The Black Castle of Matsue

Matsue Castle found in the north of Shimane’s prefectural capital is a large wooden medieval castle that is one of just 12 original castles left standing in Japan. Nicknamed the black castle for its black painted wooden panels, the 400-year-old six-storey structure is impressive both inside and out offering fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and unmissable panoramic views from the top floor.

At the turn of the 17th century, important daimyo lord Horio Yoshiharu moved from Shizuoka Prefecture to Shimane Prefecture after he failed to take part in the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. After firstly settling in Yasugi he soon moved to Matsue deciding that the hillside overlooking Lake Shinji was ideal for an ostentatious castle. Under Yoshiharu’s good name, grandson Tadaharu built the castle and surrounding castle town which laid the foundations for what is today’s Matsue City. In recent years Matsue Castle has been named a National Treasure as one of the largest, tallest, and oldest castles in the whole of Japan.

The Black Castle of Matsue
The Black Castle of Matsue

As well as sporting a number of unique features on the outside such as the black and white design and the onikawara roof ridges, the interior of the castle is almost as impressive as the exterior with large wooden beams and flooring adorning each of the six stories. Acting as a museum, the castle exhibits samurai outfits, historical documents, and weaponry up to the top floor. Just a 10-minute bus ride or a 30-minute walk from Matsue Station, Matsue Castle has become even more desirable as the 560 yen entrance fee has been halved for foreign visitors as a means of promoting inbound tourism.

The Black Castle of Matsue
The Black Castle of Matsue

As the castle was built in the style of a watchtower, on reaching the top floor of the castle visitors are greeted into an open room with panoramic views over Matsue. From here it’s easy to see how Matsue earned its name as the City of Water with lakes Shinji and Nakaumi, the city’s canals, and the Sea of Japan all in sight from the tower. To experience the castle from the water itself, jump on the Horikawa Sightseeing Boat which sets off around the castle every 15 to 20 minutes. Both the castle tours and the moat cruises continue throughout the chilly winter months with the boats’ passengers kept toasty under heated tables known as kotatsu.

The Black Castle of Matsue

Also within the castle grounds side by side sit Matsue Shrine and Kounkaku Mansion which warrant a visit on a trip to the castle. The small, peaceful Shinto shrine protected by a torii gate was built in the Meiji period and has been well maintained in its position among the greenery. Here, you can make a wish on a heart-shaped ema, a small wooden plaque, and hang it in front of the shrine.

The Black Castle of Matsue

The Kounkaku is a grand house whose Western design looks somewhat out of place in this complex of traditional Japanese buildings but was constructed in 1902 around the same time as the neighboring shrine. Built as entertainment for Emperor Meiji, the mansion now houses a folk museum and, perhaps the highlight of the building, the Kamedayama Tea House where you can pick up delicious cakes or lunch and a cup of tea or local Matsue beer.

Facility Name
Matsue
Address
Shimane Pref. Matsueshi Asahimachi
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Lake Shinji
Address
Matsue, Shimane Prefecture
Introduction
Lake Shinji boasts of being the seventh largest lake in Japan with a circumference of about 45 kilometers. It is a slightly salty brackish lake in which fresh water blends with seawater. The whitebait and shijimi shellfish which are caught in the lake are famous as a taste which is representative of Matsue. The sunset on Lake Shinji was also registered as one of the “Top 100 Sunsets of Japan”. The footpath which continues along National Highway Route 9 from Sodeshi Town to Yomeshimacho, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on the lakeshore of Lake Shinji has become the “Lake Shinji sunset spot”. As there is also a parking lot provided, we want you to take your time to enjoy the splendour of this scenery.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Nakaumi
Address
Shimane Prefecture Yasugi, Matsue, Tottori Prefecture Sakaiminato City, Yonago
Phone
0854233340
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN

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PLACES IN THIS ARTICLE

  • dummy image

    Nakaumi

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shimane Prefecture Yasugi, Matsue, Tottori Prefecture Sakaiminato City, Yonago
  • dummy image

    Matsue

    Transportation
    Shimane Pref. Matsueshi Asahimachi
  • Lake Shinji image

    Lake Shinji

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Matsue, Shimane Prefecture
  • Matsue Castle image

    Matsue Castle

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shimane Pref. Matsueshi Tonomachi 1-5
  • Kounkaku image

    Kounkaku

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shimane Pref. Matsueshi Tonomachi 1-59
  • Horikawa Pleasure Boat image

    Horikawa Pleasure Boat

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shimane Pref. Matsueshi Kurodachou 507-1
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