Although there are over one hundred castles in Japan, most of them are either wooden or concrete reconstructions of originals that were destroyed by a calamity or deliberately taken down following the Meiji government proclamation in 1873.
Matsue Castle survived all of these occurrences through the effort of the local community and a bit of serendipitous circumstance. The castle that you can see today was completed in 1611, after the major periods of conflict. The castle tower or keep, as it is sometimes called, was spared the dismantling that other structures on the grounds faced after the Meiji Restoration.
Jozan Park is the area that makes up the castle grounds and is notable for its flowering plants and trees. Although spring is particularly lovely in the park as the cherry trees are in full bloom, there is plenty of beauty to taken in at any time of the year.
Matsue Castle is at the center of the city’s historic and cultural zone, so it is a great place to start if you want to take in some of the sights. Shiomi Nawate Street, with its samurai houses and the former residence of the great writer Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn) is nearby, as well as a number of other points of interest.See them all in style from the Horikawa Pleasure Boat on a cruise along the canals that surround the castle.
The castle is the venue to annual and year round events. The Matsue Castle Festival takes place from the end of March to the beginning of April, coinciding with the cherry blossom viewing season. The Matsue Castle Tea Ceremony is held on the first Saturday and Sunday of October. The Matsue Castle Rifle Troop gives performances every 3rd Sunday from 11am-2pm.
Access: Take the Super Yakumo Express train from JR Okayama Station to JR Matsue Station. Matsue Castle is about a 30 minute walk from Matsue Station.
About the Area
Matsue is the vibrant capital city of Shimane Prefecture that has been shaped by its feudal heritage as a castle town and its unique location on Lake Shinji, Lake Nakaumi and the Japan Sea. The city center is dominated by the presence of Matsue Castle and its surrounding canals. This area is also a cultural zone as it is home to museums and historic quarters. One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the city is from the water and there are several cruise companies that make this possible.
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