Matsumoto Day 3

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin

Matsumoto and Yayoi Kusama

Click here for previous posts: Day 1& Day 2
Two hours before my departure from Matsumoto, I made my way to Matsumoto Art Museum exploring internationally acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama’s exhibits “All About My Love” and “Eternal Life”.

Matsumoto is the birthplace to many talented artists including Yayoi Kusama. How inspiring it was to see so many of her original artworks on display showing her devotion to art with her signature bright colors and repetitive patterns. You can feel the energy in her art. As I walked through the exhibits, I learned that much of her art is derived from years of her struggle with mental illness. It was heartbreaking to see some of her childhood drawing showing her mental struggle at very young age such as a sketch of her mother covered in black small dots.
Japanese Bakery, Matsumoto

Walking to the train station, I picked up Sakura Manjyu (a bun filled with sweetened red beans and topped with pickled sakura flower) and a Russian Piroshki made with buckwheat and stuffed with mushrooms and reflected on my two day visit to Matsumoto.

There is something that touches your heart here; people and their stories, food, culture, history, nature and art that can not be experienced elsewhere. Deep down I hear my voices telling me to share my experiences with the world but another voice is telling me to keep it a secret. As I left the train station bound for Yamanashi, I made a secret promise with myself to return to this town many more times in the forthcoming years.

Yayoi Kusama Textile Art
Here are my favorite places in Matsumoto and also places where we will visit during our 2019 Spring Art Tour to Japan:

Matsumoto Castle
One of Japan’s historic premiere castles, also known as “Crow Castle” for its color.

Matsumoto Art Museum
Featuring Yayoi Kusama’s artwork as well as local and national artists. Only ten-minute walk from Matsumoto station.

Shioribi Book Store
A small independent bookstore located near Matsumoto Art Museum. A small cafe on the first floor offer drinks and pastries. Upstairs holds rare independent books and gifts. Next to Shioribi is a small art supply shop and Alps Gohan restaurant also recommended.

Nakamachi Dori
Old merchant’s street near Matsumoto Castle lined with art and crafts stores.

Chikiriya Folk Art Store (located on Nakamachi Dori, no website)
Mingei shop started by Taro Maruyama of the Matsumoto Folk Art Museum. Many selections on local and national crafts including Okinawa and Kyushu glassware, baskets, dishware and potteries.

Tabishiro Guest House
Guest houses are not only for budget travelers any more. Tabishiro offers an wonderful atmosphere make you feel like you are staying at your friend’s house. Wood burning fireplace in living area warms you up on chilly nights. Located near Matsumoto Castle and a popular destination among hikers and non-hikers alike.

Matsumoto Folk Craft Museum
https://taiken.co/single/matsumoto-folk-craft-museum-the-legacy-of-the-folk-art-movement
Located in Utsukushigahara neighborhood next to famous hot springs.

Marumo Cafe
Located near Matsumoto Castle on Nakamachi Dori. This “Arts and Crafts” cafe was built in 1956 along with Marumo Ryokan (also highly recommended). The cafe is filled with folk art furnitures makes you feel as if you felt like going back in time

Visiting Asakusa in Tokyo

Nakamisedori, Asakusa Tokyo

Guide to Asakusa

If you are one of those lucky people visiting Tokyo, chances are that you want to spend some time exploring Asakusa, “lower town” of Tokyo. Located in Tai To District along the Sumida River, Asakusa is easily accessible by taking Asakusa or Ginza Subway Line.

Asakusa is home to Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo as well as crafts and shops that have an Edo era nostalgia. The area was a settled by craftsman and working class families who added charm and vitality to Asakusa with old traditions and unpretentious food.

Wearing Kimonos in Asakusa

Enjoy rickshaw ride, river cruise dinner or rent a kimono and stroll around the temple. This is also a great place to shop for gifts for friends and family before you head back home. There is an energy to Asakusa that you can not experience elsewhere in Japan.

Day visit to Asakusa is included in our Art and Culture Tour to Japan (Spring of 2019) as well as in upcoming Textile Tour (coming soon).

River Cruise Boat in Tokyo

Asakusa Highlights

Asakusa Temple (浅草寺)
It is believed to be the oldest temple in Tokyo it was built in 628 and features a Gojyuto “five- story tower”, Kaminarimon “thunder gate” and Nakamisedori, “beautiful approach to the temple”. Make sure to apply incense smoke to your body as it is said to cure illness.

Nakamisedori (仲見世通り)
Nakamisedori is a 250 meter walk from the Kaminari Gate to the temple. There are over 90 shops lines the approach selling Asakusa speciality such as Ningyo Yaki (doll-shaped pound cake stuffed with red beans, cooked in front of you) and other treats and souvenirs. Kimuraya Shop is the oldest store selling Ningyo Yaki since 1868.

Ekimise (駅店)
A department store located above the Asakusa Station. The basement is filled with shops selling regional foods. delicacies, sake and beer. They also carry electronics, clothing, stationery and books. A great place to wander around before you ending your journey to Japan.

Asakusa Cultural Tourism Center (浅草文化ツーリズムセンター)
Conveniently located across the street from Kaminari Gate. This tourism center should be able to help you with any questions you might have around Asakusa. From the viewing deck on the 8th floor, you be able to see the Tokyo Skytree as well as Namamisedori.

