Flea Market at the former Castle Gate: Just Another Day in Downtown Matsumoto

Mon, May 16, 2022
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This Saturday I did what I always do when I have a bit of free time. I hopped on my bicycle rolled into town to see what was going on.

As the weather turns warm things start happening with more frequency. There are planned events, at Shinmai Media Garden or in front of the train station or at the Kurassik-kan on Nakamachi-dori. Other times it’s a random gathering of people down along the river, around the castle, or among the shops and cafes of Frog Street.

This Saturday I found a flea market, taking place on a subtly historic plot of ground.

 

What I love about flea markets is…well there are a lot of things I love about flea markets. You never know what you’re going to find, even if you go to the same flea market again and again. That seems to be the nature of flea markets; no two are ever the same. More than this, they offer a glimpse into the underlying, often unseen nature of the life that people lead. Where does some of this stuff even come from? And how does it end up here? I love it.

 

 

 

The flea market this Saturday – and Sunday, according to the easy-to-miss paper schedule behind the waist-high plexiglass display along the sidewalk – was held, as it normally is, in the Matsumoto-jo Ote-mon Masu-gata-ato Hiroba. A real mouthful, I know. But worth understanding.

Back when Matsumoto Castle stood in all its expansive glory its southern walls reached almost to the Metoba River. Notice how, on the north side of the Sensaibashi Bridge over the Metoba, the road curves right then left. This is a vestige of the Ote-mon Gate, the square “masu-gata” shaped passage over the outer moat and into the Matsumoto Castle samurai district.

The square Ote-mon (大手門), lower left, is now a park – and is still all dirt.

 

The road to the castle today follows the line of the old masu-gata gateway.

 

This flea market, then, takes place on what was once a heavily-guarded piece of land. I’d say it’s much more welcoming now.

 

 

 

 

 

More than just a square of land with a story, this spot sits right alongside the grounds of Yohashira Shrine and the shops and cafes of Frog Street. Meanwhile the castle is a five-minute walk away. Even if you don’t mean to, you’ll probably find yourself walking right by whatever might be happening down there at the Hiroba.

But again, stuff goes on all over town. So if you’re looking for that random event, or that random flea market find, check in with the folks at the visitor center in the train station, or on your way to the castle, and see what’s going on, on any given day, in downtown Matsumoto.