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Matsue Castle In Shimane - Beautiful Sights To Enjoy Every Season!

Matsue Castle In Shimane - Beautiful Sights To Enjoy Every Season!

Translated by Jelena Kitamura

Written by MATCHA

Shimane 2017.06.11 Bookmark

Presenting Matsue Castle in Shimane prefecture, built in the Edo Period. One of Japan's National Treasures since 2015, it is a beautiful sight to behold each season, with cherry blossoms, snow, boats and much more. Read about it down below.

The History of Matsue Castle, Japan’s National Treasure


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association
Matsue Castle is a castle in Matsue, a city in Shimane prefecture, in the Chugoku region. It gained another name because of its resemblance to a bird named chidori (plover) – if you look at it from the front, it almost looks like as if a chidori is spreading its wings, so it is also called Chidori Castle by many.

Matsue Castle was built during the Edo period in 1611, by Yoshiharu Horio, a feudal lord governing the Matsue Domain at that time. However, many of its facilities were destroyed one after another at the end of Edo, and at the beginning of the Meiji Period, with only the Tenshukaku (the castle tower) remaining intact thanks to one sympathizer who bought it and had it preserved. Matsue Castle was enlisted as one of Important Cultural Properties of Japan in 1950 and was even added to the list of National Treasures of Japan on the 8th of July, 2015.

How to Visit Matsue Castle from Kyoto and Osaka

To get to Matsue Castle from Kyoto or Osaka, you have to ride JR Sanyo shinkansen to get to Okayama Station. At Okayama Station catch the Limited Express Yakumo of the JR Sanin Main Line bound for Izumo Station, and get off upon arriving at Matsue Station. It will take you from about three and a half to four hours, and around 11,000 to 12,000 yen for a one-way ticket.
When you arrive at Matsue Station, hop on the Lakeline Bus and don’t forget to get off at the bus stop near Matsue Castle, Otemae bus stop. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to reach the castle.

Admission Hours and Fare

Visitors can enter Matsue Castle on any day since it is opened all year around, but its opening hours vary depending on the season.
During spring and summer (from April to September), it opens at 8:30 and closes at 18:30, and in fall and winter (from October until March), it opens at 8:30 and closes a little bit earlier, at 17:00. However, keep in mind that the last possible admission is thirty minutes before closure!

The entry fee for adults is 560 yen and for children 280 yen.

The Highlights of Japan’s National Treasure – Matsue Castle

The 360-Degree View from the Castle Tower


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association

Without a doubt, the special trait of this castle, which makes it worthy of its place on the list of National Treasures of Japan, is its structure.
The so-called boroshiki-style construction which can be seen on the top floor of Tenshukaku is what makes the castle so unusual and superb. This style’s characteristic is that there are no walls on the top floor, only the handrails covering the four directions for a splendid panoramic view. It is said to be constructed in that way for the purpose of gaining the unlimited, 360-degree view over the vicinity of the castle, so this tower served both as the watch tower and the control tower. Now that you heard about its magnificent prospect, why not come up the top floor on a bright day and take a sweeping glance over the whole city of Matsue?

Another extraordinary trait, the gobozumi construction style, can be seen on the bottom walls of the castle – first large stones were packed one against another, after which the small stones were jammed in between the cracks. Thanks to this special method, it is said that these sturdy walls have never collapsed once, even to this day.

Not to forget the shachihoko, the mythical carp with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, standing tall on the edge of tower’s roof. The wooden carp is carved out of wood and then bronzed, and is also the largest carved shachihoko in Japan, standng over two meters in height.

Another Must-See – the Castle’s Three Restored Yagura


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association

Although Matsue Castle originally had five yagura towers (watch towers) in the outer citadel, all of them were unfortunately torn down at the beginning of Meiji period. However, the beauty of the castle from the old days was brought back to life in 2001, when three of the yagura towers were reconstructed – the Taiko Yagura (the taiko drums yagura), the Naka Yagura (the middle yagura) and the Minami Yagura (the southern yagura).

Oshiro Matsuri – Matsue Castle’s Sakura Festival in Spring


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association

Matsue Castle is even enlisted as one of 100 Best Cherry Blossom (sakura) Viewing Spots in Japan and has its own festival – Oshiro Matsuri (Castle’s Festival) every year from the end of March until the beginning of April.

It truly is a feast for the eyes, with more than 200 species of cherry tree, including yoshino cherry, yaezakura (double-blossom cherry tree), weeping cherry and much more, welcoming a large number of visitors every year in that season.

Famous attractions of the festival include Musha Gyoretsu Warrior Parade, for a picturesque blast from the past, humorous Yasukibushi Contest (Yasukibushi: a popular folk song, usually sung while performing a certain comical dance), as well as many concerts performed on the main stage to liven up the atmosphere. Also, don’t miss the Honmaru Hanami Chaya (tea ceremony performance and shop within the inner citadel of the castle grounds) and the sakuramochi stand (sakuramochi: rice cakes with bean-paste filling wrapped in a cherry leaf) – use this opportunity to experience Japan’s traditions in the tastiest way possible!

And for the finale – the illumination event where you can see the extraordinary sight of Matsue Castle and cherry blossoms radiantly reflected in the night sky.

Matsue Castle Seen from the Horikawa Sightseeing Boat


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association

A moat encircling the castle and its surrounding area represents its yet another highlight. Take the time to ride the ship along Horikawa River, to get a closer look at the castle and the nature around it, as well as the local color of the city. All aboard the Horikawa Sightseeing Boat!

This river, which was created when the construction of the castle was completed in 1611, is 3.7 km long and has as many as 17 bridges built over it. The interesting thing about the bridges is that four of them aren’t high enough for the sightseeing boat to go under, so the roof of the boat is arranged to drop a little while passing under them.

You can go aboard at any of the three boarding platforms – the Fureai Hiroba (Fureai Square), the Otemae Hiroba (Otemae Square) and the Karakoro Hiroba (Karakoro Square). It will take you about 50 minutes in total, and the boats set out every 15 minutes.


Image courtesy of Matsue Travel Association

You should also visit Matsue during the winter since it often snows there, and marvel at the sight of Matsue Castle gone all-white with snow. And don’t worry – the Horikawa Sightseeing Boat embarks during the winter, and even has kotatsu tables installed to make your trip comfortable and warm (a kotatsu table: a special heating table with a thick blanket over it). A heart-and-body-warming sightseeing tour down the river is sure to leave a big impression on its participants; this is a unique experience even in Japan.

So, why not take a look at the city from the castle’s tower, ride the boat down the river to catch a glimpse at the castle from a whole new perspective, and take part in other various events to get a complete picture of Matsue Castle?

Matsue Castle

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The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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