Matsumoto celebrates its city anniversary on May 1st of every year by opening all the city museums to visitors free of cost – the perfect chance to go explore a few places in the city. I chose to check out the Matsumoto City Museum, which is right next to Matsumoto Castle. Here you can get your fill of samurai equipment, ancient pottery, Matsumoto history through the years and Matsumoto local culture.
Following the suggested viewing route, I started off learning about Matsumoto in the ancient days long before the samurai with shattered-and -reconstructed pieces of Jomon pottery and primitive arrowheads and stone tools. And despite being what seemed like a collection of simple wooden logs, the Edo-era wooden plumbing display was very interesting. Can you imagine that you can build an entire plumbing and water system using carved out wooden pipes and wooden joints?
The next section of the museum featured all kinds of information, displays and artifacts from Matsumoto Castle, the castle lords and the samurais including beautiful decorative tiles of the castle roof, samurai weapons and training equipment, items used by the castle lords and giant, old hand-drawn maps of the castle and surrounding town. There were also some more “everyday” artifacts used by commoners and merchants, as well as one of my favorites, the big wooden “water guns” used to put out fires.
The next area featured items from more recent times including wartime Japan and retroesque artifacts from the Showa period. After that you get to learn about some of the neat local festivals that started hundreds of years ago and still go on in Matsumoto.
The Matsumoto City Museum also holds special exhibitions, and luckily for me, I came during the samurai sword exhibition featuring swords and blades made in the different sword-making regions of Japan. If you’re at all interested in samurai weapons, the exhibition lasts another month until June 4th. You’ll learn some interesting facts like part of the sword hilts are made out of shark skin and that swords had special rain covers to protect them from getting wet (which makes sense but I would have never thought of it!).
Anyways, if you’re going to see Matsumoto Castle, the museum is a great complementary stop that’ll let you see amazing artifacts and learn more about the city.
Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry at 4:30)
During Golden Week season (Apr. 29th – May 7th) this year: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (last entry at 5:30)