Just a three-hour drive from Shinjuku, on the Keio Line Bus route to Nagano, is Matsumoto – the sister-city to Utah’s Salt Lake City and one of the best places to try basashi (raw horse meat).
The city itself is located on an open plain in the Japanese Alps, just over half an hour from the historic watermills at the nation’s largest wasabi farm (Daio, at Azumino), where Akira Kurosawa in fact shot part of his epic movie about his own fitful Dreams (1990).
But the standout here is Matsumoto Castle - actually a genuine (take that, Odawara faux fort!), gorgeous and immaculately maintained building that dates back to the Sengoku (Warring States) era, prior to the 17th century.
Locally dubbed 'Karasu-Jo' (Crow Castle) because of its somewhat sinister black lines and proclaimed as a National Treasure of Japan in 1952 (one of only four castles in this country to receive the honour), it boasts a cleverly hidden floor, samurai armour displays, loads of weapons, documents, and an awesome view of the surrounding countryside.
Which, I guess, is one of the essential features in the design stages of all strongholds everywhere...