The place where Japanese natural beauty, the world of polka dots and wasabi ice-cream including beer are found

We reached our next destination, Matsumoto in the late afternoon. The city is most famous for its castle and it is a base for excursions to the rural side or to the high mountains.  There are lots to see and do in the region. We stayed in the city for two nights.

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The Matsumoto Castle before the night lights

The Castle

After check in our hotel, some of us went to see the castle light up for the evening.  The castle is said to be Japan’s most beautiful.  It has a distinctive black paneling on the wall that is not seen with other castles in Japan.  The castle sat on a flat ground with a moat around it.  The lights shined on it from different corners.  It enhanced its appearance, making it appear like strong and proud.  Several swans could be seen paddling in the water around the moat of the castle.  It was spectacular.

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Just arrived at the Daio Wasabi Farm

The Wasabi Farm

The next day we head out on a local train and taxi cab to the Daio Wasabi Farm, one of Japan’s largest wasabi farms in a rural area outside of Matsumoto City and near the Japanese Alps. The farm has many fields with wasabi plants in small streams of clean flowing water from the alps. We learned that wasabi will only grow on very clean water. On the farm, there’s a shrine dedicated to an ancient local hero that is the protector of the farm.   Some watermills, creeks, and streams that sparkled, leisure walking trails, art sculptures and a cave are found on the farm, too. The farm is beautiful if not interesting. We were lucky that our day was sunny.  We had a pleasant walk on the trails among the wasabi fields.

Last but not least as many visitors and bloggers have said, the farm ground has many shops and restaurants that sell wasabi foods such as: fresh wasabi, wasabi paste, marinated wasabi pickles, wasabi crackers or chips, wasabi noodles, wasabi sausages, wasabi dressing, wasabi juice, wasabi chocolate, wasabi soft cream and wasabi beer. We tried wasabi ice-cream and beer and thought the products pretty good. Other goods such as kitchen utensils for cooking with wasabi and towels printed or embroidered with the wasabi root are found for sale at the shops. Our group bought some wasabi foods and goods to bring back home for family and friends.

After a few hours on the farm, we returned back to Matsumoto for the city’s museum of art.  We are to see Yayoi Kusama, a well knew Japanese pop artist’s work. Her signature motif is the red polka dots. Additionally, Kusama was born and raised in Matsumoto. She has an interesting childhood experience. The museum openly talks about her upbringing and life experience.  She’s a person with a disability and has an amazing background.  She and her artwork are known around the world.  At the Kusama’s exhibitions, we walked into a world of polka dots. We saw the famous pumpkin and other works.  We wished for pictures inside the museum but were not allowed.  But outside there were dotted flower sculptures, benches, trash cans and a soda machine.  We could make photos there.

Following the museum we walked to the Nakamachi Street. The street is lined with old merchant houses reminiscent of a bygone Japan.  There we walked down the street and window-shopped.  We saw many antique and handmade craft shops along the way. We also made a last stop at the beautiful castle for those of us who had not seen it on the day of arrival.  Checking the castle off our list, we headed back to the hotel to meet a group of Deaf people for our dinner event.

At dinner, we enjoyed our foods of a kind of Asian-western mix and a social with Deaf locals. We learned about their Deaf lives and the Deaf community in this mountainous region. The people whom we met were truly strong Deaf members of the Japanese Deaf community. They’ve overcome a lot of obstacles that Deaf in larger Japanese cities rarely experienced. In fact, we learned that there is a Deaf woman who is a political working for the Matsumoto government. Upon learning this, it was exactly what we meant by strong Deaf community.

The next morning we took a local express train for Jigokudani Yaenkoen the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano. (next blog post will talk about the Monkey Park and our adventures there)