On my second day in Matsumoto, I woke up early due to jet lag, or perhaps I was too excited about the hotel’s award winning breakfast. Japanese people take breakfast seriously and so do I. A well-dressed Japanese salaryman beat me to the breakfast line this morning but I was only the second person there. This hotel serves mainly western style breakfast along with a few Japanese dishes. Starting out with a good cup of strong black coffee, I loaded my plate with fresh mizuna salad, local apples, sauteed broccoli with bacon, an omelet, sweet raisin bread and vegetable soup. As I finished my breakfast, a Japanese phrase came to me, “haraga hetteha ikusawa dekinu-One shall not go into battle on an empty stomach”, and that was exactly how I justified my big breakfast.
My to-do list for was long for the day. Feeling stuffed, I walked along the river viewing sakura blossoms before my visit to Matsumoto castle – one of Japan’s most scenic castles. It was built in 1504 and is a considered national treasure. Matsumoto castle is a spacious six story black and white castle with an inner and outer moat and a beautiful view of the Japanese Alps. It attracts many tourist form within Japan and well as across the world.
On the other side of river outside of the castle, I found Marumo, an “arts and crafts” cafe my artist brother in London recommended. Marumo Ryokan and Cafe was built in 1956 by Sanshiro Ikeda, a founder of Matsumoto Mingei Furniture who was highly inspired by Yanagi Muneyoshi, a philosopher and a founder of the Japanese Folk Art movement. The cafe was filled with local antiques and folk art inspired furnitures and I felt as if I fell back in time.
Later, I walked along Nakamise Dori an old merchant and warehouse street filled with local craft shops. One should not miss Chikiriya, a well known Mingei shop started by Taro Maruyama of the Matsumoto Folk Art Museum. Beautifully arranged on the store shelves are local ceramics, colorful glassware and toys made with wood and bamboo. It’s a perfect place to get gifts for friends and family back home.
I enjoyed strolling around this small castle town as it’s filled with nostalgic folk art, culture, crafts, music, hotspring and more. No wonder why people have been coming here for an artistic inspiration and relaxation, just what we need for our next “Art and Culture Tour of Japan”. By the mid afternoon, I enjoyed meeting and finalizing plans with our partners in Matsumoto, and they are all very excited to be a part of this upcoming tour.