Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yohashira Shrine and the Delicious Shops in Nawate Street

If you are walking towards Matsumoto Castle from Matsumoto Station, you might walk past one of Matsumoto’s most revered shrines, Yohashira Shrine (四柱神社). But before you reach the shrine, you will see some frog monuments on Nawate Street (繩手通り)!

The frog statues are placed at the start of the shopping street, so the spirits of the frog colony that used to call the street home continue to “live” on. As you walk down the street, you might find yourself lost in the souvenir shops selling various interesting items that you just want to take home. Furthermore, your stomach might start growling with the pleasant smell coming from the street food stalls and cafes!

But first things first, let’s head to the Yohashira Shrine, which has four virtuous gods, including the goddess of the sun (Amaterasu Ōmikami, 天照大神) in Japanese mythology, enshrined here (which is why the shrine was named Yohashira).

Yohashira Shrine (四柱神社)

Taking a stroll at Yohashira Shrine, you might notice that many couples surround you. Because of the enshrined gods, Yohashira Shrine is a popular place to pray for a smooth relationship and hold wedding ceremonies.

Yohashira Shrine was erected in 1874 as a part of the Meiji government’s policy to promote the patriotic thought of respecting the emperor. The four gods enshrined here are said to have the power of life, connection, and creation. Thus, most pilgrims make relationship-related prayers here.

Moreover, the friendly pigeons that always visit the shrine for free feed are welcomed. In Japan, pigeons are believed to bring happiness to those they visit.

Because of those pigeons, an unusual thing is attached to the dark-color torii gate; bird spikes. As much as pigeons’ visits are appreciated, the shrine certainly doesn’t want their white dung covering the sacred torii gate (´▽`*).

Ⓒ 松本市

For a good time of day to visit Yohashira Shrine, apart from the early morning when there aren’t too many people, we recommend you cross the stone bridge, called Miyuki Bridge, at 3:30 pm.

Why? Because that was the time when Emperor Meiji crossed this bridge in 1880 when he visited the Shinano region. The bridge was only completed in the morning on the day of the emperor’s visit and had the emperor as the first visitor to cross it!

You will also find Matsumoto’s first electric street light on one side of the worship hall.

Yohashira Shrine’s Purification Power

Yohashira Shrine is also known for its mighty purification power. If you are troubled with complex issues that you just can’t sort out in your head, come to Yohashira Shrine! The spiritual power of the shrine has helped many people clear their minds, enabling them to see things from a holistic perspective and therefore make better decisions.

Fall Foliage Season at Yohashira Shrine

The fall foliage season starts in late October and peaks from early to mid-November.

Yohashira Shrine’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The shrine is accessible 24/7, but the shrine office is only open from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
  • It is a 10-minute walk from JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅).

Nawate Street (繩手通り)


Nawate Street, or Nawate Dōri in Japanese, is a shopping street with a vibe of the Showa period (1926 – 1989) that thrived as Yohashira Shrine’s approach. If you are feeling tired from all the exploration you have done during the day, taking a brief rest on the benches and listening to the sound of water at the Metoba River (女鳥羽川) can be a great idea!

The name of the street came from how people describe the river bank. The long river bank of the Metoba River is so long that people described it as “a long bank like a rope (Nawa no Yō na Nagai Dote, 縄のように長い土手)”. Shortening this sentence, the street was named Nawate.

A range of shops lines the sides of Nawate Street, including antiques, penny candy, handicrafts, trendy cafes, and our favorite, street food! Below is a list of shops that might interest you.

Nawate Street, The Paradise for Frog Lovers

Nawate Street also has a nickname, Frog Street. As you stroll through the street, you will wonder why so many frog figures are placed on the street. There are even shops specializing in merchandise with frog images. It seems like frogs are such a big thing to the street that there is even a Frog God enshrined!

