Matsumoto: The Oldest, Biggest, Highest, First, and Best of Japan

Best of Japan Matsumoto

Matsumoto is known to many as the home of Japan’s oldest castle keep. This is something the folks here are certainly proud of, but it is actually just one of our town’s many claims to national supremacy. Matsumoto, and in turn Nagano Prefecture, is the biggest, highest and best in Japan in more ways than you can shake a soba noodle at. Let’s explore!

The Biggest Swing

Right down the street from the castle you’ll find another of Matsumoto’s title-holders. From the Sensaibashi Bridge you can see it: the largest pendulum clock in Japan, dominating the facade of the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum. (Unverified reports have stated it is – or was at one point – the third largest in the world though research has failed to confirm this.)

Best of Japan Matsumoto museum

The Country’s Very First Toll Road

Head up the Metoba River, north toward the hills beyond the Okada neighborhood, and you’ll find (if you know where to go) the turnoff for Japan’s first toll road. This path up over Umakai Pass was constructed by a band of volunteers as an alternative to the route over Kariyahara Pass, which was too steep and treacherous for horses pulling wagons along the Edo-Era Zenkoji Road.

Best of Japan Matsumoto road

The Most Produce & Poultry

Like many of Japan’s most attractive towns, Matsumoto is surrounded by farmland. While you zip past the agricultural sprawl on your way in and out of the city you may find it interesting to note that among all the towns and villages of Nagano Prefecture Matsumoto ranks #1 in terms of agricultural output, producing more beans, millet, wheat and barley than any other municipality. Matsumoto is also tops in the chicken category; a shade over half of all chickens bred in Nagano are raised right here.

Best of Japan Matsumoto outback

The Highest Landings

Further out in the countryside lies Matsumoto Airport. At 657.5 meters above sea level (and sitting smack in the middle of the sprawling, beautiful greenery of Shinshu Skypark) Matsumoto Airport is the highest commercial airport in Japan. Nearby Alwin Stadium, where the Matsumoto Yamaga FC football club plays their home games. It may be the highest professional soccer stadium in the country as well though nothing definitive has been uncovered.

Best of Japan Matsumoto football

Travel west from Shinshu Skypark and you’ll find yourself heading into the Northern Alps. Take the Norikura Skyline up to the Matsumoto city limits (and the 2,702-meter-high border of Nagano and Gifu Prefectures). You’ll be able to brag to your friends later that you made it over the highest paved road in Japan.

The Most Famous Peaks

Altitude plays a big role in Nagano’s natural character. The prefecture contains 29 of Japan’s Hyakumeizan 100 Famous Mountains, more than any other place in Japan. It shouldn’t be surprising them that Nagano has the highest average elevation of any prefecture.

Best of Japan Matsumoto hyakumeizan

The Highest Train Station & Highway Stop

Over along the eastern side of Nagano you’ll find the country’s highest JR train station, Nobeyama-eki, along with the country’s highest Michi-no-eki Highway Rest Stop, Utsukushi-ga-hara Kogen.

photo: wikipedia commons
photo: wikimedia commons

The Shortest Party

Just south of Matsumoto, near the mountain pass leading to the Suwa Lake region, is where Japan’s shortest festival takes place. Twice a year, in June and October, the Enrei Ohno Dachi Kinen Sai Festival is held, comprised entirely of a row of men in suits bowing to a plaque that was a gift from Emperor Meiji. The festival takes all of twenty seconds. Don’t be late.

The Longest River & The Furthest From the Ocean

Over in Nagano’s eastern region, in the town of Saku, is a spot that is, unbelievably, further from the ocean than any other spot in Japan – and that includes vast Hokkaido. Nearby is the source of the Shinano River, Japan’s longest at 367 kilometers.

Best of Japan Matsumoto river
Shinano River – photo: wikimedia commons

The Most Spicy Green & Salty Brown Stuff

Back close to home, up the road in neighboring Azumino, you’ll find the Japan’s largest producer of wasabi. Back in town you can stop by a local traditional Miso Brewery. This place is major player in Nagano’s status as the country’s biggest producer of miso.

Best of Japan Matsumoto food

The Japan’s Oldest Original Existing Castle Tower

When Matsumoto Castle’s main tower was completed in 1594 there were already many others all over Japan. But over time those others were lost to fire, earthquakes and war. For over 400 years Matsumoto Castle has survived the ravages of time and man, and her tower now stands as the oldest in Japan.

Best of Japan Matsumoto castle

And More…

Getting to Matsumoto, by the way, can be interesting – Nagano borders eight other prefectures, the most in all of Japan!

Nagano prefecture
Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture – photo: wikimedia commons

And if you live here, you’re really in luck, because Nagano has a higher average life expectancy than any other prefecture in the country.

Visit The Best Of Japan

A trip to Matsumoto really is an excursion into the oldest, biggest and highest places in Japan. Of course, this is all just a matter of facts. The most important way that Matsumoto ranks, as far as we’re concerned, is as the coolest town anywhere in Japan. But don’t be content to take our word for it. Come see for yourself! We’d be happy to show you around.

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