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Your Sightseeing Guide to Visiting Matsumoto, Japan



Visiting Matsumoto Castle

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In many ways Matsumoto is a classic in-between Japanese destination. It’s certainly not among the most popular places to go in Japan, but thanks to its original castle, you will see its name pop up here and there. During my trip to Japan I knew I wanted to visit Matsumoto, both because I knew how special its castle is and because it fit perfectly on my route through the Chubu region.

Matsumoto is found in the Nagano prefecture and is probably the second most important city there after Nagano itself. International travellers frequently pass through Matsumoto when travelling through Chubu, thanks to its convenient location near regional highlights like Kamikochi and the Kiso Valley.

But only a fraction take time to briefly stop for a quick look. Maybe that’s because they don’t realise that Matsumoto Castle is just the start of things to do in Matsumoto. Allow a little time in Matsumoto and you’ll discover that it’s a really curious place. Yes, it’s light on the traditional elements you find somewhere like Kyoto or Takayama. But its variety of scenery, history, and culture kept me happily busy during my trip.


Matsumoto Castle

There’s no question that Matsumoto Castle is the main sightseeing attraction when you visit Matsumoto. After all, it’s one of the rare castles in Japan that has actually been preserved in its original form. Many castles in Japan today are simply reconstructions, as many castles were either destroyed due to war, fires, or because of reformations during the Meiji Period.

Looking at the castle from across its moat, it’s hard to believe that it has been preserved from the late 1500s/early 1600s, given how in good condition it is. Matsumoto Castle sits in rare company with the likes of Himeji Castle, which I also got to see on this trip.

Visiting the castle you’ll soon learn about other aspects of its design and history that make it so interesting. For instance, its distinctive black exterior earned it the nickname “Crow Castle” and Matsumoto Castle is unusual for having two keeps or donjons.

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Unlike some other castles in Japan, the grounds around the castle are relatively restrained. On them, you’ll mostly see outlines of former structures and residences. The main appeal is the tour inside the main keep, where you get to climb through its six floors. At the top floor you find the watchtower, featuring great views of the surrounding area.

In terms of museum exhibits, they’re mostly contained to the armoury on the 2nd floor. That said, there are information boards peppered throughout that speak to design elements of the castle, from holes for shooting arrows to the ornaments of mythical creatures that sat on the tower’s roof. Outside of the main keep you’ll find more information about the castle over by the Taikomon gate.


The Hazy Mountain Backdrop

Matsumoto Mountains

Nagano is known for its mountains and they’re clearly on display when you visit Matsumoto. You can see them from street level, but viewpoints like at the castle and Shiroyama Park make it easier. What’s a shame is the haze that seems to cling to Matsumoto, as it causes that backdrop to fade. This was in spring, I imagine the scenery in winter is a sight to behold.

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Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Even though Matsumoto is an important regional hub, it doesn’t have too many big cultural institutions. What it does have though is the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, a museum that you’ll definitely remember. How often do you see huge polka dot plant sculptures outside a museum’s entrance?

The focus for the Matsumoto City Museum of Art is regional art, but the heart of its collection is the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. Kusama was born in Matsumoto and then moved to the US, with this exhibition showcasing some of her pieces and highlighting why she’s a leading figure in the contemporary art movement.

The pumpkin seen below is a classic example of her style and the sculpture is one of her best known pieces. It’s also the only one you’re allowed to photograph unfortunately. Her Infinity Mirror Room is another highlight, offering an overwhelming illusionary experience that you may have seen on social media. Do not miss this art museum during your Matsumoto visit.

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Shiroyama Park

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One attraction in Matsumoto that I don’t think gets enough attention is Shiroyama Park. Sometimes also called Joyama Park, this hilltop park northwest of the city centre has a really impressive viewpoint.

It’s worth mentioning that Shiroyama Park is quite removed from the main tourist area. To get there you can take the bus or walk out from the city centre, but both options will include the up hill walk through the nearby residential area.

The park itself is quite pretty, especially in spring with its trees in bloom, and you’ll also find a shrine there. But it’s the park’s observation tower that I’d say is the real draw for tourists. Climb on up and you’re treated to phenomenal views.

