I had to go up to the Prefectural capital, Matsue, yesterday, and with a few hours to kill I decided to finally make a visit to the castle. Built in 1611, Matsue Castle is one of only a handful of castles in Japan that has not been destroyed by fire or war. Most Japanese castles are replicas or reconstructions.
For 230 years, until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the castle was home to the Matsudaira Clan, a junior branch of the ruling Tokugawa.
After paying the 600 yen entrance fee, a woman came running out of the office and gave me some change. Apparently thanks to the Yookoso Japan campaign there is a hefty discount for foreigners to all Matsue's tourist sites.
From the top floor of the castle there are fine views over the city and surrounding area. With a population of about 150,000, Matsue is not so big, and is actually quite a pleasant city.
A pleasure boat trip around the extensive castle moat is very popular with visitors. With the moat, canals, rivers, and Lake Shinji (7th largest lake in Japan), some call Matsue the Venice of Japan, but that, I think, is an exaggeration.
In the shadow of the castle lived Matsue's most famous son, Koizumi Yakumo, better known as Lafcadio Hearn. The Greek-American writer spent one year here, teaching English, at the end of the 19th Century, and his home is open to tourists. While here he wrote "Glimpses Of An Unfamiliar Japan", which I heartily recommend to anyone who plans to visit this part of Japan.
Hearn's favorite shrine, Jozan Inari, is within the castle park, and is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of fox statues.
Japan Books and DVDs
Japan Shimane Castle Matsue
Friday, September 01, 2006