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The vibrant city of Matsumoto (松本) sits in a fertile valley, with the magnificent northern Japan Alps, in all their splendour, to the west. Formerly known as Fukashi, Nagano Prefecture's second-largest city has been here since the 8th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was the castle town of the Ogasawara clan and it continued to prosper through the Edo period to the present.

Matsumoto is an attractive, cosmopolitan place loved by both residents and admirers from around the globe, who come to enjoy its superb castle, pretty streets, galleries, cafes and endearing vistas. There seems to be some extra enthusiasm for life here, with a youngish population that includes those who have forsaken the massive cities for this regional beauty. The mountains are close, the air is fresh and the rivers are invigoratingly cold. Matsumoto makes a great stepping stone on your way to the Alps.

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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Matsumoto.


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