2. Find your ryokan and check in. Mine was right on the cute shopping street. Pay in cash, like almost everywhere else in Japan. Ask about the curfew (11:30pm), and shower facilities (close at 11, open again from 6 to 9am).
3. Discover your room has sliding doors with views over the city, fresh towels and yukata, a comfortable clean futon, and a pot of hot water and green tea waiting. Like a typical ryokan, the bathroom and shower facilities are shared.
4. Explore the city! Matsumoto is quite beautiful and the downtown area is pedestrian friendly. In some ryokans, meals are included. This one didn’t offer meals so I headed out to a nearby (and very inexpensive) restaurant.
5. Spend a comfortable night! Check out the next day. If you’re lucky, the owner will let you keep your giant backpack there until your train leaves. This was my last night traveling before heading back to Fujino to stay at the farmhouse one night and collect my things. This was a great way to end my solo journey.
Matsumoto-jo: Built around 1595, this is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of four designated as a national treasure. It has lasted so long partly because the castle never saw direct warfare.
It’s pretty awe-inspiring to climb into something so old, tall, and well-preserved and be able to walk through all the original levels. The tsukimi yagura (moon viewing platform) was under wraps because of repair/preservation, but there were great views over the city of Matsumoto and the mountains from other windows inside the castle. Matsumoto is the second largest city in Nagano-ken and is surrounded by the Japanese Alps.
Best tour ever! I was given a tour by Sho, director of the ALPS Language Service Association. If a nice Japanese man approaches you and offers to give you a free tour in English, the only possible answer is, “yes, please.” And when he insists on a picture together, the answer is, “of course.”