Matsumoto’s irresistibly uplifting atmosphere owes a vast amount to its location in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, whose snow-draped peaks provide jaw-dropping views from several corners of this gracious city. Whether it’s down to the freshness of the air or the pure mountain water that pops up as springs – hot and cold – all over the place, the people here look that much more serene and smiley than in other urban spots.
It’s not just the setting that’s a tonic for the soul, though; there’s also a diverse and diverting cultural scene. One star of this is the national treasure of a castle – among the oldest and best-preserved in Japan – whose dramatically dark exterior is set off by the unexpectedly jaunty red footbridge across the moat. The other is the eye-popping work of home-grown art superstar Yayoi Kusama, whose psychedelic polka dots crop up everywhere from the city’s art gallery to its buses. Even the local culinary specialities have a feel-good factor to them, whether you’re talking just-made soba noodles or an invigorating blast of wasabi.
If you’re inspired by ancient castles or contemporary art, or are in search of the perfect noodle, our destination experts can put together your perfect Matsumoto tour.