Reasons to Watch Your Step in Matsumoto

Wed, Jan 20, 2021

There are as many theories why people look down when they walk as there are…people who look down when they walk. Whatever the reason (or reasons), it seems an undeniable fact that we humans spend a lot of time checking out the terrain passing beneath our toes.

Walking around Matsumoto, it’s easy to believe the city planners know all about this heads-down habit of ours.

“Stop” says cute little Matsumoto mascot Alpu-chan so you don’t walk head down into traffic.

At the bottom of the down escalator on the main (east) side of Matsumoto Station, embedded in the stone of the plaza, is a “Welcome to Matsumoto” sign. Sure, the same message is spelled out overhead, but what visitor to town, luggage in tow, is doing any sightseeing from a moving set of stairs? They’re all watching that metal slab at the bottom swallowing those moving stairs to make sure it doesn’t also eat their suitcase and their shoes.

This “Welcome” was thus craftily placed on the ground, to offer a touch of warm hospitality to all those watching their suitcase wheels and shoelaces – and, ostensibly, for those who aren’t and fall flat on their faces.

“Welcome to Matsumoto” (and keep it moving, there are people behind you).

As you stroll around town you’ll likely see the occasional sign in the middle of the street, pointing toward Frog Street or the castle…

…or the mildly intriguing Well of Genchi down understated Takasago-dori.

What the sign makers and city planners seem to have forgotten is that those of us who need a little time to decipher it all end up standing in the middle of the street with our backs to the oncoming cars.

Though for many of the sights underfoot there’s no thinking required. There are cool manhole covers celebrating Matsumoto Yamaga, the local soccer (ahem, football) club. Some are decorated with the team logo…

…while others feature Gans the Ptarmigan, the mascot of the team.

There are indicators all over town telling you where you can park your bike…

…and where you can’t.

There are also plenty of markings showing the bike lanes that criss-cross downtown.

Just watch out for the pedestrians who manage not to notice them.

There are signs on the floor pointing toward the bus terminal, in case you miss the ten-meter-high “Matsumoto Bus Terminal” painted on the facade of the building.

And nearby, more floor-level signs for those who don’t notice the ones right in front of their faces.

Some things should go without saying but are said anyway…

…while special requests get taped out, to serve as friendly safety reminders in these coronavirus times. (Look down for the pedal to spray your hands.)

Even at the mall, where stores are vying for your attention, there are distractions underfoot.

Meanwhile the walkway at Agata-no-mori Park sits stained with reminders of the dangers that lurk overhead.

So once you are safely off the train station escalator, exploring the streets of town, take note of all the love our city planners have shown. At the same time, don’t forget to look up once in a while. You never know when you might spot a massive sprig of wasabi.

Happy Walking!