My third, spontaneous visit to the beautiful city of Matsumoto happened because of bad weather. I was staying at Shirahone onsen, planning to spend the following day in the mountains, but it was raining so heavily in the morning that I had to change my plans. Luckily, Matsumoto is a comfortable 1 hour drive away, and there’s plenty of things to do there in any weather.
My first stop was Matsumoto City Museum of Art that has a small, but interesting permanent exhibit of Yayoi Kusama’s works (she was born in this city) as well as works of other local artists. There’s also a shop and a café on sight – always a plus for me. I enjoy having a cup of tea after strolling through museum halls.
Then I went to Kaichi School – another good choice for a rainy day. This was one of the first public schools in Japan, opened one year after the Meiji reforms made education available to everyone and not just the privileged upped classes. The building dates from 1876 and has been designated a National Treasure of Japan in 2019.
This western style building looks beautiful from the outside, but I equally liked its solemn and serene interiors – stepping on the squeaky floors, looking at the old photos I could almost imagine myself being a student there.
My next stop – Giminzuka – would be of interest only to die-hard local history buffs. It commemorates the victims of a failed peasant uprising during the Edo period (the peasants were first heavily taxed, then promised a tax reduction, but the local authorities went back on their word and executed everyone instead). There’s a mound-like grave and a small shrine to appease the spirits of the victims.
The rain eased off at some point, and by the time I got to Matsumoto castle I didn’t need an umbrella anymore. Then the weather started quickly improving, I could see the Northern Alps at the horizon, their peaks dusted with fresh snow. Matsumoto castle is one of the most beautiful, most beloved original castles in Japan, and one of my personal favorites as well. I could spend hours in the park, taking pictures of it from different angles. It was already too late for me to go inside, so I allowed myself to stroll around in leisure.
To see the sunset I headed off to Joyama park – it’s located on a hill overlooking the city, offering amazing views from its observation tower. Standing there, soaking in the beauty of light and shadows I was wondering, how could a day that began so bleakly end on such a dramatic note. We really don’t know what the future holds, a few hours, a few passing clouds can change everything. So, let’s count our blessings and always stay optimistic 🙂