Located at the northern-most point of Shimane Prefecture in the Chugoku Region, Matsue City is a different world from other major cities found on the Southern coast of Japan. Despite its size and economy, being tucked away far north of the Okayama mountain range meant that Matsue City was usually spared from the battles that laid waste to many cities elsewhere. As a direct result, the city is blessedly able to fully maintain Matsue Castle as it was originally built, one of only a dozen such castles in Japan, and the second largest one of them all.
I was equally astounded by the fact that much of the Matsue City's planning, first laid down by Lord Horio Yoshiharu some 400 years ago, remains visible on the ground today. Whereas other cities look nothing like they used to just decades ago, the impressively laid city plans and major roads in Matsue City still remain as they were, even as the bustling city modernizes and skyscrapers dot the landscape.
A major point in the Matsue City's planning was to create waterways running east-west across the city, combining the two major lakes, Lake Shinji and Lake Nakaumi found on either sides of the city. As a result, Matsue City is also known in Japan as the "City of Water." Despite being built for military reasons, the resulting waterways are now a beautiful sight to behold, with sight-seeing boats traversing the huge Ohashi-gawa. Four large bridges bring cars and pedestrians across both banks of Matsue city. Other than Ohashi-gawa, a multitude of other smaller rivers and bridges are everywhere in Matsue City, almost like a Venice in Japan.
With easy-to-navigate road infrastructure and beautiful river networks, Matsue City is the perfect city for exploration on two wheels. Although it boasts a convenient bus system, the many amazing sights of this city are better discovered at one's own pace, and best done with a trusty bicycle.
This is my guess, but having cycled two days in Matsue City I believe that special effort has been made by the local government and tourist board to make cycling a preferred choice for touring the city. Bicycles can be rented from many locations in Matsue City, and these are prominently featured on all the tour brochures I received. I was mind-boggled to find the price of a bicycle rental to be an extremely extremely affordable ¥300 for normal bicycles and ¥500 for electric bicycles, compared to at least a ¥1000 charged in other cities I rented from. Rental is for one day, earliest from 8:00AM in the morning, and has to be returned by 6:30PM to the original location.