A thirty-minute train ride north of Matsumoto lies the quiet country town of Hotaka (穂高), well known for its production of wasabi, the fiery green horseradish that, made into a paste, accompanies sushi and sashimi. The enjoyably touristy Dai-ō Wasabi Farm (大王わさび農場; daily 9am–5pm; free), one of the largest such in Japan, is about 2km from the station. The vast fields of wasabi growing in wide, waterlogged gravel trenches make an impressive sight. Within the landscaped grounds you can sample wasabi in all manner of foods, including ice cream, which is surprisingly tasty.
Closer to the station is the serene Rokuzan Art Museum (碌山美術館; Tues–Sun 9am–5pm; ¥500), comprising an ivy-covered, church-like building and a couple of modern galleries. The museum houses the sculptures of Ogiwara Rokuzan, known in Japan as the “Rodin of the Orient”, whose career was cut short with his death at 32 in 1910.
The best way to explore this tranquil area is to pick up a map from the tourist information office at the station and rent a bicycle from one of the many outlets around here. Keep an eye open along the country roads for the charming dōsojin, small stones on which guardian deity couples have been carved.