If you’re into finding nifty, off-the-beaten-path treasures, then I think you’ll really enjoy Tsukiizumi Shrine. It may appear low-key to some, but this is probably one of my favorite spots in Matsumoto!
You’ll find Tsukiizumi Shrine on a side road right off of the Metoba River. At the entrance to the shrine, a small, red bridge leads you over a pool of water which is actually formed by the ground water bubbling up right from the natural spring on the right side of the bridge. There are some koi carp living peacefully in the pool, too. In front of the bridge, there is a stone carved with the image of a man and a women, which represents a guardian spirit for travelers (all the more reason to stop by this shrine on your trip!) and also keeps evil from entering the town (in Japanese it is called 双体道祖神 or “sotai dosojin”).
At the other side of the bridge, you’ll see that the spring water also flows out from a spout. Since this water comes directly from the spring, it is safe to drink and many of the Matsumoto locals come here to fill up several jugs with water so they can use it at home! If you have a water bottle with you, fill it up here with the natural spring water–it’s cold even in the summer and tastes great.
According the sign board at the entrance, the spring here has been used since at least the Edo Period (1603–1868) and the water was used for dyeing and paper making. As for the shrine, it may date as far back as the year 881(!) but it is not confirmed.
Then, there is the humongous tree! It stands 25 meters (82 feet) tall, its trunk is about 1.6 meters (over 5 feet) wide and it is estimated that the tree is around 300 years old. Now, if you don’t look closely, you will miss the coolest part about this whole place: the hidden guardian spirit inside a big crack in the trunk of the tree! There’s even a little platform to put offerings of coins next to the figure.
If you have a few spare minutes while you’re in Matsumoto, I hope you’ll come check out this special spot. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk from the station or Matsumoto Castle, but if you have a bicycle, it won’t take you long to get there. If you’re going to the Aeon Mall, it’s quite close to there, too. See a Google Map here.
FYI, if you’re interested, here are some Japanese language references/articles on Tsukiizumi Shrine with more photos: