Stadiums in Japan: Matsumoto "Alwin" Stadium

Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture

In a country where even big, modern cities lack a truly modern, efficient football/rugby-designed facility, Matsumoto Stadium is one of the true gems. You would be perceptive to ask how one of the most beautiful, modern and atmospheric football facilities in Japan ended up in a place that most Japanese "cityfolk" would view as the middle of nowhere.

Actually, that is a bit of a misconception. Matsumoto is actually a rather large city (population 250,000, with another 1/4 million in suburbs fairly close to downtown, but not within the "city limits.") But the entire area is surrounded by mountains, which effectively cut it off from the rest of the country. Matsumoto "Alwin" Stadium owes its existence to the [bold economic plans/irresponsible largesse] of local government in the 1990s.  Matsumoto began work on the stadium before either Japan's bid for the 2002 World Cup or Nagano's bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics had been confirmed, with the then-Governor of Nagano Prefecture telling people essentially: "if we build it, they have no choice but to come."

Unfortunately, Japan received only half of the 2002 World Cup, and Nagano's Olympic Committee ended up using Matsumoto more sparingly than they initially planned. As a result, the facility was viewed at first as a wasteful boondoggle. But in the runup to the 2002 World Cup, Paraguay agreed to establish its "home base" at Matsumoto Stadium. The Paraguayan national team was embraced warmly by the local fans, and the charisma and kindness of players such as Jose Luis Chilavert and Francisco Arce ignited a burst of enthusiasm for football in the prefecture. Even today, many restaurants, pubs and "Izakaya" in Matsumoto will have photos on the wall of the proprietors and one or more Paraguayan football stars.

Even before Yamaga Matsumoto battled their way into the J.League (2012) the facility was used by a number of J.League teams (particularly JEF United, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Niigata Albirex and Ventforet Kofu), for an occasional "home-away-from-home" match. In addition to Matsumoto Yamaga SC, JFL clubs Nagano Elza and Antelope FC held matches at the stadium, and as football interest grew, the home team eventually fought its way into the pro ranks.

Matsumoto Alwin Stadium is a beautiful venue, built exclusively for football matches, with "genuine" terraces in each end zone, and stands very close to the pitch for a cozy, intimate, yet ear-splitting atmosphere. Though a few newer stadia (eg. in Osaka and Kyoto) are a bit more modern and well-appointed, the 20,000-seat Alwin Stadium remains one of the finest "small" venues in the country. 

The stadium has 16,000 molded seats, as well as terraces with benches in each end zone that can accommodate slightly over 4,000, for a total capacity exceeding 20,000. Matsumoto is a an extremely scenic location, with high snow-capped mountains all around. The cool, fresh air and view from the stadium make it a very popular location for training camps held by Japan's national (esp. youth and women's) teams during the summer months. It is definitely a must visit for any J.League groundhopper

Matsumoto Stadium

Location: Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture   Capacity: 20,000+
Home Team(s): Matsumoto Yamaga, Nagano Elsa, Antelope FC, etc   Completed: 1999

Stadium Access

From JR Matsumoto Station, take the Xxxx Line to Murai Station.

The stadium is more easily accessed by car, as it is just a few minutes drive from Shiojiri Interchange on the Nagano Expressway.

Pictures of Matsumoto Stadium