Matsue Travel Guide
Matsue is home to one of the 12 remaining original Japanese castles in Japan. As such, it gets its fair share of tourism throughout the year, but it is not overwhelmed like Kyoto.
This means it is a great alternative to those looking to dodge the crowds in their pursuit of one of Japan’s cultural treasures.
Come check out our Matsue travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Matsue, Japan.
After getting settled in your accommodation, waste no time checking out Matsue Castle. One of only 12 castles to survive wars, fires, earthquakes, and the dismantling of castles during the Meiji Restoration, the authenticity of this keep’s construction will take you all the way back to the Edo Period.
Built in 1611 not long after the final battles of the feudal period brought about the Edo Period, this fortification never had to face a single arrow or battering ram. Within its dark walls (it is often known as the black castle for this reason), you’ll find displays which show off the armour and weapons that would have been used by its soldiers if they ever had to defend this keep.
Those wanting to appreciate this castle from an uncommon perspective will want to go on a boat ride through its moat. Audio commentary on the area is given, though only in Japanese.
Make Miho Shrine your next destination on your tour of the Matsue area. Sitting within view of this city’s working harbour, it is fitting that this Shinto shrine is home to the deity of fishers and business success.
Naturally, the men and women who work the waters off Matsue often stop in to pay their respects and pray for safety and a successful season. Within the treasure room, you’ll also find over 800 musical instruments, as well as two dugout canoes which are deemed national cultural treasures of Japan.
Next, move along to Yaegaki Shrine. As a stop on the Izumo Shinbutsu Reijo pilgrimage and home to a deity who holds sway over success in relationships, this shrine is often busy with visitors. Interested in seeing whether a new relationship is in your future? Follow a local ritual where a coin is placed on a piece of paper and left to float in a pond. The faster the coin sinks, the sooner you’ll find someone to be with.
In the treasure room of the shrine, you’ll find a centuries-old painting that depicts six different deities. Thought to be the oldest of its kind in Japan, it is deemed a cultural treasure of Japan, making the 200 yen admission worth the expense.
Still on an art kick after seeing that painting? Continue on to the Shimane Art Museum, where you’ll find many more works. Situated on a scenic lake, the works contained within adhere to a water theme.
Here, you’ll find local paintings, sculptures, photographic art, and other creative works that pay tribute to the many beautiful bodies of water in the Matsue area. Stick around for sunset, as many locals say the views here are the best in the area.
After seeing this city’s beautiful keep, don’t be in a rush – also check out Matsue Castle Town. As you walk its surprisingly uncrowded streets, you’ll pass old samurai residences, restaurants that serve piping hot soba noodles, and sweet shops that specialize in crafting amazing candies and baked goods.
Take a moment to stop in at a tea house along the way, as it will give you a chance to reflect on all the sightseeing you’ve done.
Not quite done seeing shrines during your visit to Matsue? Go out of your way to check out Tamatsukuriyu Shrine. Founded in the 8th century, it is located next to an outdoor onsen, or hot spring.
Here, you’ll get a chance to participate in a ritual based around the hot water that comes out of the ground. Start by obtaining a guide from shrine officials, which will guide you through the process using pictorial drawings (if you understand Japanese, you can just read the kanji).
Essentially, you get a piece of agate stone, which you will purify at a hot spring after paying respect to the deity. Once you do this, rub the stone against the power rock, then place it in a special envelope containing your written prayer.
The priest will then offer it up to the resident kami (deity). For added luck, leave a coin wedged in the threads of the haiden (big thick rope).
Those in search of natural beauty during their visit to Matsue should set aside an hour to explore Yushien Garden.
First created in 1975, it initially belonged to a private citizen, but was later opened to the public. Spanning 40,000 square metres, you’ll find waterfalls, a serene pond, flower beds, and a stylish rock garden, among other attractions here.