Boat cruises take place on the moat and canals surrounding Matsue Castle (Photo: Kim B)
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Horikawa Sightseeing Boat Cruise

Exploring Matsue from the water

Exploring a city from the water often gives a different perspective than what you'd get on land. In Shimane's capital city of Matsue, an enjoyable way to get your bearings and learn about the region's history is by taking a ride on the Horikawa sightseeing boat cruise.

The boat tours last for approximately 50 minutes, and there are departures around every fifteen minutes from three locations close to Matsue Castle itself. The route covers almost four kilometers through canals across the city, and the boat captain provides a guided tour in Japanese. If you don't speak Japanese, never fear - there is an audio recording in English so you won't miss out on any of the information. The captain will point out a number of different sights while you're on board, including where to get the best view of Matsue Castle, and where the former residence of writer Lafcadio Hearn is located. I found the tour not only relaxing but incredibly educational, and only wish I'd made it a priority earlier in my trip.

One of the most interesting things about a ride on these sightseeing boats is that you pass under a number of very, very low bridges. They're so low that the roofs of the boats are designed to lower until they're almost flat in order to fit through. At certain points on the tour, the captain will advise everyone on board that a low bridge is coming up - you've got to be sure to duck so you don't bump your head!

Getting there

The Horikawa sightseeing boat cruises depart from three locations close to Matsue Castle.

If you're visiting via public transport, it's easy to access the boat boarding area from Matsue Station. Head to the bus boarding point #7 for the Lakeline Loop Bus. Alight at the Horikawa Yuuransen Noriba stop, and one of the boat boarding points is only 2 minutes away on foot.

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Sherilyn Siy 3 years ago
Your first photo looks like Vietnam. :P
Kim Author 3 years ago
I can 100% see that!
Luca De Pasquale 3 years ago
Ahhh, did this exactly one year ago, love the part where you have to bend over to cross the very low bridge !!!

Workers there are lovely and always have a story or two to tell, plus great way to see the old part of the former castle town of Matsue :)
Kim Author 3 years ago
I learned a bunch from the ride - definitely worth it in my opinion for anyone visiting Matsue!
Elizabeth S 3 years ago
I wholeheartedly agree, river travel is a great way to get perspective.

Is Matsue so green? That's lovely to see in a prefectural capital.
Kim Author 3 years ago
When I visited it was late May, so I think that assisted in the green-ness! I love it there so much...such an underrated spot, and it's very, very visitor-friendly.
Bonson Lam 3 years ago
Such a peaceful scene with the boat on gentle waters.
Kim Author 3 years ago
Matsue is lovely - it's very peaceful for a city!
Elena Lisina 3 years ago
I bet it's more exciting with blue sky and sun! :)
Kim Author 3 years ago
I actually loved it being overcast! I visited right before rainy season, so I think the skies were getting prepared!

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