Matsumoto may be in the middle of the mountains in the middle of landlocked Nagano, but when the summer heat descends there’s a great watery escape right here in town, up and down the Susukigawa River.
The Susukigawa originates in the mountains to the east, running clear and cold down the valley and into the Tagawa River, a little south of Matsumoto Station. Along the way it serves as the centerpiece to the Susukigawa Ryokuchi, the best (and longest) little-known park around.
Throughout the summer Susukigawa Ryokuchi Park (薄川緑地公園) plays host to families with little kids exploring the shallow parts, bigger kids splashing around, and lots of adult kids barbequing and dealing in their own brand of fun. If you are in town during the heat of the summer, a little time at the river amounts to a cool diversion – and an added glimpse into the life of the Matsumoto locals.
The park runs east from the Tsukama-bashi Bridge, directly south of the entrance to Agata-no-mori Park, and lines the river on both sides for about a mile. Along the way there are numerous places to get from the road above to the grassy park below, and from the grass to the river via cement steps that lead straight into the water. The south bank boasts a wide sidewalk while there is a dedicated pedestrian/bike path running along most of the northern side. Walking or biking, you really can’t go wrong.
Even if you are not in town during the hottest months of the year, a walk or a bike ride along the Susukigawa makes for an alluring side trip. In Spring cherry blossoms line both banks. In Autumn the colors of the mountains are spectacular. Winter is appealing too, when the land is blanketed in white.
Most of the time the Susukigawa runs calm enough for a safe and easy dip. After a spell of heavy rain, however, the water turns fast and deep and dangerous.
Japan has no shortage of rivers. But opportunities to jump in can seem few and far between. Lucky for those of us who find ourselves in Matsumoto, there’s a perfect spot right up the road.