The laidback city of Matsumoto is one of the main gateways to the Japan Alps, lying stunningly in the shadow of seven enormous summits, many above 3000m, and the stunning highlands of Utsukushi-ga-hara-kōgen.
In a valley with panoramic Alps views, Matsumoto was given its name by the British missionary and climber Reverend Walter Weston, who mapped the peaks in the 19th century. Matsumoto-jo, the city's striking five-tiered castle, is the main attraction, but there's also Nakamachi, a street running parallel to the Metoba River lined with old white-walled houses, some of which have been converted into ryokan (inns) and shops. This district is also a superb place to sample Matsumoto’s famed gastronomy – its soba buckwheat noodles in traditional cafes, alongside beautiful vista views, charming streets and galleries. Relaxed and cosmopolitan, it’s also well known for its sake breweries, tucked away among the traditional buildings of its backstreets.