Matsumoto’s Artistic Works: On the Street & Under Your Feet

Matsumoto's Artistic Works street

From Japan’s oldest castle tower to the old Kaichi School building; from the traditional works at the Ukiyo-e Museum to the modern masterpieces of Yayoi Kusama, this town is home to impressive architectural and artistic achievements. But Matsumoto’s artistic works extend far beyond the famous. Here’s just a sampling of what you might find, on the street and under your feet.

Keep An Eye on the Traffic

As Matsumoto reworks their fleet of city buses to include smaller alternative-fuel vehicles, they’re also busy rolling out some eye-catching artwork. Some buses display the pride of Matsumoto’s natural and cultural heritage.

Matsumoto's Artistic Works alps chan
Matsumoto's Artistic Works national treasure

Others display advertisements, for everything from tea to home builders to health and technology corporations.

matsumoto transport

But the wildest and most eye-catching buses are those bearing the colorful creations of Matsumoto’s best-known artist, Yayoi Kusama. Some of the Town Sneaker buses are, like the Matsumoto City Museum of Art itself, dressed exclusively in Kusama’s trademark red polka dots.

Matsumoto's Artistic Works yayoi kusama
Matsumoto's Artistic Works local artist
Matsumoto's Artistic Works dot modern art

A practical note on the buses: Some of the city routes originate from right in front of the train station. If you want to go to Asama Onsen, to enjoy a soak in a hot spring or to try your hand at soba-making, head for the bus terminal across the street.

If you prefer walking, there’s plenty to see all along the sidewalk

One of Japan’s well-known quirks is the ubiquitous vending machine, and Matsumoto certainly has its share. And while many of these humming, blinking boxes are pretty standard inside and out, you will also find machines with plenty of character, all over town.

Just remember, as you look from side to side, to also watch your feet

As you walk Matsumoto’s compact downtown it’s impossible to miss the colorful city buses rolling up and down the streets. It takes a bit more to notice the vending machines, some of which blend right into their surroundings. But some of Matsumoto’s art can be easily overlooked, even as you step right on top of it.

Some would call it functional art. Some might not call it art at all. Either way, we think it looks pretty cool, easy as it is to miss. Some manholes, on the other hand, can hardly fail to catch your eye.

Depicted on these iron plates are colorful balls of hand-woven silk yarn called temari, a centuries-old local craft and a symbol of Matsumoto. These manholes decorate many of the sidewalks of the downtown area, so you can enjoy and appreciate and take pictures of them without fear of getting hit by a really nice bus.

You may also stumble upon (pun intended) a manhole with a white cartoon bird, or an emblem with a whole lot of green. These are in support of Yamaga FC, Matsumoto’s very own professional soccer – er, football – club. (Remember that green vending machine up there?)

Considering Yamaga’s recent relegation to Japan’s third-tier league Matsumoto may want to make more of these. Better yet, use that money to try to lure David Beckham out of retirement.

Everywhere Art

They say the best moments of travel are the ones we encounter in between our planned destinations. We won’t go so far as to say you’ll be more impressed with a drink machine than with a 400-year-old castle or with the historical buildings of the castle town, but we do believe that it’s worth to seek out Matsumoto’s unique artistic works on the street and under your feet as you make your way around town.

Matsumoto Discovery - Walking Private Tour
Matsumoto Discovery – Walking Private Tour

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