Matsue, being a castle town, has an intricate web of waterways running through the town, spreading out from the inner and outer moats enclosing the castle.
The moat was built in 1611 during the completion of the castle, and is a rare example of a moat remaining almost fully in its original form. Boat trips on the moat began in 1997, and are a popular activity for tourists to Matsue.
There are three separate boarding points, where you can hop on and off using a one-day ticket, making this an alternative for getting around town and exploring different areas. One entire circle on the boat tour covers almost 4km of waterways, and lasts for a duration of up to 50 minutes.
The boat tour passes through scenic areas of the town such as Shiomi-nawate, and under numerous bridges. There is a total of sixteen bridges that are particularly notable, of which four are especially low bridges. These low-lying bridges leave little room for the boats to pass beneath them, giving Matsue’s horikawa boat cruise one of its most memorable characteristics.
When it comes to passing under particularly low bridges, the boats roof is lowered to pass through with ease. In some cases, these bridges are not only low, but are also very narrow.You will be warned by the driver before he lowers the roof, and you might even do a practice run just after leaving the pier so you know how far you have to duck down. But there’s no need to worry about getting hit by the roof, it happens quite slowly.
The whole ride in general is a laid-back and nostalgic look at Matsue and areas that you may not pass through or even notice if you were to explore on foot. As you sit back and enjoy the ride, the driver will give some details about Matsue’s history, the castle, and some anecdotes thrown in here and there. This guide is in Japanese, but even without understanding everything, the boat ride is still a nice memory to have.
When the weather turns that bit chillier in the winter, the boats are equipped with kotatsu (table with heating) that you can get cozy in while looking out at the beautiful scenery. This is especially enjoyable when the surrounding scenery is covered in a sheet of soft white snow, the boat slides quietly along the waters surface, and the people on board are snug and warm with their blanket and table heater.
The Horikawa boat cruise is just one of many facilities in Matsue that offers discounts to international tourists.
Address: Matsue City, Kuroda-cho 507-1 Tel.: 0852-27-0417 Fax:0852-27-0341
Web: http://www.matsue-horikawameguri.jp/en/index.html (English website)