Matsue (松江) is a pleasant castle city, known as the ‘city of water’ due to its spiralling canals and setting on a lake. Best known for its original castle due to the previous status as a feudal stronghold, Matsue also has some fascinating local history and is a lovely city for a quiet stroll.
Budget travel tips
- All foreign tourists (plus foreign residents) can show their passports to get half price admission to most tourist spots. Prices here are the discounted rates.
- It’s perfectly possible to get around the main area by just taking a local bus to the castle, walking around the main sites, then taking a local bus back. Make sure you get off at Kenchomae/Shimane Prefectural Office (県庁前). It would also be possible to walk along the lake to the castle in 30/40 minutes.
Things to do
Matsue Castle (松江城)
One of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan, Matsue Castle was built by Horio Yoshiharu, a feudal lord and founder of Matsue. The top floor offers good views of the city, plus the museum inside shows off some menacing armour and such from the feudal period.
Price: 280 yen
Open: Apr.-Sept. 8:30 – 18:00, Oct.-Mar. 8:30 – 16:30
Shrines around Matsue Castle
Just north of the castle there are a few free shrines, one of which was particularly admired by Lafcadio Hearn for its statues and peaceful atmosphere.
Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
Shiomi Nawate is a street lined with old samurai buildings, a few of which you can have a look inside. Lafcadio Hearn was a well-known writer, who was originally born in Greece but lived around the world. The museum shows of his fascinating life as one of the few foreigners in Japan at the time, and is worth it even if you have never heard of him.
Price: 150 yen
Open: Apr – Sep 8:30 – 18:30, Oct – Mar 8:30 – 17:00
Lafcadio Hearn’s Home
See how the man himself lived with his wife and children. You will want to time travel and have a garden like his!
Price: 150 yen
Open: same as museum
Mastue Sightseeing Boat
An excellent way to see the city of water, the boat takes visitors around the castle moats, under low-lying traditional bridges and to some less travelled spots.
Price: 820 yen
How to get there
With Japan Rail Pass or a Chugoku rail pass
There are Limited Express trains from Okayama (2 hours mins), Shin-Osaka (2 and a half hours) and Kyoto (2 and a half hours). If coming from Tokyo, first take a train to one of these cities.
From Tottori, take a Limited Express train (20 minutes)
Without a rail pass
Willer bus and JR bus have highway buses that will stop in, or near Matsue from cities all over Honshu (main island of Japan). Taking a train is very expensive, so buses are highly recommended.
Lake Line bus
Offering a circular route of the main attractions, the Lake Line bus is 500 yen for unlimited use for one day, or 200 yen each time. Kids half price. Tickets can be purchased from the Tourist Information Center in Matsue station.
Hostels and cheap hotels
Run by a very friendly couple, this traditional Japanese guesthouse has free coffee, clean rooms and not to expensive prices.
Matsue Urban Hotel Lake Inn
A basic hotel with small but perfectly fine rooms. Includes free access to a partner hotels hot spa, free breakfast and a few more goodies as well. Check prices at Booking.com.
Compare prices at Booking.com