You can see all of Matsumoto’s city, including Matsumoto Castle, and how it fits within the landscape. On top of that, you get views away from the city along the Narai River and towards the mountains. It was also cool seeing birds of prey fly loops over head, clearly on the hunt for nearby critters.

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Local Shopping Streets

Visiting Matsumoto Japan

For the traditional side to Matsumoto beyond its castle, you’ll want to head to the city’s two shopping streets. That’s because these two streets are lined by historic buildings or kiosks that reflect a more old-fashioned way of life.

The two streets, Nakamachi Shopping Street and Nawate Shopping Street, couldn’t be more different. Nakamachi Shopping Street is the all-white street seen above, with restaurants and boutiques make use of its historic buildings.

As for Nawate Shopping Street, it features a row of traditional kiosks along the Metoba river. It was there I stopped for a taiyaki ice cream sandwich – an ice cream sandwich using the fish-shaped wafer known as taiyaki that are a common Japanese street food.

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The City’s Manhole Covers

Matsumoto Manhole Covers

While exploring Matsumoto, I highly recommend looking down as you go about your sightseeing. I say this because the city has taken to painting many of its manhole covers and its such a cute touch. The painted manhole covers all feature the pattern seen above, but I saw they come in different colours. It’s a small thing, but I often think that small touches like this really help build a destination’s personality.


Great Local Coffeeshops

Matsumoto Coffee

Often in Japanese cities the coffee scene is dominated by chains, both international and domestic. But it felt noticeably different in Matsumoto, with a lot more independent coffee shops and cafes about. During my time in the city, I found two places I quite enjoyed and for different reasons.

For exceptional coffee, Cafe Larch absolutely nailed it. You chose the beans you want and the coffee comes with a tasting notes card. I was on an iced coffee spree at this stage and it was some of the best coffee I had in Japan.

In terms of atmosphere, you have to experience Jun Kissa Abe. The coffee may be standard fare, but this cafe has a very quirky aesthetic. It almost gave me the feel of a lodge in the woods of Germany or something, with such a unusual mix of knickknacks and artwork. Sitting down here really felt like a central European coffeehouse, just with an over-the-top decor.

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Travel Tips for Visiting Matsumoto

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You should have a firm grasp now on what to see and do in Matsumoto. I will say though that two attractions that I missed were the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum and the Matsumoto City Alps Park. Keep those in mind in case they interest you.

The rest of my advice for visiting Matsumoto relates to getting there and where to stay in the city. Since it’s easier, let’s look at finding accommodation in Matsumoto first.

There are lots of hotels in the city centre, mostly around the train station area. This makes sense given how useful Matsumoto is as a transit hub, and its where I’d recommend you look. My stay at the Hotel Buena Vista was a nice treat for me as it was a chance to stay in a 4-star hotel. Accommodation in Matsumoto is cheaper than more popular Japanese cities, making this an appealing option.

As for how to get to Matsumoto, you have good options for both bus and train. I took the bus there from Takayama, but there are even direct buses from Tokyo if you want to head straight there. Train connections with Matsumoto follow the Nagano to Nagoya route that also passes through the Kiso Valley.

You can use your JR Pass or the Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass that covers the region for almost everything mentioned here, including the Takayama bus. The one exception is the trains to Nagano when travelling on that regional pass.


Do these things to do in Matsumoto make you interested in visiting the city during a trip to Japan? Have you had the chance to visit Matsumoto, and if so, what did you do there? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Anthony is the author of The Law of the Jungle, the first book in the Jungle Law series. He has an English degree from Brooklyn College &completed an MS in communications from Boston University.

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Cultural destinations

These Are The Top 7 Beach Destinations In 2024 According To Travel And Leisure



mallorca spain coastline

A comprehensive list of the top destinations for 2024 has been put together by the Travel and Leisure experts.

Numerous magazines have released their favorites for the upcoming year, and they all appear very different. While some are fully off the grid, others are popular hotspots.

In the end, you have to determine what interests you enough to plan a fantastic trip. Travel & Leisure divided up their best recommendations by category rather than covering all 50 locations.

Let’s examine the top 7 “beach vibes” for 2024 as listed by Travel & Leisure:
Florida’s Anna Maria Island
There are several locations in Florida that make for the perfect vacation, which is why the state continues to draw enormous numbers of visitors.

