On our last day in Tokyo we activated our 7 day JR Rail Pass- such a bargain! To start our trips outside of Tokyo we headed to Matsumoto to visit Matsumoto castle all the way up in Nagano prefecture.
There is no direct train to Matsumoto so we took the shinkansen to Nagano station and then a local train to Matsumoto. The journey was brilliant, going through so many tunnels under mountains to be greeted by stunning scenery and quaint villages- it is so refreshing to get out of Tokyo.
Japan is somewhat famous for their castles, and there are lots across the country. Many people might not be aware that the vast majority of the castles currently standing have been built in the last 100 years, that they are reconstructions of the castles that stood there in feudal Japan. There are actually only 12 original castles remaining across Japan, and Matsumoto castle is one of the most famous, the black keep!
Unusually for a castle the black keep is on flat, open ground, rather than sitting squat on a hill or mountain. Sadly the cherry blossoms here were still in slumber, but the imposing keep is still quite a sight.
I’d highly recommend visiting Matsumoto castle. For a reasonable fee you can go around the inside of the castle. You do have to take your shoes off so keep that in mind before you go! Some of the stairs are extremely steep and slippery (worn over the hundreds of years) so if you struggle with heights at all…
For the evening we returned to Ueno for our last night in Tokyo and visited Ueno park at night, at the weekend, during hanami. It was packed! Every bit of spare ground was covered in blue tarp so people could enjoy hanami. We did manage to find a little corner where people weren’t gathered… no cherry blossom there though!