Thursday morning the 16th of March the sun reappeared after a day of fresh snow in Takayama. We decided to take the bus through the Japanese Alps to see Matsumoto Castle which is in contrast to Himeji Castle black, lies in a valley, and is much smaller. The bus ride was beautiful.
We arrived in Matsumoto mid morning, put our luggage into a locker (so easy in Japan) and walked to the castle which is situated in the middle of a very elegant and modern town quite clearly wealthy. It was also the hometown of Suzuki, who invented the Suzuki method of teaching the violin.
On the way to the Castle we were offered a free guide. He spoke excellent English and described himself as a retired “salary man from Tolyo”. He felt that the quality of life was much better in Matsumoto and took great pleasure in taking us around the Castle!
The Castle was completed in 1595 and is the oldest wooden castle with very steep steps to the top from where one has wonderful views to the Alps. Japanese castles were not lived in but places for storage of weapons and food such as rice. Also if the Samurai had to defend themselves they would climb higher and higher in the castle. If you reached the top you had lost and it was time to commit Hari-kari. This castle also has a recently restored moon viewing room, where the Samurai used to relax and drink Sake.
Spot the Ninja and the samurai. Tony with our guide.
We had a delicious lunch of Soba ( Buckwheat) noodles which are either served cold or hot in a broth and topped with mountain vegetables, mushrooms, tofu and sometimes other delicacies.
On the outskirts of Masumoto lies the wonderful Ukiyo Museum, featuring woodblock prints of the “floating world”, of transient pleasure. The prints depicted beautiful women, actors, travel scenes and landscapes.They were collected by European artists such as Monet, van Gough and Toulouse Lautrec.
Above just a few examples of the pictures we saw.
Later that afternoon we caught the Shinkansen train to Kanazawa, famous for its gardens. More in the next blog XxF