by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
Today, I visited Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture. The cherry trees at Matsumoto Castle and Koboyama were in full bloom. With the weather forecast to be warm and sunny for the next few days, I expect the blossoms at both places to remain at their peak, up to this weekend. For those who missed the cherry blossom season in Tokyo, Matsumoto is only 2.5 hours away by JR limited express train.
When I at Matsumoto Station, the first thing I heard was the station name being announced. While that is common, a given really, it was funny to hear the female voice recording sing the station name. After being so used to hearing the serious tones of train station staff, it was refreshing to hear the recording sing, 'Matsumotoooo, Matsumotoooo, Matsumoto desu'.
April 16, 2014 - full bloom
Matsumoto Castle, also known as the Crow Castle, was very pretty. The castle is about a 10 minute walk away from Matsumoto Station and is open to visitors from 08:30 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) and costs 610 yen to enter. There are about 300 cherry trees planted in the castle park and its immediate surroundings. I have heard that the castle is very beautiful at night especially during the cherry blossom season. There is a special light up in the evenings until April 19, from 17:30 to 21:00. The interior of the castle keep is not accessible during the light up, but the grounds are free to enter.
The stairs within the castle keep were quite steep, especially towards the higher floors. I wouldn't recommend wearing a short skirt or shorts. There were interesting artifacts located on a couple of floors in the castle. When I was in there, I saw English speaking volunteer guides who were introducing the castle to a group of tourists. My favorite part of the castle was the moon viewing room. It was wide with open windows and i could see the moat and the cherry trees in the courtyard at a glance. Outside of the castle, I saw lots of school children on an excursion and local tour groups visiting the castle and enjoying the cherry blossoms at full bloom. It was really cute to see the older children carrying the younger kids to get them closer to the blossoms.
April 16, 2014 - full bloom
Koboyama Park is about a 15 minute bus ride away from Matsumoto city. I felt that it was an easy and close enough side trip, during the cherry blossom season, from Matsumoto city. Note that the buses there and back aren't very frequent, so you'll have to do a little bit of planning. The information center in Matsumoto Station was very helpful and gave me a copy of the bus timetable so I could plan for my trip back.
The main draw for Koboyama Park is the approximately 2000 cherry trees of different varieties, grown on the slopes of the mountain. The top of the mountain (which is easily reached in 5 minutes) is completely devoid of trees, giving us a great view of the city beneath the cherry trees. The graduation of colors was also beautiful, from white to pink, especially now when the cherry blossoms are mostly at full bloom. There is a designated path towards the top of the mountain, as well as several walking trails around the mountain. These trails let you walk amongst the cherry trees, and also see the cherry trees from above. As I mentioned earlier, with the good weather forecast, I expect the views to last till at least this weekend.