Matsue

Matsue (松江) is an old castle town at the heart of Izumo Province (present-day Shimane Prefecture), and with a population of approximately 207,000 is its largest city.

Understand

Matsue city seen from Lake Shinji

This laid back samurai city is home to one of the few authentic wooden castles in Japan, and is also famous for its sunsets and traditional "wagashi" confectionery. Situated between the shores of Lake Shinji and an inner sea, the city is rich in canals and is often called "City of Water". Matsue and its surrounding area is rich in cultural assets and historical sites, and many of Japan's most ancient legends are set in the area.

History

Matsue has been the political, economic, and cultural capital of the region for much of the past two millennia. At the time of the agriculture-based Yayoi civilization, between the third century B.C and C.E., and even earlier, during the Jomon civilization, much of whay is now Matsue was underwater. A large inland sea covered much of the area. As a result, most of the archaeological sites associated with the ancient Izumo tribe and the origins of Japanese civilization are found on higher ground, on the city's southern edge. The younger city center developed from 1607 with the construction of Matsue Castle.

Land of Myths

Many of the myths compiled in the Kojiki, Japan's oldest collection of Myths, dating from the early 8th century take place in the province of Izumo. All the gods of Japan descend upon Matsue before going to their annual meeting at the Grand Shrine of Izumo (in neighboring Izumo). The entrance to the Underworld, ruled over by the god Susanoo can also be found in Matsue.

Lafcadio Hearn and the Irish connection

Lafcadio Hearn

Irish journalist Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was an author of many books about Japan. He came to work as a teacher in Matsue in 1890, and although he spent only 15 months there, during that time he married a Japanese woman, became naturalized Japanese citizen (adopting the name Koizumi Yakumo). Hearn wrote about his life in Meiji Era Matsue and chronicled many local legends and ghost stories he has become Matsue's favorite son, and the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and his former residence are among the city's most popular attractions. Matsue’s Hearn connection led the national government to proclaim it one of Japan’s three top international tourist cities, along with the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara. Because of Hearn's Irish roots there are cultural connections between Matsue and Ireland and an Irish festival and parade is held yearly.

Orientation

Most visitors to Matsue will arrive at Matsue Station. Matsue city center is split into two parts by the Ōhashi River(大橋川). The river forms a natural division between the ancient and modern parts of Matsue. Matsue Station, most hotels, shops and restaurants are clustered in the southern part, while most historical sites and attractions are found in the northern part. The city center is not too big and most attractions are at walking distance.

Matsue Tourist Information Center (Just outside Matsue station on the north side). Has maps and pamphlets in English and can offer advice on what's happing around town. Matsue History Museum Tourist Information Office, Tonomachi 279 (At the Matsue History Museum, close to Matsue Castle),  +81 852 26-2011. Apr-Sep 8:30AM-6:30PM, Oct-Mar 8:30AM-5PM, closed 3rd Tu of every month. Matsue Goodwill Guides,  +81 90 8998-5746, fax: 0852-27-2503, e-mail: . An organization of English speaking volunteers which shows visitors around in Matsue. Also helps out at international events like sporting events and conferences. Please call or email several days in advance to book a guide. Free of charge.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 7.3 8.0 11.8 18.0 22.5 25.3 29.4 31.1 26.4 21.1 15.8 10.5
Nightly lows (°C) 0.5 0.6 2.5 7.7 12.4 17.3 22.1 22.9 18.5 12.0 6.9 2.7
Precipitation (mm) 151.1 136.5 126.8 124.0 119.6 196.0 268.3 145.4 216.3 135.0 137.8 137.9

Check Matsue's weather forecast at Weather Underground

The northern side of the Chugoku area of Japan on which Matsue lies is called the San'in and the southern part (on the Hiroshima side) is called the San'yo.
The San'in and San'yo are separated by a range of mountains which results in quite different weather on both sides.
In the San'in there is much more precipitation than in the San'yo with quite some snowfall in winter. Summers are hot and humid with lots of rainfall during rainy season (June to mid-July), making spring and autumn the ideal times to visit.

Get in

By plane

Matsue is serviced by two nearby airports: Izumo Airport (IZO) and Yonago Airport (YNG).

Izumo Airport has flights by JAL to Tokyo Haneda, Osaka Itami, Fukuoka and the Oki Islands. Shuttle buses to Matsue Station are scheduled to connect to every arriving flight. A one way trip takes 30 minutes and costs ¥1000.

