Matsumoto: On Soba, Castles and Izakaya

The first stop outside of Tokyo on our autumn 2013 trip to Japan was Matsumoto – a small city about two and a half hours from Tokyo. Apparently (according to our host at Matsumoto Backpackers), the direct train from Tokyo to Matsumoto is one of the shakiest in Japan! The day we spent in Matsumoto, it rained cats and dogs with hardly any breaks at all. To us, this indicated that we should spend a good amount of time on food (Baumkuchen, soba noodles, cute cafés, an izakaya dinner – check!) and indoor attractions (the famous Matsumoto castle – check!). As most of my photos of the Japan trip, these were taken with my then-new Fuji X20. Enjoy (there are more over on flickr).


Baumkuchen, previously unbeknownst to me, is an incredibly popular pastry in Japan. It was introduced / imported to Japan by a German in the early 20th century.


This was our lunch table at Nomugi. The tiny Soba restaurant sits about 10 people and, on top of delicious soba noodles, had lovely flowers on display.


One of the most common ways to eat soba noodles goes like this: The noodles are served in a basket, cold. You get a soy-based dipping sauce on the side, in which you mix some wasabi and spring onions. Then, dip the noodles in your sauce and eat them (slurp!). When you’re done eating them noodles, pour what appears to be muddy hot water from a tea pot into your dipping sauce (in reality, it’s the water that was used to cook the noodles), and enjoy an after-meal soup.


This was an equally appetizing and stylish café (called Salon as Salon) – they served the best pumpkin pie ever.


Matsumoto’s castle is also called “crow castle” because, well, it’s pretty black. It’s one of four castles in Japan that is considered a “National Treasure”. What I found most interesting were its original wooden interiors – slightly unexpected, and a bit challenging to navigate due to steep stairs. The view from the top is pretty nice, even through grim rain.



For dinner, we went to Robata Shōya, and experienced our first izakaya meal. We had loads of small plates – most simple, but incredibly delicious (steamed sweet potato, fried tofu, fish from the nearby river, even a pizza-ish creation). The day ended with… you guessed it, a walk in the rain.



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