Frogs became the mascot of Nawate Street because of the Metoba River, where a large Kajika frog (河鹿蛙) colony used to call it home. The river was once so polluted that the entire frog population was wiped out. Realizing the environmental impact of the pollution, the locals took various actions in 1972 to make the river clean again.

Frogs (Kaeru, かえる) also have another meaning to the Japanese. With it pronounced the same way as coming back, the owners of the shops wish to bring back the customers that have been lost with a change in shopping habits.


Each summer, the Matsumoto Frog Festival (松本かえるまつり) is held that sees many frog fans across the country gather at Nawate Street.

Yazawa Taiyaki Shop (矢澤鯛焼店)

If you have done some walking and feel like some snacks, stop by the Yazawa Taiyaki Shop on Nawate Street (縄手通り)!

Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped cake. In addition to the normal sweet red bean paste, the shop also has seasonal flavors (such as lemon-flavored bean paste in summer) and rare menu items such as miso and Osaka’s okonomiyaki pancake!

Another unique thing that we love about the shop is that they sell Taiyaki “ears” (´▽`*). Similar to toast, because of how the cake is made, one will inevitably produce some crispy pancake skin with each batch of Taiyaki. Instead of throwing the ears away, the shop collects them and sells them to customers to minimize food waste and increase profit.

As for customers, some enjoy the crispness of the ears while others eat them with the overflowing filling from the Taiyaki they bought.

Yazawa Taiyaki Shop’s Business Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Yazawa Taiyaki Shop is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
  • It is just a one-minute walk from Yohashira Shrine.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is a 10-minute walk.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Bakery Cafe Sweet (スイート 縄手本店)

Also located very close to Yohashira Shrine is the Bakery Cafe Sweet, perfect for brunch, lunch, or afternoon tea.

The bakery was the first shop to sell French Bread in Nagano Prefecture. The surprising fact about the bakery is its original location. When it was first opened in 1913, the bakery was opened in Seattle in the U.S. instead of Japan! The bakery was only relocated to Japan in 1924 when the owner, Watanabe Sōshichirō (渡辺宗七郎), returned home after the Great Kantō Earthquake (関東大震災).

Probably because of a couple of years spent in the U.S. by the owner, the cafe’s interior is decorated in an elegant Western style with many items of antique-looking furniture.

Of course, the taste of the bread is the most important thing for a bakery. And Bakery Cafe Sweet’s products are just delicious! With a variety of choices on the shelf, you will surely be able to find bread that makes your mouth water.

One thing to note is some of the bread contains seafood or meat. So if you have anything you can’t or don’t eat, please use the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to check with the staff before purchasing. If you don’t eat eggs, please skip the items that are marked with the word “卵”.

Bakery Cafe Sweet’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The cafe is open from
    • 10 am to 5 pm from Tuesday to Friday
    • 8 am to 4 pm on weekends and public holidays
    • The last order is taken 30 minutes before the cafe closes.
    • Bakery Cafe Sweet is closed from the 31st of December to the 2nd of January.
  • From Yohashira Shrine, it is just a one-minute walk.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is around a 10-minute walk.
  • From Matsumoto Castle, it is around a 5-minute walk.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Hand-baked Rice Cracker Raijindō (手焼きせんべい 雷神堂)

If you have been to other famous destinations in Japan, such as Kamakura, you might have encountered Raijindō already. When you visit Matsumoto, how about checking out the rice crackers that are only sold at the Matsumoto Shop?

Speaking of Nagano Prefecture, another well-known specialty is miso. So in Raijindō Nawate Shop, many of its products are flavored with locally made miso paste. And when we say many, it doesn’t mean they are all the same flavor. You will find rice crackers baked with more than 30 different miso pastes!

One special product across all Raijindō is Nurekari (ぬれかり). The baked crackers are cracked and soaked into a different type of soy sauce, creating a unique taste with the center and the surface of the crackers tasting differently.

