Matsue – What to See
Here are some of the main tourist sights of Matsue. For more information on sightseeing in Matsue and the surrounding area, please visit our Visit Shimane site. (It gets updated more frequently!) www.visitshimane.com
HORIKAWA SIGHTSEEING BOAT
The Horikawa Sightseeing Boat trip takes you along the many moats and canals that flow through the city’s narrow streets. On the trip you pass under 16 bridges and the boatman sings local folksong. It is a pleasant way to pass an hour and see the city from a different angle in any season. (The boats are warmed in winter!)
Hours: 1st Mar – 30th Jun, 9:00am – 5:00pm, 1st Jul – 31st Aug, 9:00am – 6:00pm, 1st Sep – 20th Oct, 9:00am – 5:00pm, 21st Oct – 30th Nov, 9:00am – 4:00pm, 1st Dec – End of Feb, 10:00am – 3:00pm.
Admission: 1,200 yen (50% discount if you show your passport or Gaikokujin Registration Card.
You can board from 3 points but the easiest to get to is the boarding point at Matsue Castle. Take the Lakeline Bus from Stop no.7 at Matsue Station to Otemae Stop (In front of the castle). The boarding point and ticket office is at the end of the car park along the moat.
BUKEYASHIKI (Samurai Residence)
English pamphlet available
The Samurai Residence is located on Shiomi Nawate, a street to the north of the castle that has retained its historic elegance and charm. The residence was the home of a mid-ranking samurai family some 270 years ago, and once you step through the low wooden gates you are taken back centuries and a world away from the passing cars and modern life outside.
Opening Times: Apr – Sep, 8:30am – 6:30pm. Oct – Mar, 8:30am – 5:00pm. Open every day.
Admission: 300 yen, but show your passport or Gaikokujin Registration and get 50% off)
Take the Lakeline Bus from bus stop no.7 at Matsue Station and get off at Koizumi Yakumo Kinenkan Mae stop. (The same one for the Lafcadio Hearn Museum). Takes 15 – 20 mins.
English pamphlets available.
The influence of Irish-Greek writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850 -1904) is ever present in Matsue, thanks to his brief but fruitful 15 month stay. It was here that the majority of his work ‘Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan’ was written and the city had a great impact on him and his writings. He took the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo when he married into a samurai family.
Matsue and Ireland have friendly relations and cultural exchanges - the Irish athletics team and Olympic team holding their training camps here, the guinness flows on St. Patrick’s Day, (but where doesn’t it) and there is an annual Lafcadio Hearn speech contest held in the city. Hearn also spent some time in New Orleans, hence the sister city relationship with Matsue.
You can visit Hearn’s old residence and garden – a peaceful place along the castle moat and the memorial museum next door which gives a detailed account of his life and holds stuff such as his manuscripts, desk and chair etc.
A well and truly adopted son of Matsue (not bad for a 15 month stay!), Hearn’s writings about Matsue reveal how very little, yet so much has changed.
Opening Times : 9:00am – 5:00pm
Admission Fee : 250 yen
Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
Admission Fee : 300 yen (Show your passport or Gaikokujin registration card and get 50% off)
Occasionally has explanations in English, but not many.
The Shimane Art Museum is located on the eastern shore of Lake Shinji. It has a regular exhibition and every few months or so a special exhibition often featuring Western art. There is a special exhibition on from March 6th to May 31st 2009 to commemorate the 10th anniversary. The theme is French Painting in the 19th C. and there are works exhibited from leading French museums.
There is also a restaurant with views of the lake, a museum shop selling paintings of local scenes and local crafts and books (but not in English). There are some interesting sculptures outside on the grassy banks leading down to the lake, like rows of jumping rabbits…
The museum stays open 30 mins past sunset in the spring and summer months so you can enjoy the view from the spacious lobby.
Opening Times : Oct – Feb 10:00 – 18:30, Mar – Sept 10:00 – 30 mins after sunset.
Closed on Tuesdays.
Admission: regular exhibition: 300 yen, special exhibition: 1000 yen, but if you bring your passport or gaikokujin registration card, you can get 50% off the special exhibition price!
Take the north exit out of Matsue Station, turn left and keep walking straight for 15 mins. When you reach the lake you will see the museum opposite you.
Matsue stands on the shores of Japan’s 7th largest lake – Shinjiko which runs out into the sea through the Ohashi river and Nakaumi lagoon. Being so vast it sets the mood of the city casting a gloomy shadow over the city on cloudy days and bringing Matsue alive with its sparkling blues on sunny days. No matter how many times you look at it, it never seems to be the same colour twice.
Most tourists head down to the lake’s shores in the early evening to catch the sunset, which shouldn’t be missed, but it is also worth a visit early in the morning when the misty waters are dotted with fishing boats collecting clams.
There is an islet in the middle of the lake called Yomegashima, and is said to have appeared when a young maiden fed up with being bullied by her mother-in-law tried to cross the frozen lake to go back to her own family and fell in and drowned. There is a shrine on the islet called Chikubu-shima Shrine which was built by Tadaharu Horio, the ruler of Matsue Castle from 1611 – 1633 and 30 pine trees which were planted in 1935 by Reijiro Wakatsuki, the first person from Matsue to become prime minister. Once a year in July you can ‘walk’ across the to islet along the stone path underneath the lake as part of a festival. Whether you walk or swim will depend how tall you are!
A 10-15 minute walk from Matsue Station. Turn left out of the north exit of the station and keep walking. Go across the roundabout and past the Tenjin Shrine. You can’t miss it!
English Information and tours in English by the Goodwill Guide group available.
The castle was built over a period of 5 years from 1607 -1611 by the Horio clan, the first rulers of Matsue. From the top floor you have a panoramic view of Lake Shinji, the city and the mountains beyond. It stands on the top of shiroyama (castle hill) which is surrounded by the Horikawa moat. If you visit in the first week of April you can enjoy cherry blossom viewing which is particulary good at night as the castle and blossoms are lit up.
Between the moat and the castle is a pleasant woodland walk through the camelias and also shrines including Jozan Inari-jinja, and Matsue Shrine dedicated to the Matsudaira clan who ruled the castle for 10 generations. There is also a Meiji Era western-style building (Koun-kaku) which is an archive museum showing lots of photos of ‘old Matsue’. (Admission free). Unfortunately there is very little English, well none at all really, but you can enjoy the pictures and the view from the balcony!
Opening Times: April – September 8am to 6:30pm, October – March 8:30am – 5pm
Admission Fee: 550 yen, but show your passport or gaikokujin registration card and get 50% OFF!
Take the Lakeline Bus (the red retro type one) from Matsue Station or any bus that goes to the prefectural office. (kencho-mae in Japanese). A 10-min. bus ride.