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Friday, July 24, 2009

Japan's Magical Matsumoto

Matsumoto is known for fresh mountain air, a fabulous castle, friendly people, the Japanese Alps, ukiyo-e, soba noodles and some other epicurean delights.

Like the area’s renowned temari (embroidered balls with geometric designs), Matsumoto’s many colors of cultural and historical threads come together creating a place of beauty.

The city is easy to navigate by walking, boarding the “sneaker bus” or even pedaling a bike. If the latter is your choice several sites exist for free bicycle loan outs. One of the best is the Matsumoto Museum/Japanese Folklore Museum.

Before riding off investigate the museum. The exhibits highlight 14 centuries of local history. A diversity of multiple wooden phalluses makes a striking and curious display. Annually featured in a festival they honor roadside guardians. Nearby a large imposing figure, in a black samurai costume, is reminiscent of a Star Wars’ villain.

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