Japan Day 4 – Matsumoto

The third morning in the Land of the Rising Sun started well before sunrise. I’m a morning person, and that helps a lot when you are a photographer as you want to be up early in order to catch the best light. As we opened the front door of the Ryokan we realized that the Castle was right in front of us, the night before we could not see it, it took us exactly two minutes to walk to it. Even if the sun wasn’t up yet, there was enough light to see every detail. The area was not deserted as one might have expected, but lively with old people taking a morning stroll and photographers checking their gear. We walked around the moss, inhabited by large Koi fish and huge swans and passed by a group of Japanese teenagers who were having a breakfast picnic on the grass in the castle’s park. They smiled and waved at us at our sight and we reciprocated. I figured foreign visitors were not popular that time of the ye

ar. I sat up my tripod and started playing with my camera setting while Lindsey took off for her daily jog. A few hours later we rejoined to take a tour of the castle itself and stepped within the walls, inside the inner gardens. The gardens cover a large area and our timing was just perfect: the cherry trees were in full bloom and painted the courtyard with patches of white, red and pink: a spectacular display of nature that has made Japan famous worldwide. By mid morning the place was full of visitors of all ages so after some time spent photographing the exterior we stepped in to learn a bit of the castle history and architecture. The castle was built by orders of the local Shogun (Lord) fearing an attack that never happened. The inside was made entirely in wood and dark with small windows, a nice contrast to the blue-heron colors of the outside. To reach the top floor we had to climb a staircase with a pitch of nearly 60 degrees letting room for some people to come down. 60 degrees is really steep.

Ended the visit to the castle we visited the adjacent museum which had a collection of objects from many different centuries and offered a wider explanation of the history of this region. Much of it was written in English.
After splitting and consuming a giant and very tasty hamburger (about 15cm / 12” wide) we strolled around town to get a better idea of what Matsumoto looked like and search for new photographic opportunities. Matsumoto counts nearly 300 thousand people, and yet it feels like being in a very small town, people are relaxed and the stress of city life is not felt.
Once back in the Ryokan we planned for the following day and headed out to dinner where we found a Soba restaurant, where, after being welcomed by the old owner, he cooked from scratch two delicious bowls of soba while we watched. We were the only people inside and appreciated the care he put in preparing our food, we decided that was the best soba we had had until then.
We packed our bags and managed to be in bed by 10.

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