Japan // Central Honshu //

Art and craft museums

The city centre’s other main attraction is Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館). Outside are Yayoi Kusama’s The Visionary Flowers – giant technicolour tulips crossed with triffids. There’s a fascinating gallery inside devoted to this famous contemporary artist, who was born in Matsumoto, as well as ones for the calligrapher Shinzan Kamijyo and the landscape artist Tamura Kazuo. Also look out for Yayoi’s polka-dotted take on a vending machine outside the gallery. The museum is about 1km directly east of the JR station along Ekimae-dōri, just past the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre, a striking building designed by Ito Toyo that is worth a peep inside.

Some 3km west of the station, the forlorn Japan Ukiyo-e Museum (日本浮世絵美術館) has woodblock prints by all the great masters including Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. Only a fraction of the museum’s splendid collection of 100,000 prints is ever on display and it’s likely that the amiable curator will give you a personally narrated slide show. The closest station, a fifteen-minute walk south of the museum, is Ōniwa on the Matsumoto– Dentetsu line; or catch a taxi here for around ¥1500 from the town centre.

If you’ve an interest in Japanese folk crafts, head to the worthwhile Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum (松本民芸館=), a fifteen-minute bus ride out of the city towards Utsukushigahara Onsen – get off the bus at Shimoganai Mingeikanguchi. Set in a traditional-style building, the museum contains some exquisite objects, including giant pottery urns, lacquerware inlaid with mother of pearl, and wooden chests. If you’re here for the last weekend in May, it’s worth checking out the Crafts Fair Matsumoto) in Agatanomori-kōen, a twenty-minute walk east of the JR station.

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