In Depth Stories

Souvenirs & Crafts


Matsumoto’s most well-known folk craft is a hand-made ball of intricately woven silk yarn, called “temari”. While the predecessor of the temari originated in China, temari in Japan were originally made with old pieces of kimono.

There are a few theories about the origins of the temari in Matsumoto. One says that over 200 years ago, a noblewoman belonging to the ruling Matsumoto Clan created the first temari handball. Another says that a child of one of the area’s warriors started making them to help bring in money.

At first, the temari balls were popular as simple toys for little girls to play with. Later, they became symbols of harmony and accord between families, hence brides began presenting them to the groom’s side of the family. Nowadays, they are mainly used as gifts and interior decorations. The balls are made by winding colored threads of silk to create various shapes and patterns. They vary in size, but can take about four or five hours to make.

Matsumoto manhole cover decorated with temari

See our Other Activities page for information on making a temari yourself.

Where to Purchase

  • Takagi – In business since 1878. Two locations: Near the Castle & On the 4th floor of Midori in the Matsumoto Station building.

  • Earth – Sells mini temari phone straps and earrings.


Matsumoto’s lacquerware origin’s lie in Kiso’s famous lacquerware. A heavily wooded area, Matsumoto and Kiso have an abundance of cypress trees as well as Japanese Judas and Japanese horse chestnut trees. Although there were once 12 members in Matsumoto’s lacquerware guild, now only 2 remain. However, you can still buy lacquerware chopsticks, bowls, lunch boxes, tea canisters, and other items. You can buy Kiso Lacquerware in Matsumoto as well. Lacquerware is even said to improve the taste of its contents.

High quality lacquerware can be used for over a hundred years with the occasional touch-up making it look as good as new. Since lacquer is high in fat, it is extremely water resistant. It is also naturally resistant to bacteria.

Producing lacquerware is an arduous process that requires strict working conditions. In order to keep dust and other tiny particles from landing on the lacquered pieces, fan and heater use is kept to a minimum. Anything that does land on the surface is carefully picked off. Pieces require multiple coats that take three to four days to dry each, and the drying conditions including humidity must be strictly regulated, since drying speed determines how strong the finished lacquer coating is.

Where to Purchase

Nihonshu (Japanese Sake)

Nagano Prefecture is one of the most renowned nihonshu producing prefectures in the country. With natural springs providing the perfect source of fresh, clean water, Matsumoto has a long history of producing nihonshu of superb quality. While you can of course buy bottles year-round, production season starts late October.

Where to Purchase

Miso Paste

Nagano is the biggest miso producer in the country, and Matsumoto City is home to one of the dwindling number of miso makers that still use traditional methods to make their miso. You’ll find a number of miso-based products aside from miso soup, such as marinades, dips, and even ice cream. Miso is even incorporated into cakes and cheesecakes to make them extra moist.

Where to Purchase

  • Ishii Miso
    They use traditional methods and offers tours. Some of their miso is fermented over 3 years which gives it a much deeper flavor than typical miso.

Bamboo Crafts

Bamboo working once thrived in Matsumoto. At its peak, it was famous throughout the country and even exported. Most of the pieces coming out of Matsumoto were Misuzu Pieces made with robust sasa (dwarf bamboo). Although the industry declined after the Meiji period, the craft has made a steady comeback thanks to dedicated local craftsmen and craftswomen. After the last master craftsman passed in 2009, the guild was restored in 2011.

Where to Purchase and More Details

Japanese White Birch Crafts

From carvings of animals, including those of the regions “thunder bird” or rock ptarmigan, to woven baskets, crafts made with white birch are another common craft in Matsumoto.


Matsumoto is home to a number of tasty sweets, both traditional and modern.

Where to Purchase

  • Okinado
    Many of Okinado’s sweets are named after the castle. For example Tsukimi Yagura (moon watchtower) is in the shape of the full moon that can be seen from Matsumoto Castle’s moon viewing room. Many Okinado sweets have won awards at the “National Confectionery Exposition” since the Taisho period in the early 20th century.
  • Temariya
    This temari-shaped cake is filled with a chestnut paste made from chestnuts grown in Nagano’s northern region.
  • &s Roast Factory
    Chocolate produced in their 2nd flood factory and specialty coffee, such as a Matsumoto blend
  • Masamura
    A contemporary confections shop that has been in business for almost 50 years. Famous for its baby cream puff.
  • Fujimura Japanese Confections
    Sakura (cherry blossom) mochi, sakamanju (steamed buns made with sake), rum raisin cookie sandwiches, fruit cakes, chestnut sweets, and more.


Where to Purchase

Two vendors on Nawate Street offer this fish-shaped cake. Taiyaki contains a filling, such as custard or red bean paste.

  • Furusato
    This shop still prepare taiyaki the old-fashioned way – rotating each individual mold. Their sausage taiyaki appears in the live-action film Orange. They also offer an ice cream version in the summer.
  • Yazawa
    Yazawa offers a variety of flavors including those incorporating seasonal ingredients, such as pumpkin.

Soba Noodles (buckwheat noodles)

While soba can be found all over the prefecture, the noodles can vary greatly in texture and taste. High-grade soba is grown and ground right here in Matsumoto City or brought in from other highland areas in Nagano. You’ll be sure to taste the difference.

Where to Purchase

  • Local Brand Kamakura Mengyo
    Kamakura Mengyo makes noodles from their fields stretching across parts of Matsumoto and Azumino at altitudes of up to 700 meters. The easiest place to find their noodles and other regional brands is the 4th floor of Midori located in the Matsumoto Station building.
  • Even if you can’t bring any home, be sure to try some while you’re here!
    Soba restaurant directory


Nagano is famous throughout the country for its apples, but there are a number of other fruits available, including grapes, peaches, and Japanese pears. Matsumoto has a number of vineyards and Shiojiri, the city just to the south, can be considered wine country.

You can even pick the fruit yourself at some orchards in the area. See our Things to Do page for locations.


You can find the above items and more in the following locations. See our Shopping page and Sightseeing page for further details.

  • Nawate Street
    Just across a small bridge on the way to Matsumoto Castle, Nawatedori is a row of small shops with a subtle but recurring frog theme. See what else they have to offer.
  • Cool Craft Town – Nakamachi Street
    Nakamachi Street is a beautiful street with nice little shops, cafes and bars. See here for details including the tourist guide map and the shop list.
  • ALPICO Plaza B1F

Other Shops and Galleries

Craft Fair Matsumoto

The Craft Fair Matsumoto is one of the biggest craft fairs in Japan, this event offers many kinds of crafts and displays including woodworks, ceramic works, glass working, smithing, and so on. The craft fair venue is at Agatanomori Park, and is accessible by bus from Matsumoto Station. The vendors often don’t accept credit cards. See this blog article for more information.

See our Events page for more details.