East of Matsumoto Castle, over on the far side of City Hall, part of the castle’s outer moat still remains. That moat used to run south to Nawate-dori then west toward Ote-mon, the main gateway to the san-no-maru, the buffer zone of samurai residences surrounding the inner castle gardens. That’s a lot of moat to dig – and a lot of dirt to have to put somewhere.
Thanks to the enduring identity of one east-lying neighborhood, we know where some of that dirt went.
The area south of that remaining stretch of moat is called Agetsuchi-machi, a name meaning ‘to put or pile dirt’. There is no evidence of dirt ever being piled here, but despite its flatness the neighborhood does have its charms. Take a quick walk and you’ll see.
It is a quick walk, too. From the east end of Nawate-dori (aka Frog Street), where most people take a look around and go back the way they came, turn left instead. In just a minute you’ll be hitting the streets of Agetsuchi-machi.
At one time this was a bustling entertainment district, bringing in the spillover crowds from Nawate-dori and Yohashira Shrine. The theaters that once offered amusement are now gone, but a plethora of shops and restaurants remain…
…along with a sprinkling of bakeries and Japanese sake shops and other surprises.
The architecture, as you’ll see, is a mix of Japanese and Western, as are the establishments that occupy them. Hours of operation across these places may vary considerably, along with the chances anyone inside will speak any English. But even if you never step inside, the old-time face of the neighborhood is enough to make a walk around Agetsuchi-machi a pleasant diversion.
Meandering for a while, you may even find yourself heading back to the castle, or around to Yohashira Shrine, or back out into the intimacy of Nawate-dori. Duck down the alley next to the Masamura pastry shop (remember that picture up there?) and you’ll find yourself winding along a quiet back street that, almost miraculously, leads you right back to the bustle of Frog Street – and the people who, sadly, don’t know about the former place of dirt piles that you just enjoyed.