This itinerary covers sites in and around Matsue City, the capital of the Shimane Prefecture. You can choose to only follow this itinerary, or you can combine this itinerary with one or more of the "Sea of Japan" itineraries, and/or "Festival" itineraries, as you like and have the time for. It is not necessary to "drive" to all the places in the city. You may find it more convenient to walk some since some of the sites are close together.
It should take about one-day. Once you select it and save it, you can change/customize it. If you plan to continue on, you can add other Sea of Japan itineraries starting from Matsue. Although we recommend beginning the string of Noto Peninsula itineraries from the Kanazawa Station (MapCode: 41 558 874*22), you can begin it from other nearby "gateways," e.g. the Komatsu Airport (MapCode: 120 529 748*33) or the Noto Satoyama Airport (MapCode: 283 475 067*52). All have several rental car outlets.
If you have extra time you can spend any extra time in Matsue enjoying the local public onsen (hot bath) at the XXXX at the east end of Matsue along the coastal highway #249. In the evening you should definitely take in a performance of the XXXX at the XXXX (MapCode: 283 800 875*25). Nightly performances are at 21:10.
ACCOMMODATIONS: There are a variety of accommodation options in Matsue City where you can spend the night, if you wish. There are considerably less accommodation options, other than local minshukus (B. & Bs.), outside Matsue City. One of the nicer hotels/ryokans in Matsue is the refined XXXX (MapCode: 329 193 788*85) with its own onsen, located to the east of the city proper. Another noteworthy option further to the east is the beautiful XXXX (MapCode: 913 056 436*47), an isolated, 15-room ryokan located right on the northeast Noto coast.
You can also easily reverse the itinerary, if you wish, just by following the MapCodes in the reverse order.
The Matsue Castle is a feudal castle in Matsue in Shimane prefecture. Nicknamed the "black castle" or "plover castle", it is one of the few remaining medieval castles in Japan – at least of the few remaining in their original wooden form, and not a modern reconstruction in concrete. The construction of Matsue Castle began in 1607 and finished in 1611, under the local lord Horio Yoshiharu. In 1638, the fief and castle passed to the Matsudaira clan, a junior branch of the ruling Tokugawa clan.
Most Japanese castles have been damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes, or other causes. Since a large part of their construction was wooden, fire was a major hazard. Matsue castle was built after the last great war of feudal Japan, so it never saw a battle. Yet only some of the walls and the keep exist today. Matsue Castle, standing on the shores of Shinji Lake, is one of Japan's Three Great Lake Castles. Courtesy of Wikipedia
If you have time a fun and interesting activity is to take a Horikawa Pleasure Boat for a ride around the castle moat (approx. 30 mins). The dock is right next to the parking lot.
East across the street from the parking lot is the Shimane Local Products Center showcasing Shimane products.
The Matsue History Museum was built along the Matsue Castle moat and designed to resemble a samurai residence. It offers an in-depth view of the history of Matsue city, including displays and replicas about life in Matsue over its 400 year history. Foreign language audio-guides are available for free. A view of the castle can be enjoyed from the tearoom within the museum building.
Located around the corner from the History Museum is the Horan-enya Memorial Hall which can be visited for free if you purchase a ticket to the History Museum. This memorial highlights a very important Shinto ritual which is one of the three biggest boat festivals in Japan. It takes place every ten years in Matsue (the last one was in May 2019.
There is a free parking lot for both sites a little past the Memorial Hall at MapCode: 163 501 656*85.
After visiting the History Museum and Memorial Hall one can walk across the Uga Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the moat, heading northwest to the Former Samurai Residence and the Lafcadio Hearn Former Residence & Memorial Museum, following the Shiome Nawate, a traditional aesthetic zone, formerly home to mid-level samurai houses. It is a 500 m/1,640 ft long street located beside the castle moat that is lined with traditional Japanese houses on one side and majestic pine trees on the other.
The Lafcadio Hearn Former Residence was home to the Greek/Irish English teacher, writer and journalist Lafcadio Hearn (called Koizumi Yakumo in Japanese; 1850-1904) for about 15 months from 1890 to 1891. During this time he taught at a middle school in Matsue and married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a samurai family. The gardens are kept as they were during his time here and the house itself remains largely unchanged. Located next door (to the west) is the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum dedicated to Hearn and his works (https://www.hearn-museum-matsue.jp/english.html). Hearn was one of the earliest and most prolific writers to reveal Japan to the western world, in books such as "Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan" or "Kwaidan". He was one of the first westerners to adopt Japanese citizenship and was naturalised as Koizumi Yakumo, the name by which he remains known in Japan.
There isn't a parking lot for this site but there is one nearby at MapCode: 163 531 032*47, a short walking distance. Using this lot will allow visitors to walk along the Shiome Nawate, a traditional aesthetic zone, formerly home to mid-level samurai houses, as well as the Former Samurai Residence. It is a 500 m/1,640 ft long street located beside the castle moat that is lined with traditional Japanese houses on one side and majestic pine trees on the other. One can even continuing walking southeast to the Uga Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the moat, and on to the Matsue History Museum.
The Former Samurai Residence, called a “bukeyashiki”, is a samurai residence which, with its longhouse gate (Nagaya-mon) and walls along the northern moat of Matsue castle, best reflects the old castle-town atmosphere of Matsue. This residence was occupied by successive samurai of middle rank status of the Matsue domain, who periodically had to change their residence. It is now an officially designated cultural asset of the City of Matsue. The area, called Shiomi Nawate, was reserved for the residence of middle-ranking samurai during the Edo period, and this residence is now the only one remaining in its original condition. Shiomi Nawate is an area offering solace to the heart of the traveler, selected as one of the “100 Roads of Japan”, where we can enjoy the ever-changing aspects of the four seasons.
There isn't a parking lot for this site but there is one nearby at MapCode: 163 531 032*47, a short walking distance. Using this lot will allow visitors to walk along the Shiome Nawate, a traditional aesthetic zone, formerly home to mid-level samurai houses. It is a 500 m/1,640 ft long street located beside the castle moat that is lined with traditional Japanese houses on one side and majestic pine trees on the other. To the west of the Former Samurai Residence are the Lafcadio Hearn Former Residence and the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum. One can even continuing walking to southeast to the Uga Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the moat, to the Matsue History Museum.
The Meimei-an Tea House is located just off Shiomi Nawate Street, standing on a low hill with a superb view of the castle. Commissioned in 1779 by Lord Fumai, the 7th Lord of Matsue Castle and a noted patron of the tea ceremony, the tea house was tended to for many years by one of his closest retainers. Moved to its present site in 1966 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the lord’s death, Meimei-an is renowned for its characteristic thickly thatched roof. Tea and wagashi (Japanese confectionary) are served in the adjoining tea room, Hyakuso-tei.
There is a single parking space on the east side of the road, just opposite the steep stairs leading up to the tea house.
The Shimane Art Museum opened in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture in 1999. Designed by Kiyonori Kikutake and with a total floor area of 12,500 sq m/134,549 sq ft, it houses a collection of Japanese and Western art, including Momoyama folding screens and paintings by Corot, Sisley, Monet, and Gauguin. The museum's collections also include prints, crafts, photography, and sculpture.
The museum is also an excellent place to view the sunset over Lake Shinji from its rooftop.