Some 50km southwest of Nagano across the Hijiri Kōgen mountains is MATSUMOTO (松本), gateway to the Japan Alps. This attractive city, Nagano-ken’s second largest, is famous for its splendid castle, Matsumoto-jō, and Nakamachi, an area of traditional white-walled houses, several of which have been renovated into ryokan, cafés and craft shops. Art lovers can enjoy traditional prints at the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum and the contemporary work of native-child Yayoi Kusama at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

Matsumoto also has a reputation as a centre for classical music. It was here that Dr Suzuki Shin’ichi, an internationally famous music teacher, encouraged children to learn to play instruments by using their natural gift for mimicry. His “Suzuki Method” is taught in the town’s Suzuki Shin’ichi Talent Education Hall, around 1km east of Matsumoto Station. The Saitō Kinen is a major classical music festival held from mid-August to early September in memory of another local talent, Saitō Hideo, celebrated conductor and mentor to many famous musicians, including the festival’s director, conductor Seiji Ozawa.

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