Do you agree with the saying ‘Most of the unplanned trips are the best ones’?
Because I do.
One of my favorite things to do since I was a high school student is to go on an unplanned trip. I like it even more now that I live in Japan.
I know that Indonesia has a lot more beautiful places compared to Japan, but it’s way more convenient to travel in Japan than in Indonesia.
Thus, I get to experience many unplanned trips here in Japan which gives me an idea to write a series about those trips. Let me start the story with Matsumoto, a city located in Nagano Prefecture.
I came up with the idea of going to Matsumoto just two weeks before the start of New Year’s holiday last year. New Year’s holiday in Japan is rather long compared to what we get in Indonesia but I couldn’t really go back home to Jakarta because flights are expensive. However, I didn’t want to spend a week doing nothing, so I had to think of something to do that doesn’t involve spending too much money during the holiday.
Luckily, New Year’s holiday coincides with the Seishun 18 tickets (青春18きっぷ) sales period!
Basically, Seishun 18 is a set of discounted train tickets that allows you to travel on local and rapid JR trains up to five non-consecutive days. One set costs 11,850 yen and you can share it if you’re travelling with your friends. You can go to JR Official Website for more information about Seishun 18.
So I bought a set of Seishun 18 tickets and dragged my pseudo mom to travel with me. Yet, we weren’t so sure where to go.
We’ve tried using Seishun 18 to go to Osaka and Nagoya 2 years ago but it took us 8 to 10 hours from Tokyo to reach Kansai, so it’s too far. I thought it’d be great to travel within Kanto area and visit two or three places using Seishun 18.
Without further research, we agreed on going to Tochigi (I’ll write about it later) and Nagano. Up until we made the decision to go to those two prefectures, we hadn’t had any idea of where to go and what to see there.
Actually, I did a small research. I learnt from Google that Matsumoto Castle is one of the five castles designated as national treasure in Japan and it takes 3-4 hours to reach Matsumoto by train from Shinjuku. That’s about it.
Then, in the morning on January 2nd, we took the rapid train from Musashi-Koganei to Matsumoto (of course we had to transfer several times, we just followed what Hyperdia showed us).
We arrived in Matsumoto city just before lunch time. Having only Matsumoto Castle in mind and no other schedule aside from that, we decided to look for a place to eat. Food always comes first!
On our way to find food, I learnt that Matsumoto is actually a very interesting city. It’s a metropolitan city, but it has a rural feel especially with the view of Japan Alps. There are an old street, museums, a castle, shrines, and shopping district. Kinda reminds me of Ueno in Tokyo.
After about 20 minutes of walking, we finally found a soba place to eat. Soba is a famous food in Nagano and Matsumoto City has produced the best Soba in the region for more than a hundred years.
We chose Kamo Soba and it’s delicious! A bit expensive though.
Then after eating soba, we found several interesting shops on the old street. There are a unique cafe that sells good coffee & chocolate and a shop that sells sweet potato snacks.
Finally, after almost two hours wandering around aimlessly, we reached Matsumoto Castle. I’ve been to Nagoya Castle, Osaka Castle, Kishiwada Castle in Osaka, Hiroshima Castle, Odawara Castle before and I must say that Matsumoto Castle is probably the coolest castle among them all.
It’s also known as the Crow Castle due to its black exterior. The architecture and history of this castle are also very interesting.
I was so happy because we could enter the castle even though we had to climb so many stairs to reach the fifth floor. It was so exhausting yet very exciting!
Here is a video taken on the fifth floor of the castle:
Matsumoto is a great place to visit for a day trip out of Tokyo. Using Seishun 18 tickets is a good way to save money but it takes longer than if you take JR Azusa or Super Azusa limited express from Shinjuku Station. So, just take the bus or the limited express train if you don’t like long train rides and don’t mind paying 4000 yen for one way trip from Shinjuku to Nagano.
For tourist who have JR Passes, I think it’s better to use Azusa or Super Azusa from Shinjuku Station to Nagano. The trip is covered by JR pass!!
If you have any question, just leave it on the comment box 🙂
Thanks for reading!