Yonago Airport has flights by ANA to Tokyo Haneda and Asiana flies to Incheon International Airport in Korea three times a week. Shuttle buses to Matsue Station are scheduled to connect to every arriving national flight. A one way trip takes 45 minutes and costs ¥960. Trains operated by Japan Rail depart from Yonago Airport station approximately once every hour. To get to Matsue travellers should transfer at Yonago station. A one way trip to Matsue costs ¥740 by regular train (90 minutes) and ¥2180 by express (70 minutes).

By train

Sunrise Izumo. Night train connecting Matsue and Tokyo.

When coming by Shinkansen high speed train get off at Okayama and take the "Super Yakumo" express train to Matsue. The "Super Yakumo" express train runs between Okayama to Matsue, departing every hour from 7PM until 9:40PM daily. The trip takes approximately 2hr 30 mins.

Matsue is also on the San'in Main Line, which runs along western Honshu's sea coast between Kyoto and Shimonoseki.

Japan Rail also operates a daily "Sunrise Izumo" night train between Tokyo and Matsue. Prices vary depending on the accommodation booked, which range from simple berths to private cabins.

By bus

Highway buses connect Matsue and Tokyo (nightbus only), Osaka, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Okayama, Kobe and Nagoya (nightbus only). The ticket office is outside Matsue Station behind the Lawson convenience store.

By car

Coming from Kansai:

By highway:
Take the Chugoku Expressway westwards towards Hiroshima. At Ochiai JCT take the Yonago Expressway towards Yonago. Once in Yonago take the San'in Expressway to Matsue (parts of this road will be free of toll). Get off at Matsue Nishi.
By normal roads:
Take Route 9 from Kyoto all the way to Matsue. Some parts of the freeway in Tottori prefecture and Shimane prefecture are toll-free so do take advantage of that where you can.

Coming from Kyushu, Yamaguchi prefecture:

By highway:
Quite some stretches of road towards Matsue are not yet covered by highway (although new parts are constantly being built).
When taking the Chugoku Expressway eastwards it's possible to take the Hamada Expressway at Chiyoda JCT towards Hamada and then Route 9 along the coast to Matsue, or to exit the highway at Miyoshi and take Route 314 through the mountains until Unnan(Mitoya-Kisuki) and then take the expressway to Matsue. Get off at Matsue Nishi. Both routes should take the same amount of time, although that may change depending on which highway is completed sooner.
By normal roads:
From Shimonoseki take Route 2 to Yamaguchi. The highway from Ube to Yamaguchi is toll-free so do take advantage of that. From Yamaguchi take Route 9 along Tsuwano, Masuda, Hamada all the way to Matsue. Seeing how many parts of the highways towards Matsue are still under construction at the time of writing (April 2012) taking Route 9 from Yamaguchi to Matsue can be almost as fast as taking the highway (and is considerably cheaper).

By boat

Overnight ferries depart twice a week from Sakaiminato DBS Ferry Terminal to Donghae, Korea and then onwards to Vladivostok, Russia a day later.
To get to Sakaiminato DBS Ferry Terminal from Matsue take the train from Matsue Station to Sakaiminato station (transfer in Yonago). There are free shuttle buses to the terminal on Friday and Saturday.
For booking and more information: DBS Cruise Ferry Japan Co., Ltd. tel: +81 859 30-2332

Get around

Matsue City Map

On foot

Matsue city center is not that big, and most attractions are at walking distance. The Matsue International Tourist Information Office in front of the station has a free umbrella loan system where abandoned umbrellas are put to good use, so do pick one up in case the weather changes!

By bike

Bicycles are a quick and convenient way to get around Matsue. They can be rented at several locations.
Around Matsue Station:

Around Shinjiko Onsen station (Ichibata Railways):

By bus

A red Lake Line tourist bus

By train

Three Day Combination Ticket

Matsue Castle, Shiomi Nawate and Kyomise

The Enmusubi Perfect Ticket (¥3000 for adults, ¥1500 for children) allows free unlimited travel for three consecutive days on a wide range of train and bus services in Matsue and neighbouring Izumo. The ticket includes full use of the following:

Note that Japan Rail services are not included.
The Enmusubi Perfect Ticket is sold at the following locations:

By taxi

Taxis can be found waiting on both sides of Matsue Station. Ichibata Taxi is the largest taxi company. Tel: +81 852 21-4334 (English not spoken). The easiest way to get a taxi when not around the station is to ask a hotel or shop operator to call one. As in any every city in Japan taxis are a very expensive way to get around, even when travelling short distances.

