Around the castle and all over downtown the cherry blossoms are dropping their petals fast! But there’s a remedy for the late-comers: Head for the hills!
In the southeast corner of central Matsumoto sits Kobo-yama, the understated hill that in mid-April explodes in white and pink. There’s actually more to Kobo than just flowers, starting with the trailhead on the northern slope.
Say hello to Kotaro Izumi, the legendary human child of two dragons. It is said that Kotaro’s mother was so ashamed of her appearance that she hid beneath the surface of the ponds formed by the waters flowing down from the mountains surrounding Matsumoto. Spunky Kotaro, apparently unsatisfied with such an existence, jumped on the back of a rhino dragon and smashed through the massive rocks of the ponds, releasing the waters, allowing them to flow north to the Sea of Japan.
Right behind Kotaro and his dragon you’ll find a path winding toward the top of Kobo, an easy few minutes’ walk up through the floral celebration of the season. There are a few different ways to go – take your pick, you really can’t go wrong.
If you can, take an extra few minutes and stay to your left going up. This will take you to the path leading from the parking area up to the top. This will allow you to walk through a virtual tunnel of blossoms while your anticipation of reaching the top inevitable grows.
The final quick stretch to the top of Kobo is marked by a log and dirt staircase. That sensation you feel is your heart racing.
And here at the top of Kobo is your reward for making the trip.
For good and obvious reason Kobo can be a popular place when the trees have blossomed. Combined with glimpses of the town and the land below, along with the views of the mountains in the distance, Kobo’s photogenic aura is scarcely paralleled.
Naturally, Kobo’s beauty draws a crowd. Even at 6am you’ll find a handful of people angling for that perfect shot. But don’t let that deter you. There’s plenty of opportunity to come away with your fair share of Instagram-worthy photos. Do try to go in the earlier part of the day though, as the sun tends to turn those mountains hazy as the afternoon inches along.
By the way, notice those rocks roped off there on the flat top of Kobo? They’ve been sitting like that for a while. The entire top of this little mountain is actually a 3rd Century burial mound. There are a bunch of them in the area, but Kobo’s wins the awards for both main actor and supporting cast.
While the view from the top of Kobo can keep one captivated for hours, the view from below is worth taking in as well.
Walking down the pathways on Kobo’s western face offer another chance to immerse yourself in a forest of flowers, where there is also ample opportunity to enjoy a little O-hanami.
At the bottom you may find yourself walking through the vermillion gates of modest Shōichii-inaridaimyōjin shrine. ‘Shōichii’ translates (roughly) as ‘positive first place’ and an ‘Inaridaimyōjin’ is a demon who eats human hearts. But have no fear; there have been no reports of demon attacks in several weeks.
Kobo-yama stands a good 45-minute walk from the castle or the train station. Your best bet for getting there, if you aren’t up for the walk, is to rent a bicycle – for free, at the bicycle parking lot in front of the train station, at Matsumoto Castle near the main entryway and several other locations around town. (Inquire at the Visitor Center right outside the train station gates.)