As I mentioned in my previous post, it is time for the ‘this-is-a-lot-of-traveling’ portion of my trip. I left Tokyo this morning for Matsumoto, a castle town located in between Japan’s own Alps mountain range.
Before I talk about Matsumoto though, I need to explain how I got here. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Japan has high-speed trains (or bullet trains) known as shinkansen. They are owned and operated by Japan Railways, and serve as the major arteries between big cities and transportation hubs. There are many different models, but they all have one thing in common: holy crap they are fast.
You don’t really notice it inside the train, but these are basically airplanes on the ground. They even look like airplanes on the inside (pic further below). I think they average around 110-120 mph, and reach top speeds around 160 in some parts. If you ever go to Japan, riding a shinkansen is a must!
So, after arriving in Matsumoto, I headed straight for the town’s main attraction – Matsumoto Castle. Built in the early 1500s, it is one of the three heritage castles of Japan, and is rare among most castles because of its black exterior.
The keep and surrounding moat and garden are really a sight to see. You can go inside as well, which is also fascinating. The castle is very narrow inside, with insanely steep stairwells that caused me a lot of worry since most of the other visitors there were over 65 years old. You can go all the way to the top and look out over the area, just like the samurai did some 500 years ago. Of course, they were keeping watch for invaders while I was looking at apartment buildings and 7-elevens. Still – it’s a really amazing experience!
After returning to my hostel (which is awesome – it’s owned by an adventerous Irish man and his Japanese fiancé), I practiced my Japanese with them before heading off to the nearby onsen (I’m a big fan now). This one was considerably larger than my first one, complete with 7 different outside pools and several spots to lie down and look up at the mountains and sky. Great way to relax after a busy day of traveling.
I’m leaving Matsumoto tomorrow for Takayama, about 2 hours to the west by bus. Excited for more unique sightseeing experiences!
As always, some more pics: