Castle in Matsue city was intended to be the highlight of my visit to Shimane prefecture and thus my friends were keeping it for a later date. But...being a fan of castles and Japanese history I just could not wait and insisted on seeing it early. To my pleasure, after a few of “onegai shimasu” they gave up their initial plan to wait before taking me to see this grand attraction of their home prefecture. So on a one sunny weekend morning we left Izumo, bound for Matsue city; the capitol of Shimane prefecture.
Matsue castle intrigued me for still existing in its original wooden form. It is not a concrete reconstruction. I desired to see it and experience the ambient of old ages, for which I long for and seek in this modern world. Once there, entering the castle grounds, I was not disappointed. A large, water filled moat surrounds the castle and it offered a promising first gaze. I knew the tower it self could not disappoint me now. The number of visitors exploring the castle grounds were so to say “comfortable”. Not crowded and at the same time enough to entertain your eye and giving you a feeling of being on a popular place. Noticeably all visitors were Japanese.
The entry to inner castle grounds and a beautiful park was free of charge. No charge to roam around and daydream about a long history of this place. We have not noticed any strict regulations like “do not step on the grass” or “do not climb the walls”, so we did all that. It enhanced our pleasure and fun of visiting the place. We did no harm and I really appreciated the freedom the visitors are given. I’ve shot almost a hundred photos before reaching the main gate. Just could not resist the charm of the place. Castle park includes numerous ancient trees, sharing their history with the castle. Castle roof was perking behind tall tree tops. I felt it was kind of a "teaser". Giving us just a bit of the taste of what could be behind.
I increased the pace a bit, my Japanese friends followed and treated me with the entrance ticket. The ticket for main castle ground was 550 Yen per person. After realizing that this party of three included a foreigner, the ticket sales person informed us that passport holding foreigners have a right to a 50% discounted ticket. Quickly they refunded us the difference, without asking for my passport. I guess it was obvious I was a foreigner. I wondered what blew my cover. Finally after passing the paid entrance gate, a row of pine trees by now seemingly intentionally obscuring the view, made room for the sight of Matsue castle. The main tower, was a winning prize photo view indeed. Picture-postcard from Japan as you would wish for. Plain beautiful. I shot more of my amateur level photos and made a run at the tower entrance. Did I yell "Banzai"!! while doing it? Could be. Dear God...sometimes I'm really letting myself go.
At the entrance you will take off your shoes. Of course what else; you are in Japan. You can safely store them in a cabinet before proceeding. It is up to you will you put on slippers provided or explore the indoor just in your socks. The floor was very clean. I wore white socks and after finishing the tour my socks were still white. But...it was cold for our feet, I must admit.
Matsue castle was a primarily military building, a fortress. There were no comforts or any kind of mirror rooms padded in silk and stuff. The interior is now a museum of samurai warriors who did their feudal service in the past centuries. There are examples of strategic solutions for defending the castle in case of a siege or breach. One example is that the stairs for each of the floors were built out of a light and durable wood, so they would not burn easily and were light to pull up on the next floor. There is a huge well which is on a same level as the lake for water supply. Exhibition of samurai armors, helmets and weapons was very interesting and they had very nice examples, especially numerous helmets. But exhibition should definitely be richer in artifacts. There is room for more. You can’t get bored looking at swords and armors, right? From the top most level you can observe all Matsue and lake Shinji. Additional attraction outside castle grounds are samurai district, a history museum of Matsue and Lafcadio Hearn residence. All in walking distance and adequate and worth visiting edition to the castle attraction. Tasty foods and a boat ride along the moat are available too. I will visit again. Next opportunity for sakura hanami!