Matsue On a BudgetMatsue, Japan is located on the scenic shores of Lake Shinji in the Shimane Prefecture. Matsue is the capital city of the prefecture and is known as the water city due to being located between Lake Shinji, Lake Nakaumi, and the Sea of Japan. This historically rich city is famous for being a laid back samurai village with stunning sunsets and traditional confectioneries.
The weather in Matsue is at its best in the Spring and Autumn, due to these times being far less humid and rainy. In the winter, they experience some snowfall and summers are hot and humid with a lot of rain in June and July.
SightsYuushien Garden, located on Daikonshima Island just outside of central Matsue, is a large garden famous for its peony flowers and lush landscape. When touring the grounds, you'll find waterfalls, streams, stone lanterns, a central pond, and other traditional landscape. The garden's incredible peony collections really come to life in the Spring and can be viewed during the Peony Festival held late April through May.
Matsue is also famous for being home to Irish journalist Lafcadio Hearn who wrote books about Japan in the 1890's. Not only did he write about his life in Matsue, he also chronicled a lot of the local legends and ghost stories, making him a very important figure to the city. You can visit the Hearn residence where he stayed while in Matsue or go to the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum to learn more about his life and time in Matsue.
The Matsue Castle is a truly a testament to Japan's architectural ingenuity. It is one of twelve surviving castles dating back to 1611; in the past 400 plus years, the castle has survived fires, earthquakes, and demolition filled Meiji Period. The main interior of the castle has been turned into a museum the displays arms and artifacts from various time periods. After exploring the castle and grounds, you can take a walk down to the Samurai village to explore the various museums and residences.
NeighborhoodsThere are two main areas of the Matsue City Center: North Side and South Side, both of which are easy to navigate on foot. On the North Side, located on the north side of the Ohashi River, you'll find Matsue Castle, the Hearn Residence, and sightseeing boat tours. The south side houses many of the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, along with the famous Shimane Art Museum.
Outside of the City Center, there are five other neighborhoods: Northern Matsue, Mihonoseki, Daikonshima Island, Southern Matsue, and South of Lake Shinji. Northern Matsue provides stunning views of the coast, sandy beaches, and gorgeous gardens to explore. Mihonoseki is on the eastern side and is often associated with Japanese mythology where it is said to hold the roots of the Japanese soul.
Daikonshima Island is home to Yuushien Garden, the famous peony garden located on this volcanic island. Southern Matsue is also linked to Japanese mythology and is the birthplace of the ancient Izumo culture. Finally, the South of Lake Shinji area houses many traditional Japanese inns and the hot springs of Tamatsukuri, often called the "baths of the gods".
ActivitiesMatsue holds a number of festivals and events throughout the years. From late March to mid April, there is the Castle Festival held on the Matsue Castle grounds where you can picnic surrounded by cherry trees during the day and lanterns in the evening. Thanks to Lafcadio Hearn's relation to the city, Matsue holds an annual Irish festival and parade on St. Patrick's Day in honor of the Irish connection he brought there.
Being the water city, Matsue is a wonderful place to take a boat tour. The Horiwaka Sightseeing boat takes you through the moat around the Matsue Castle and through the other local canals. You can also go to the public hot springs at Shinjiko Station to soak your feet while mingling with locals.
Food and DiningMatsue is one of the best places to experience a traditional tea ceremony, head into nearly any cafe to experience the tradition and taste beautiful, fresh tea. Matsue is also known for maintain the art of the Japanese wagashi confectionery for hundreds of years. At Saiundo, you can try their special plum flavored Wakakusa treat, among their countless other offerings.
With Lake Shinji being a mix of both fresh and salt water, Matsue is provided with a unique range of fresh seafood. The Shijimi clams, eel, whitebait, shrimp, bass, smelt, and carp are known as the "Seven Delicacies of Lake Shinji". The amount harvested throughout the year varies, though you can always head to local restaurants for the best in season options.
TransportationFor shorter routes to and from Matsue, it is recommended to book ahead. The best prices for buses and trains in Japan can be found on 12Go. They let you search across all bus, train, and airline routes throughout Asia.
Matsue is a very easy city to navigate: you can walk, bike, or take trains and buses. Three day combo passes are available to purchase to provide you with unlimited access to the trains and buses in the area.
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