One of the best ways to explore Matsumoto city in Nagano Prefecture is to ride the Matsumoto Town Sneaker bus, which departs from Matsumoto Station every 30 minutes. It costs 190 yen every time you get off the bus, or a 500 yen day-pass is available, and takes you to the main attractions around Matsumoto city. However, if you, like me, have heaps of energy to expend, then it would be wise to ditch the Town Sneaker buses and let your own sneakers take you on a route around instead.
One of the main routes of the Town Sneaker bus goes from Matsumoto Station down Nakamachi Street to the Agatanomori Park High School and back, with many attractions along the way. With only half a day to spare before it gets dark, I decided on walking that route, but not without visiting one of Japan's national treasures, Matsumoto Castle. One of Japan's premier castles, it is also known as the Crow Castle (烏城 Karasu-jo) due to its black exterior. The interior of the castle is just as spectacular as the outside, as guests can navigate around the castle's five levels, exploring what was once samurai quarters, various artifacts on display, climbing up/down stairs angled at a steep 60 degrees, and even looking out to the mountains surrounding Matsumoto city.
Going back to the main Town Sneaker route, there is the Nawate Street for those who want a unique shopping experience, where this is a variety of snack and souvenir shops, and even a 90-year old bakery/cafe for you to chill in, all assembled in two rows of old Japanese-style houses. The next one is the Agatanomori Park, a beautiful park where high school students come to play sports or to have a cycle around, and also offers spectacular colours during autumn. Nearby is the iconic Matsumoto High School memorial, where a beautiful garden maze and a museum resides.
Going down the street that leads back to Matsumoto Station, there is the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, easily identifiable by the polka-dotted flower structure of world famous Japanese Yayoi Kusama, and dedicated to Japanese artists who have resided in Matsumoto, including Kusama herself. Walking down near the end of the street, an interesting place for the peckish is the Showa Yokocho (昭和横丁), a little street inside a building filled with yakitori restaurant.
Walking the Town Sneaker trail, you can see much more than taking the bus, and you can definitely admire the beauty of Matsumoto city at your own pace. I'd recommend anyone to consider this active option of exploration, or even devise your own walking route around Matsumoto city.