when the fascination of everything I see and do wanes. It’s still cool and I’m enjoying the journey it’s just things don’t seem as fresh as it was a few days ago, there are less new discoveries and experiences to be had.
Matsumoto has plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants and is on the tourist route enough for most places to have English menus, but not on the tourist route enough for many people to come here. It’s an interesting laid back city with enough happening even with very limited attractions to keep a jaded fool like me engaged.
Matsumoto has just one main attraction a magnificent 17th century original castle set inside some lovely gardens. I knew I would one day be struck by temple tiredness and have been saving up all my castle experiences for Matsumoto, arguably the finest of the remaining three original castles in Japan, certainly the least visited. I think saving this new experience for a time when I would need it most helped keep Matsumoto fresh. I certainly enjoyed the free local guide who showed me through the castle, giving some great history and context to the lovely building. I also enjoyed just sitting in the grounds day and night and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere.
Matsumoto really did deliver a valued service away from the crowds of fellow tourists, this seemed like a city for Japanese with much fewer concessions to foreigners that I had seen elsewhere. The locals are friendly and welcoming and like many of the locals elsewhere in Japan seemed complimented that you’re spending time in their country.
Originally I had planned to do some day trips from Matsumoto, to use it as a base to explore some of the towns in the wider region. Now I’m here I think it prudent to not do any, but to sleep in, to take long lunches, to try some Japanese whisky, to eat well, walk and explore a little but generally to live an easy existence. Considering the high costs of these no longer engaging day trips I think this will be a much better use of funds and time.
One of these walking excursions was to The Block Printing Museum an experience well worth the visit. To enjoy the museums limited display of works fully I think the video showing the complex method used to create these seemingly simple artworks is a must see experience. The video highlights the extraordinarily complex craftsmanship and expertise that is required to produce each print, opening my eyes to the skill easily dismissed or overlooked when view these art forms without the knowledge.
One of my favourite Matsumoto experiences must be the ryokan, an upmarket traditional guesthouse, where I stayed for my last two nights, I especially enjoyed the delightful room and the traditional attentive service the ryokan delivered. It was here I got to try my first, and last, onsen experience, one I found awkward in spite of the fact it was a private experience with just my partner and I.
The hot water and steamy room turning my stomach and making me feel remarkably ill rather than relaxing me as it should. I am glad for the private experience rather than the same sex rooms that are the norm throughout the country, I’m not the greatest fan of public nudity.