Matsue Castle stands not only as a symbol of feudal history but also as a gateway to a world of architectural wonders on its grounds. In this exploration, we will bypass the iconic castle keep and delve into the surrounding structures that enrich the visitor’s experience. From historic treasures to serene gardens, Matsue Castle’s grounds are a captivating showcase of Japan’s architectural heritage.

Matsue Shrine

Situated adjacent to Kounkaku within the Ninomaru of Matsue Castle, this shrine holds significance as the place where the prayer tag, ultimately leading to Matsue Castle attaining national treasure status, was unearthed. The shrine venerates Yoshiharu Horio, the founder of Matsue, along with the Matsue domain lords Naomasa Matsudaira and Harusato Matsudaira, in addition to Ieyasu Tokugawa.

You can find heart-shaped ema at Matsue Shrine, renowned as a sacred ground for matchmaking. These unique tokens are available for purchase at various locations, including Kounkaku, Buratto Matsue Tourist Information Center, and more.

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Kounkaku

Standing gracefully beside Matsue Shrine, Kounkaku is a splendid Western-style edifice. Adorned with intricate decorations and carvings, this beautiful structure offers an exceptional view of the townscape from its second floor. Originally intended to showcase Matsue City’s handicrafts, Kounkaku underwent a transformation in 1907, transitioning into an inn designated for the Crown Prince, who later became Emperor Taisho, during visits to the San-in region.

Designated as a Tangible Cultural Property by Shimane Prefecture in 1968, over the years the building’s function has undergone substantial changes. Initially serving as an official venue for Matsue City events, hosting exhibitions, and extending hospitality to distinguished guests, it later housed the Matsue Folk Museum from 1973 until 2011. Since 2015, Kounkaku has been accessible to the public solely for the purpose of admiring its architectural beauty. When you embark on your exploration of Matsue Castle, don’t miss the opportunity to also marvel at the elegance of Kounkaku!

Matsue History Museum

Situated near Matsue Castle, the Matsue History Museum boasts the architectural charm of a samurai residence, earning it the moniker ‘the museum with a castle view’. Since March 2011, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Matsue Castle’s construction, the museum has been offering insights into the castle town of Matsue. Preceding the castle’s existence, Matsue held significance as the focal point of ancient Izumo during the Nara period (710–794), housing government administration buildings. Interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations bring the past to life, making it an engaging experience for history enthusiasts.

Within the museum’s walls, Tea Shop Kiharu beckons with seasonally-inspired Japanese confections, providing a delightful culinary experience. Additionally, the Museum Shop, Enishizuku, invites patrons to explore and shop for unique souvenirs and books, enhancing the overall museum visit.

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Shiomi Nawate Street

Situated in close proximity to Matsue Castle and recognized as a traditional aesthetic zone, Shiomi Nawate unfolds with its 500-meter-long street running along the castle moat. Bordered by traditional Japanese houses on one side and majestic pine trees on the other, the street exudes a timeless charm. This historic thoroughfare is home to notable attractions such as the Former Samurai Residence (Bukeyashiki), the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum, including his former residence, the Tanabe Museum of Art, which exhibits tea utensils once owned by Feudal Lord Matsudaira Fumai, and the Meimei-an Tea House.

Horikawa Sightseeing Boat

Matsue showcases a meticulously preserved townscape and an intricate canal system, maintaining its enchanting 400-year-old allure. Embarking on a 50-minute boat tour offers the quintessential way to explore these historic features. Accompanied by knowledgeable boatmen, you’ll uncover local history and culture while becoming one with the ever-evolving natural scenery that mirrors the changing seasons.

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What makes Matsue truly unique is the remarkably preserved canal system, constructed over four centuries ago to safeguard the castle. While some sections have been narrowed, the canals continue to trace their centuries-old course, winding along the castle’s stone walls, the preserved Shiomi Nawate Street, through a tranquil forest teeming with birds and aquatic creatures, and amidst the modern features of the city center.

Operating year-round, the boat tour departs approximately every 15 minutes from three convenient locations surrounding the castle. As you step onto the boat, a request to remove your shoes precedes a moment of relaxation—whether feeling the cool summer breeze or cocooning under a warm kotatsu in winter. Throughout your scenic journey, you’ll marvel at the ever-changing flowers and lanterns lining the route; if fortune favors you, intriguing anecdotes or stories may be shared, enriching your navigation of this picturesque waterway.