I woke up bright and early to another kanseki-style meal, this time for breakfast. I thought I was stuffed last night, but fitting two of these meals in my stomach in the span of about 12 hours made me almost burst. But I had some more train stations to navigate and I knew I wouldn’t be eating for a while so I indulged. (One bad thing about Japan is that there are no gyms.) When I checked out, the owner of the ryokan who was extremely friendly, inquired about my trip and I told him several of my stops. He seemed very happy that I would get to see so much of Japan and his wife gave me a small keychain as a gift. I thanked her immensely and I was on my way.
This morning, I had to take the local train all the way back to Nagano City and then take another local train from Nagano to Matsumoto. I didn’t reach Matsumoto until about 1 PM, but the rides when fast as I had several books to keep me occupied. When I walked out of the stop in Matsumoto and wandered down the street my hotel, I was surprised to see how nice it was with a name like Dormy Inn. Its a very nice Western-style hotel and I have two large beds to myself, not to mention one of those Japanese toilets with all of those accessories you will never see in the US. Once I was done checking out my room, I went downstairs and asked for a restaurant recommendation from the man working behind the front desk. He pointed me to a restaurant just around the corner which had a very taverny-like feel to it. I couldn’t understand much on the menu, so I ordered the cheeseburger. What I got was not a cheeseburger. Instead, it was some type of meat which the best way to describe it was ”fluffy.” It was smothered in some kind of mixture of cheese and marinara sauce and sizzling on a hot plate. I have no idea what it was but I ate it anyway.
After I paid my bill, I walked the eight or so block walk to Matsumoto Castle. It was by far the most impressive feudal style architecture I’ve seen so far in Japan. Matsumoto Castle overlooks a wide moat and its six stories tower above most of the modern buildings that encircle it.
Matsumoto Castle is famous as the oldest castle in Japan that is still standing. Soon after it was built, a large fire threatened the castles survival, however, there is an interesting story, according to legend, as to why the castle survived. Late one night in the streets around Matsumoto Castle, a mysterious woman wearing extremely extravagant clothing appeared to the samurai guarding the castle. She told them that if the lord of the castle enshrined her there and gave her shrine a tribute of a 600 kg bag of rice on the 26th night of every month, she would protect the castle from harm. The lord built a shrine to her on the very top of the castle and it is believed that this is the reason that the castle still exists in its original form.
I was able to secure a free tour of the Castle from an English guide. On the way into the castle, we were joined by a man from Ohio who went to Ohio State (yucks) and his wife who was Japanese. The two of them had been going on a similar trip to mine, except in reverse and we talked a lot about what we had seen so far. When I told them about the monkeys at Konbayashi, the man from Ohio talked his wife into taking a detour from their original route to go see them. After the tour, I meandered back to the hotel where I am now writing this post. I stay here another night before I go to see one of the places I’m most excited about, Ise and the Wedded Rocks. See you soon!