If you happen to be a bit hungry, the best option is the freshly baked rice crackers. The nice smell of the rice cracker and soy sauce is enhanced by the heat from the charcoal fire, making the entire eating experience incomparable to the pre-made ones.

According to the shop, the ingredients are the secret to the perfect rice cracker. With the crackers made from premium rice harvested from the rice paddies in Yamagata Prefecture and a high-grade soy sauce, Raijindō’s rice crackers are just crispier and more delicious than the cheap Senbei (rice crackers in Japanese) sold in supermarkets.

Raijindō Nawate Shop’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The Nawate Street Shop is open from 9 am to 7 pm.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is around a 10-minute walk.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Japanese Knick-knacks Shop Warai (和のセレクトショップ 和来)

One of the best shops for souvenirs on Nawate Street, especially for females, is the Japanese Knick-knacks Shop Warai.

The shop, filled with Japanese-style miscellaneous goods, is one of the most popular places for the locals to discover gift ideas.

The main item that the shop sells is a kind of Japanese towel called Tenugui (手ぬぐい). These colorful towels have a variety of uses, such as:

  • Tablecloths
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Sun protection
  • Wiping your hands
  • Wall decorations

If you were impressed by the magnificent Matsumoto Castle, you might want to get a Matsumoto Castle Tenugui, perfect to commemorate your trip to Matsumoto!

According to the season, the Tenugui sold at Warai changes as well.

Warai’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Warai is open from 10 am to 7 pm daily except on Wednesdays.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is a 12-minute walk.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Frog’s Shop RiBBiT (かえるのお店 RiBBiT)

If looking at the frog figures on Nawate Street has made you discover a passion for frogs, you will be interested in the general goods in Frog’s Shop RiBBiT. Apparently, the owner chose the name RiBBiT because it sounds like the croak of a frog (´▽`*).

The wide range of frog-themed merchandise was gathered by the owner, Mr Wada, across Japan. Sometimes, he even traveled overseas to check out the interesting frog-themed items!

Mr Wada is a big fan of frogs. Each year, he volunteers at the Frog Festival. Feeling his great passion for frogs, the chairman suggested opening a frog-themed shop. Taking the idea seriously, the shop was opened, allowing him to be surrounded by his favorite animal every day while introducing the frog’s charm and knowledge to customers.

Frog’s Shop RiBBiT’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The shop is open from 11 am to sunset.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is a 12-minute walk.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Storyhouse Cafe & Bar

Looking for a place to enjoy a vegetarian or vegan lunch/dinner? Storyhouse Café & Bar has a couple of vegan/vegetarian options on its menu!

Furthermore, it is one of the few places in the prefecture where you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee made to the Westerner’s standards (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The restaurant was opened by Chris from the States with his Japanese wife in 2016. The spacious American-style cafe is a great place to be for both families and a drink at the bar counter. Throughout the year, events are held to celebrate various festivals.

When the restaurant isn’t so busy, the owner will be more than happy to strike up a casual chat with you and make some recommendations on attractions to visit in Matsumoto!

Storyhouse Cafe & Bar’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The shop is open from 11 am to 5 pm for lunch and afternoon tea and 6 pm to 10 pm for dinner.
    • The last order for lunch is 2 pm.
  • From JR Matsumoto Station (松本駅), it is a 13-minute walk.

Check out their English calendar HERE by clicking the “Event” button towards the end of the webpage.

Click HERE to return to a list of shops on Nawate Street.

Explore Other Fascinating Attractions in Matsumoto City

Click the photo to find out more about this gorgeous attraction!

Wonder what else in Matsumoto is worth your time? Check out our list of selected attractions in Matsumoto that you won’t want to miss out on.

There are a couple of places where you can source delicious natural water from in the city center, an art museum filled with Kusama Yayoi’s eye-opening contemporary artworks, places perfect for cherry blossom and fall foliage hunting, and a lot more!

For more information, please refer to our article on Matsumoto!

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