Miami and other major American beaches and cultural centers are located in this sunny state. However, a lot of people decide to take the ideal family vacation to Orlando.

Tampa is one place that gets overlooked despite having so many beautiful beaches close by. Travel and Leisure declares Anna Maria Island to be the greatest in Florida because of its friendly locals, breathtaking sunsets, and lack of skyscrapers that obstruct the view.

Your stay will be more enjoyable and accessible with new hotels and more flights to nearby Sarasota.
Italy’s Campania coast
This striking area is experiencing a hotel boom on some of the most picturesque coastline in the nation.

With four destinations to pick from for your European beach getaway—Amalfi, Positano, Capri, and Sorrento—Coastal Campania offers quadruple the pleasure.

Italy’s breathtaking beaches will wow you; many visitors associate the nation with ancient sites and excessive wine and pasta consumption.

You can still indulge in excessive amounts of delectable food and drink locally produced wine, but why not do it against the breathtaking backdrop of azure waters, undulating hills, and classic architecture?
There are several hotel alternatives available to travelers, ranging from luxurious accommodations with cliffside pools to intimate boutique styles.

Soon, American and Delta will begin offering direct service to the neighboring Naples.
There isn’t a single Costa Rican beach that Travel and Leisure recommended visiting in 2024. T and L essentially advise you to “just pick one” beach because they are all so lovely.

Any beach in Costa Rica is a good choice, however some are busier and more well-known than others.
While some may choose for more quiet spots to have a wonderful beach all to themselves, many small towns have a thriving surfing community that gets together to surf the waves.

Travelers adore visiting the land of pura vida, despite the fact that it is usually more expensive than nearby nations.

Travel & Leisure also adore it. Indeed, they have selected Costa Rica as the “Destination of the Year” for 2024. Whether traveling alone, with company, or on a family vacation, everyone will find their place in this stunning nation.

There are plenty of enjoyable excursions to discover the breathtaking beauty and culture of the country, and lodging options ranging from cozy hostels to opulent hotels are easily accessible.
Dominica  Over the past year, Dominica has been increasingly popular. Travel is on the rise, and more people are looking to discover bright new places to visit.

This Caribbean island features picture-perfect waterfalls, verdant jungles, and unspoiled beaches, making it a veritable paradise.

trekking enthusiasts should prepare their trekking shoes, as the breathtaking Waitukubuli National Trail spans more than 100 miles across the island.

More lodging facilities, including upscale establishments like InterContinental, are opening up. A major lure for tourists is sustainability, with charming eco-lodges.
Hawaii Island 🙠
We are all aware of the destruction Hawaii experienced earlier this year. After a wildfire decimated Maui, there has been debate in the travel industry over whether or not it is still safe to visit.

Travel and Leisure claims that Hawaii is prepared for tourists to return. Without requiring a passport, Hawaii offers one of the most unusual environments.

Stunning beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, and cliffside vistas are just a few of the main attractions for tourists.

Travelers are urged by the tourism sector to treat any island as if it were their own home and to be careful of their stay.
Mexico’s Los Cabos
With the cleanest beaches in all of Latin America, Los Cabos is among the most picturesque locations in Mexico.

“Is Cabo worth the price?” is the query that vacationers should be asking themselves. The top hotels, according to reports, are now charging an astounding $1000 a night on average!

With its boujee resorts, immaculate beaches, and exciting entertainment, Cabo is among the most opulent vacation spots that are accessible to most people.

In 2024, more opulent resorts are planned to open, and more flights are leaving from American airports.
Spain’s Mallorca
This gorgeous island in Spain is ideal for a romantic beach vacation. It is the location of the lovely city of Palma, which is overlooked in favor of Spain’s other major towns. Outside of the city are some of the most tranquil beaches the country has to offer, complete with dazzling waters, wide-open areas, and relaxed residents.

In between beach days, explore the amazing downtown streets for an abundance of tapas and mouthwatering wine. From boutique lodging to a Four Seasons resort, the quaint hotels will win your heart.

With United’s new direct route from Newark, getting to Mallorca is now easier than ever.