By car

A car is not really needed inside Matsue city, but might be an option if when planning to venture out to places further out which are not easily reachable by public transport.

See

Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle and Shiomi Nawate Samurai Street

Central Matsue

Shimane Art Museum
Lake Shinji

A special sunset viewing platform (Yuuhi Spot) which has been constructed along the lakeside is the best place to see the sun go down behind Yomegashima island. Especially on the weekends dozens of photographers gather here to try to take the perfect shot of the sunset. Free.

Further out

Do

Events and Festivals

Matsue Dogyoretsu Drum Parade

Many festivals and events are held yearly. Note that most official English Matsue tourism websites are rarely updated and will often show the dates and times of events held in previous years. It would be best to call the Matsue Tourist Association (tel: +81 852 26-2011) to verify the dates if you're planning your trip to Matsue to coincide with any events or festivals.

On the weekends various events are held on the castle grounds. Free.

One of the many colorful boats at the Horanenya festival

On the second day there are food stalls and events in the Tenjin-machi area. Free.

Colorful paper lanterns floating on Lake Shinji, seen from Matsue Ohashi Bridge

On Fridays and weekends there are food stalls on the Matsue Castle parking area and the Horikawa Sightseeing Boats will also operate in the evening during this period. From mid-September to mid-October. Free.

In 2012 this event will be on the 21st of October. Drums will gather around Matsue castle around noon and the parade will start at 2PM. Free.

This dance has recently been inscribed by Unesco on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and for this reason it's currently being performed every Saturday evening (reservation required). ¥1200 (children free).

Recreation

Horiwaka Sightseeing Boat

Buy

Local foods, crafts and souvenirs

Shimane Prefectural Products and Tourist Centre

Wagashi Japanese sweets

Matsue, as one of Japan's three largest centers for the tea ceremony, has been nurturing the art of Japanese-style wagashi confectionery for several hundred years.

Clothing and accessories

Port Below

Malls and supermarkets

Money

ATMs
International ATMs can be found at most Post Offices. Note that many smaller post offices are closed on weekends and most ATMs shut down after office hours. The ATMs at Matsue Central Post Office have the longest hours of operation. Please refer to the Contact section for more information.

Currency Exchange
Most banks in Matsue will exchange money. The banking section at Matsue Central Post Office also offers money exchange services.

Eat

The Seven Delicacies of Lake Shinji

Lake Shinji is a brackish lake in which fresh water blends with seawater, giving it an abundance of fish and seafood. The seven delicacies of Lake Shinji are:

  • Shijimi clams
  • Carp
  • Shrimp
  • Sea bass
  • Eel
  • Whitebait
  • Smelt

Many traditional Japanese restaurants in Matsue have a course menu on which these delicacies make an appearance.

Japanese

Cafes

Italian

Serves the largest pizzas in Matsue and bakes its own bread. Note that English Garden is closed in the evening, so you'll have to walking along the path on the right side to the back English Garden to get to Laut. Laut is sometimes reserved by wedding parties, so it's a good idea to call ahead. Vegetarian friendly, consult with the waiter. Lunch ¥1200, Dinner ¥2500-¥7500.

French

Other cuisines

Drink

St. James Gate

Sleep

Around Matsue Station

Matsue Station Area

Matsue Shinjiko Onsen, and around Matsue Castle

Further out

Sleeping at an Internet Cafe

Overnighting in a lounge chair in a private booth at an internet cafe might not be very glamorous but is an option if you're travelling on a tight budget. Showers, food and parking are available. Most internet cafes in Matsue are clustered around Shimane University, a bit of a walk northwards from Matsue Station. See the Contact section of this article for more information.

Connect

All phone numbers displayed on this page are in international format. To dial using local format substitute "+81" with "0".

Post Offices

WiFi Hotspots

Most McDonalds restaurants in Japan offer complimentary WiFi internet

Internet Cafes

Cope

Hospitals

Go next

Day trips

Further out

Routes through Matsue

Shimonoseki Izumo  W  E  Yonago Kyoto
Masuda Izumo  W  E  Yasugi Yonago
Yamaguchi Izumo  W  E  Yonago Kyoto


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.