Japanese Castles: Matsue Castle
Matsue Castle 松江城
Matsue Castle in the town of Matsue, Shimane prefecture, dates from 1611, when it was built by the local feudal lord Horio Yoshiharu. Matsue Castle is one of only a handful of castles in Japan that has not been destroyed by fire or war and is completely original.
For 230 years, until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the castle was home to the Matsudaira clan, a junior branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. The castle underwent reconstruction and repair work in the 1950s. Further restorations were completed on three turrets on the castle walls in 2001.
The black-painted wood of the castle's keep gives a menacing effect to the six-story tower. Matsue Castle has the second largest donjon (keep) of all the twelve remaining original Japanese castles, is the third tallest at 30m and the sixth oldest. Inside are displays of arms and armor and the original shachi (mythical dolphins) of the castle's roof. Shachi were believed to protect a castle from fire.
From the top floor of Matsue Castle there are fine views over the city and surrounding area including Lake Shinji (Japan's 7th largest lake).
A pleasure boat trip around the extensive castle moat is very popular with visitors to Matsue. The moat is part of the Jozankoen Park, which was once the grounds of Matsue Castle, and which now contains the Matsue Historical Museum. The former residence of Lafcadio Hearn and the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum are just north of the castle moat, along with some samurai housing dating from the Edo Period (1603-1867).
Access - Getting to Matsue Castle
Matsue Jozan Koen Administration Office
Tel: 0852 21 4030
Hours: April 1-September 30 8.30am-6.30pm; October 1-March 31 8.30am-5pm
Admission: 560 yen for adults (50% off for foreign visitors)
Matsue Castle is about 1km north west of Matsue Station and there are buses from the station or walk over the bridge crossing the Ohashi River.
Matsue Castle with its two shachi guardians clearly visible on the castle roof
Matsue Castle is a completely intact, original Japanese castle