Matsumoto’s key attraction is undoubtedly its superb 16th century castle. The main keep is the oldest in Japan, and visitors are welcome to wander the ancient building and see the elaborate architecture designed to protect the occupants from attack. The area around the castle is a pleasant mix of ancient and modern: beautifully restored buildings on Nakamachi-dori and the interestingly frog-themed Nawate-dori hide trendy restaurants, cafes and bars as well as traditional eateries and craft shops.

Until the last century sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall made the region largely inaccessible. Fortunately modern travellers will have no such trouble, as trains connect Matsumoto to both Kyoto and Tokyo.