History buffs will appreciate the Matsue History Museum, just across the moat from Matsue Castle.
This small but well maintained museum tells of the area's past, the establishment of Matsue Castle, and the region's ties to Tokugawa Ieyasu, of the Tokugawa shogunate. The city's most famous international resident, Irish-Greek (and later Japanese national) writer Lafcadio Hearn aka Koizumi Yakumo, is also memorialized here.
In addition to the permanent history exhibition, the museum also holds a revolving art exhibition, which is charged separately. At the time we visited, there was a glassworks exhibition featuring work from local artists.
Those holding a non-Japanese passport or alien registration card can receive half off the admission cost, making admission for adults only 250 yen. The audio guides (usually priced at 500 yen) are free of charge for international tourists, available in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
With the same ticket, patrons can also visit the adjacent Hora-enya Museum, which is dedicated to the Matsue Adakaya Jinja Matsuri (Matsue Adakaya Shrine Festival), a colorful and raucous water-based festival occurring only once every ten years. As the next festival won't take place until 2019, festival fans can come here to admire the bright costumes, face paint, and long boats used in the celebration.
The handsome traditional buildings are edged with a graceful classical garden. The museum's tea shop, Kiharu (no admission required), is a beautiful place to relax and admire the garden, including a tatami area charming low tables and floor cushions. The shop serves traditional wagashi (Japanese sweets), intricately detailed creations made before your eyes by the shop artisans. As the museum also offers free wi-fi, Kiharu is an excellent place to while away the hours and do some work or correspondence as well.
The museum also holds workshops and lectures. One such opportunity is an incense-making workshops, where participants can make traditional Matsue-style incense (45 minutes, 1,260). Those who are not craftily-inclined but still want to enjoy the incense's delicate aroma can purchase some in the gift shop, Enishizuku, which stocks local products like soba (buckwheat, a local specialty) and history- and art-themed souvenirs.