Taiyaki

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)
Asakusa is known for casual everyday food and Okonomiyaki is not to be missed when visiting Asakusa. At restaurants specializing in these “as you like” savory cabbage pancakes you’ll be able to make your own on a hot griddle at your table.. You can also enjoy this delicious street food at home. Here is the recipe from your food blog.

Kappabashi (かっぱ橋)
Located between Asakusa and Ueno is Kappabashi or “Kitchen Town”. This entire district features over 170 shops selling cooking supplies, knives, dishes and almost everything you need for starting and operating a food business. Kappabashi is only 10 minutes walk from Asakusa and totally worth a visit.

Guide to Yokohama

Yokohama, Japan

Named one of Trip Advisor’s top Japan destinations for 2018, Yokohama is the starting point of the Tokyo Ramen Crash Course and, according to the Yokohama Ramen Museum, home of the first speciality ramen restaurant. Besides a hands-on learning experience at a ramen academy, we’ll also visit two famous ramen museums in Yokohama. The Yokohama Ramen Museum for a little history, tasting and shopping, and then over to the CupNoodles Musuem to learn about the invention of instant noodles.

Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city, and is only 30 minutes from Tokyo. An early port for trade, it remains an international city and is home to a historic European quarter and the largest Chinatown in Japan. Besides ramen, there’s plenty to see, so let’s take a look at a few popular attractions in Yokohama.

7 Things to Do in Yokohama

Cup of Noodles Musuem

1. Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum

One of the stops during the Tokyo Ramen Crash Course , where we will immerse ourselves in invention of instant chicken ramen. This spacious, interactive museum is a crowd favorite and learning about the persistence and tenacity of Momofuku Ando is an inspiration for young and old. If you’re a noodle fan, this is a must see.

Address
Yokohamashi Naka-ku Shinkou 2-3-4

Hours
10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Yokohama Ramen Museum

2. Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

As part of the core curriculum of the Tokyo Ramen Crash Course , we’ll be making a stop at the Ramen Museum for history, tasting, and shopping. On the top floor there is a gallery covering the history of ramen, and in the basement there is a themed food (ramen) hall set in the 1950’s – the golden age of ramen. Here you can sample all kinds of ramen from famous chefs throughout Japan.

Address
Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku 2-14-21

Hours
11:00 am to 10:00 pm

3. Yokohama Cosmoworld

A family-friendly amusement park with an iconic ferris wheel in the heart of the business district of Minato Mirai.  This amusement park has no entrance fee and is divided into 3 areas based on age. For thrill seekers, there is the Wonder Amuse Zone, and for kids and families Burano Street Zone and the Kids Carnival Zone. The giant Ferris Wheel has 60 seats and takes about 20 minutes to ride. In the evening, it lights up the Yokohama skyline. Cosmoworld is conveniently located in the central district of Minato Mirai.

Address
Yokohamashi Naka-ku Shinkou 2-8-1

Hours
Weekdays: 11:00am – 9:00pm
Weekends: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Closed on Thursdays

4. Kirin Yokohama Beer Village

Yokohama is also home to the beer giant Kirin. The brewery has a storied history with its founding as Spring Valley Brewery by a Norwegian-American in 1885. Spring Valley had a short life and was eventually purchased by investors, including influential Nagasaki resident Thomas Glover, and the Kirin brand was launch in 1888. Recently, the Spring Valley brand has been revived as craft beer line. Besides seeing the brewing process, you’ll get a chance to watch 2000 cans beer being filled every minute on the packaging line – something you won’t see at a smaller scale brewery.

Brewery tours are free, but are in Japanese. They last about 80 minutes and are available from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily, except for Mondays. Reservations are recommended.

Address
1-17-1 Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama 230-8628

Chinatown, Yokohama, Japan

5. Yokohama Chinatown

Yokohama was one of the first ports open for foreign trade in Japan and developed a large Chinatown as traders and merchants from China settled in the city, This tourist friendly district is a short distance from Minato Mirai and is home to colorful temples and gates. The main attraction in Chinatown are its popular shops and restaurants.

Address
Yokohamashi Naka-ku Yamashitachou

Red Brick Warehosue, Yokohama

6. Red Brick Warehouse

A historic Meiji era (186-1912) government warehouse used for trading that has been fully restored and is now home to numerous shops and restaurants. From the warehouse plaza you can see Yokohama port and Minato Mirai. The Red Brick Warehouse, with its orange illumination, is especially scenic at night.

Hours
11:00 am to 10:00 pm

Address
Yokohamamashi Naka-ku Shinkou 1-1

Yamate, Yokohama, Japan

7. Yamate & Motomachi

Western merchants and traders also settled in Yokohama and made their homes along a bluff in Yamate. Here you’ll find historic homes with blends of European and Japanese architecture. There are a number parks in the area such as Harbor View Park, Motomachi Park, Yamate Park and the Foreigners Cemetery

Just below the bluffs of Yamate, the street of Motomachi has a European flair and is a popular shopping destination.

Minatonomieruoka Park (Harbor View Park)
114 Yamatechō, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken 231-0862, Japan.

Motomachi Shopping Street
1 Chome-1 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken 231-0861, Japan