One of our latest additions to the IJT crew is Nathaniel (Nate) Saito who is responsible for dealing with our friends from Australia and New Zealand. In the past, we have dealt direct with customers from the southern hemisphere, but we thought we would give them the opportunity to speak to someone more-a-less on their time zone. Nate is that man picking up calls to the Sydney number or dealing with emails to the IJT Australia email address and so I thought we should give him an opportunity to tell us about his favourite place in Japan.
Being asked to name my favorite place in Japan is always difficult. But then the other day it got a little bit easier. I was having dinner with my wife and a good friend of mine from Matsumoto. Through dinner, we kept talking about all the great things to see/do/eat (and drink) in and around Matsumoto. To be fair my friend mostly talked about the great places to drink and I mainly talked about all the great places to eat. That evening I came to realize how much I missed Matsumoto and how much I can’t wait to take my wife there.
Matsumoto is famous for Matsumoto Castle (one of the finest original castle’s in Japan), for soba (buckwheat noodles), for the Saito Kinen Music Festival, and as a gateway to the Japan Alps.
But for me what makes Matsumoto such a great place is the food, the people and the location. Some of my favorite restaurants in Japan can all be found in Matsumoto. The great thing about these places is that they are all on side streets, small, and the amazing food is cooked and served to you by the owner. My favorite would have to be Agareya.
It is on the first floor of an old, beautiful building and only has two tables and a long counter. Its specialty is fresh vegetables, chicken, nabe and nihonshu which is the perfect combination. They serve more parts of the chicken than I knew existed. The first time I went, the waitress not only drew me a picture of a chicken but also used her only body to explain where each part was located!
Walking around Matsumoto is great, but to really appreciate what makes the area so special you need to get away from the downtown. Even if you don’t have a car you can easily visit a wasabi farm north of town (beautiful and delicious all at once) or get away to Kamikochi.
But if you have access to a car then you are in really in luck. The number of places to go hiking in the area is uncountable with each trail offering amazing views.
If you have the time and you’re looking for a bite to eat you can head into the mountains in Azumino. The drive itself with take your breath away but once in the mountains the variety of restaurants is quite surprising.
But don’t worry about your waistline because Matsumoto is great for hiking and running! For first timers to Japan, Matsumoto is great for a night or two. If you are on your second or third trip and aren’t afraid to drive in the mountains, then Matsumoto is a great place to spend a week or more!
There you have it -Matsumoto. The castle is impressive and the mountains stunning. It’s good to know that Nate is an outdoor man…and that he loves his food. Although miles away from Tokyo in terms of ambiance, the alpine town is relatively easy to reach from Tokyo. A direct train from the beating heart of Shinjuku will get you to Matsumoto in under 2h30. You have got to love Japanese trains!