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Cultural destinations

These Are 5 Of The Top Destinations In Southeast Asia’s Cheapest Country



Aerial View Of A Beach Area In Nha Trang, Central Vietnam, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, sometimes abbreviated as SEA, is the ideal destination for backpackers.

Vietnam is a very diverse subcontinent where foreigners are welcomed and hyperinflated Western prices are not a regular concern. This year, its popularity has increased due to lax visitation laws and less bureaucratic tourist visa processes, but no nation has shown itself to be as fashionable as Vietnam.

This tropical treasure borders the turquoise East Sea and is considered the cheapest destination in the South East Asia region. With extremely low consumer costs and a devalued national currency that enhances the spending power of the typical Westerner, it’s your best choice for an off-the-beaten-path tropical holiday that won’t break the bank.

After spending a lot of time exploring Vietnam, we have selected the top five places to go this winter that are affordable and rich in culture:
Mui Ne
Mui Ne, a tranquil fishing hamlet in South Vietnam, is undoubtedly the most underappreciated coastal location in the nation since it offers culture and wellness all in one place.

It’s got an emerging development strip with new resorts opening every few months, including the delightful boutique hotel The Anam that we featured earlier this year, as well as pristine reserves, sand dunes, family-run eateries, and historic Cham towers that date back hundreds of years.

With nightly rates as low as $114 and a prime location near Mui Ne’s high street rather than in a far-off place away from the activity, The Anam is the perfect starting point for visitors wishing to explore the town and the larger province.

The area is well-known for its seafood, particularly its fish sauce, and there are several authentic restaurants outside the resort complex that serve Vietnamese specialties, like rice noodle soup and sea snails, for as little as $5.
As Hoi An
Hoi An, the crown jewel of Vietnam, is a superbly maintained medieval river port with dwellings that have a yellow tint, winding alleyways, and a history that dates back more than 2,000 years.

A reminder of the successive colonization periods and the multicultural nature of Hoi An, it is situated in Central Vietnam, halfway between the country’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Its eclectic architecture, influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and European styles, is evident throughout its bustling streets, which are home to medieval Sino pagodas, striking displays of colorful, brightly painted paper lanterns, a Japanese temple bridge that spans a picturesque canal, and several French-built civic structures that date back to the French Indochina period.

Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit location if you’re traveling from North to South Vietnam or the other way around. Like other Vietnamese hotspots, it fits your budget—a three-day stay typically costs about $50, not including lodging.

Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and the political and cultural center of the former capitalist state of South Vietnam. Despite no longer serving as the country’s capital, it is still known by this name.

Still the most Westernized and outward-looking city in the nation, HCMC has changed with the times thanks to the support of a strong expat population, making it one of the top investment and business destinations in Southeast Asia.

HCMC, home to 8.4 million people, is a popular destination for digital nomads and young entrepreneurs. With its impressive French colonial architecture, war museums, and exciting nightlife, it’s a vibrant city that visitors shouldn’t miss when exploring Vietnam.

Cu Chi Tunnels, used by Viet combatants during the War, the Independence Palace, the former South Vietnam Government’s headquarters, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a French Neo-Gothic structure, are just a few of the city’s top attractions.

When compared to other major cities in the subcontinent, HCMC is surprisingly affordable. Budget tourists could anticipate to pay a meager $30 per day, not including lodging.
Ha Trang
With over 500,000 residents, Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s largest cities and the nation’s go-to sunny spot. Holidaymakers tend to flock there during the peak travel season, which runs from November to February when less precipitation is recorded.

Nha Trang is the new favorite digital nomad destination in Southeast Asia. It is another well-liked beach resort and bustling coastal metropolis lining the East Sea, where tall hotel towers and skyscrapers are bounded by a long stretch of white sand.

Not so well-known Nha Trang is fast rising to prominence as one of Southeast Asia’s most sought-after options for a seaside city break, thanks to its array of opulent hotels surrounding the shoreline and its abundance of top-notch restaurants serving traditional seafood from Central Vietnam.

In general, visitors should budget only $41 a day on average in Nha Trang, plus an extra $27 per night for lodging.

In addition to the stunning beaches and commercial malls, tourists may fully immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture by visiting the nearby Po Nagar ruins, an old temple that was established as early as the eighth century by the now-extinct Cham civilization.

