Matsumoto stands at a major crossroads in the heart of Chubu, in a valley at an altitude of 592m surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Japan Alps. Its appeal is immediate, thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, refined culture and charming streets. The city developed as a fortified town in the 16C, around its castle , which boasts the oldest wooden keep in Japan. The former trading district of Nakamachi has retained rows of fine Edo-era warehouses. The contrast with the modern architecture of the Matsumoto Art Museum and the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum on the outskirts of the city is striking.