A discussion of Vietnam’s most interesting travel locations would be incomplete without discussing Hanoi, which served as the country’s capital after the Reunification War and is now regarded as the country’s second-most important commercial and cultural hub after Ho Chi Minh City in the South.

The main draws of Hanoi are its broad, green boulevards in the European style and its greater degree of social development in comparison to other less developed areas of Vietnam:

Being the government’s capital and a major financial center, it has greater infrastructure than the typical Vietnamese city and is much cleaner, with less hectic traffic.

Not only is Hanoi a popular destination because of this, but visitors also enjoy it because of its high concentration of historic temples, French colonial landmarks, and large, open green spaces that offer a brief respite from the fast-paced city life.

Furthermore, because Hanoi has connections to off-beaten routes in North Vietnam, travelers frequently use it as a base for exploring the region’s wild nature, which includes stunning mountain ranges, the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay, and golden rice fields.

With an average daily cost of $50 for tourists, Hanoi is undoubtedly the most costly option out of the five; yet, even by Western standards, it is extremely affordable and definitely less expensive than other Asian metropolises like Singapore or Hong Kong.

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam soon? Find out more about this Southeast Asian treasure and some of the guidelines for visiting.

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These 5 U.S. Airlines Are Most Likely To Experience Flight Delays Right Now



Woman Waiting at Airport

The holidays are quickly approaching, resulting in some of the busiest travel weeks of the year. Flight delays are typical this time of year, particularly around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Flying may be a stressful experience in and of itself, but delays can make it even more so.

Booking with an airline that has a high proportion of on-time flights and booking a ticket early in the morning are two of the greatest strategies to avoid flight delays.

According to recent statistics from UpgradedPoints, the following airlines in the United States are most likely to face flight delays right now.

1. Frontier Airlines.

Frontier Airlines is currently the worst airline for flight delays. This low-cost carrier’s flights have a 31.9% risk of being delayed.

Rather of taking a chance and risking a one-in-three possibility of your flight being delayed, it’s best to select a more dependable airline for flights this winter.

Frontier is also dealing with other concerns, including as a class-action lawsuit against the airline’s $599 “unlimited flight” pass, which was introduced earlier this year.

2. Southwest Airlines

Last year, just around Christmas, Southwest Airlines experienced a catastrophic meltdown, resulting in thousands of flight delays and cancellations.

Many tourists questioned if booking with Southwest was safe in light of the complete breakdown of operations. While Southwest is likely to strive extra hard to avoid a similar disaster this winter, you may not want to take any chances.

Furthermore, according to historical statistics, Southwest flights have a 31.8% risk of being delayed, making the airline nearly as unreliable as Frontier.

3. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue is another untrustworthy airline with a significant likelihood of flight delays. When it comes to on-time flights, this New York-based carrier does not have the finest track record.

Although not as awful as Frontier or Southwest, going on JetBlue still means you have a staggering 30.8% probability of experiencing flight delays.

4. Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Air is the next carrier on the list of possible delays. This low-cost airline is not very dependable, so although you may save money by booking your ticket, you may also face unexpected delays.

Allegiant Air flights are delayed 29.2% of the time.

5. Spirit Airlines

Finally, there is Spirit Airlines. Although this low-cost carrier is the brunt of many jokes for being a less-than-ideal mode of transportation, it isn’t as awful as some other US airlines when it comes to delays.

When flying with Spirit, there is a 28.1% risk of a flight delay.

Which Airlines Experience the Fewest Delays?

Now that you know which airlines are most likely to have flight delays right now (and which to avoid! ), here are the airlines with the fewest delays.

Although ultra-low tickets with airlines such as Frontier or Spirit may entice you, it may be worth the additional money to book with a more dependable airline.

The top three airlines with the fewest delays right now are:

  • Alaska Airlines has a 20.3% probability of being delayed.
  • Delta Air Lines has a 19.1% probability of being delayed.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has a 15.6% probability of being delayed.

Flights can be delayed for a variety of reasons, including aircraft faults, personnel concerns, weather, and other factors, but these three airlines have the fewest delays.

There is no foolproof technique to avoid flight delays (as lovely as that would be! ), but you may read this article for further advice on how to avoid the dreaded delay or cancellation.

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