If you have been following us along on our adventures throughout the Izumo region, you will have seen the instruction “From Mastue Stn.,” more than a few times. Matsue, after all, is the capital of the Shimane Prefecture and easily the largest city as well. Certainly, there has to be something interesting to do, right?
Here are our picks for things to do and eat while in Matsue!
First things first though, here are some tips for traveling in Matsue.
Tips While Traveling in Matsue City
Be sure to store your bags in a coin locker or see if you can find a nearby service that will send your bags to your hotel. Traveling hands free around here is really important, because you will likely do a lot of walking.
Discount Tickets and Day Passes
Shimane unfortunately doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to fast convenient transportation and all this train and bus riding really adds up. Furthermore, just traveling a few stations here can take a long time. Around Izumo traveling the length of, say four stations, can potentially take 45 minutes to an hour! So if you need connecting bus service in addition to get where you want to go, you must coordinate that as well.
En-musubi Perfect Ticket
One of the things that made getting around much easier while we were moving about was the En-musubi Perfect Ticket.
The Perfect Ticket includes: All Ichibata buses in Izumo and Matsue, Matsue city bus, highway buses around Izumo and Matsue, and it also serves as a discount ticket for various attractions throughout both cities.
This only works with Ichibata owned transportation, so JR is of course excluded. You can buy this ticket inside the Ichibata Travel Service counter inside the JR Matsue Stn, the Izumo Tourist Information Center, and even at the Izumo-taisha-mae Stn.
This ticket saved us so much time and hassle since we didn’t have to worry about figuring out transportation fare, or trying to make sure we had enough small coins for said fare. We kept ours in a clear file, making it easy to take out when needed. (Also water proofing)
Lakeline Bus One Day Pass
When we were buying our perfect ticket, we also got this:
A one day pass for the Lakeline Buses! With this day pass, you can easily go to Matsue’s most historic sites, as well as some interesting shops. You can get to everything on this list using the Lakeline Buses.
Things to do in Matsue
This is probably the most iconic things in Matsue is the castle. No trip would be complete without it, so it is certainly a must. It is one of the largest castles in Japan, as well as a national treasure.
Matsue-jo is pretty lucky compared to other castles in Japan. The castle has never burnt down, been sacked, or experience a large earthquake. The castle’s main keep dates to the 16th century, but the city took down the outer wall in the 1870’s. Now Matsue-jo’s outer walls are back, and is easily the most popular tourist attraction in the city to date.
As you are walking around the castle grounds keep an eye out for the Heart of Matsue-jo. For some reason this is really popular and you will more than likely find it because everyone will stop and take a picture of it. The Heart of Matsue-jo is a stone in one of the walls the runs near the castle and just happens to be shaped like a heart.
Take a Boat Ride
Matsue calls itself the “City of Water” due to the canals and waterways that run throughout the city. The most obvious thing to do then of course, is take a boat ride! These gondola-like boats most common around the Lakeline Bus route, as well as around Mastue-jo as well.
Visit the home of Lafcadio Hearn
“Patrick” Lafcadio Hearn, also known by his Japanese name Yakumo Koizumi, was an international writer and journalist in the 19th century. He is most famous for his works about Japan, including Japanese legends and ghost stories. Hearn’s books were some of the very first in-depth descriptions about traditional Japanese life and folklore the Western world had of Japan, which was still very isolated in the late 19th century. One of his most popular books was his collection of Japanese ghost stories, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.
Hearn came to Matsue in 1890 for some journalism work, but loved it so much he decided to stay. He married a girl from Matsue named Setsu and became a local middle school English teacher! When he became a naturalized citizen of Japan it is very likely he derived the name Yakumo from the “yakumo” of the epithet of the Izumo region Yakumotasu-Izumo [八雲たつ-出雲]. Eventually he went east and taught English in some esteemed Japanese universities, namely Waseda and Tokyo Imperial University, better known as Tokyo University.
Visit Lake Shinji
Lake Shinji is essential to Matsue. Not only does it provide the city with a lot of fresh fish, but there are many hotels and cruises for visitors to Matsue to enjoy. There is even an onsen. Best if all, if you can make it down to Shirakata Park, a walk around the city’s iconic lake is free. Free is good. Hang around for sunset if you can, as the scenery does not disappoint.
Matsue Craft Beer
This is a stop on the Lakeline route so it’s really easy convenient. Microbreweries are something I haven’t come across all that much in Japan, so this was kind of a surprise for me. They seem to have a lot of awards as well. The first floor is a pretty generic souvenir store and the restaurant is upstairs where you can of course drink some of their beer.
All different areas and regions of Japan offer some sort of local delicacy. Be sure to eat some of these things during your day!
- Bote-bote Cha
Bote-bote cha [ぼてぼて茶] is something very particular to the city of Matsue and the Izumo region. They make a very frothy matcha tea and then put sekihan, black beans, konbu, and chikuwa in their tea. It is very unique and not all expensive. The shop that we found was down a little path behind Matsue-jo.
There are seven kinds of fish, collectively called the Shinjiko-shicchin, that are prized from Lake Shinji. These fish include aiyu (whitebait), unagi (eel), wakasagi (smelt) and suzuki (seabass), however, the most popular hands down is shijimi (clams). Shijimi are all over the place. The shijimi from Lake Shinji are in a host of local dishes, the most common being miso soup. Gift stores also sell them, so you can stock up before you go.
The mascot of the Shimane Prefecture is an adorable yellow cat named Shimanekko. I may like him a little…
You can get Shimanekko theme gifts in so many different places, I really don’t think you will have a hard time finding them. Shimanekko’s house is even right across the street from Matsue-jo on the top floor of this souvenir shop. This shop is very close to the bus stop, you know, just in case 😉
Another one of the official characters of Shimane Prefecture is this dude here.
He actually has a popular YouTube channel. It is even subtitled! His name is Yoshida, a member of a dysfunctional group of misfit villains known as The Eagle’s Talon.
To my knowledge, he is the *only* anime character from Shimane Prefecture.
Time to Head Home
While Izumo might not be the most glamorous place in Japan, it’s roots in the country’s history and culture go very deep. In addition, there are many old traditions all throughout Izumo as well as the Shimane Prefecture. If you care about visiting Japan in hopes of truly feeling and experiencing her unique culture, you will not be disappointed.
Time to head back to Osaka!
Coming next time,
New Year’s Special: Osechi ryori
Delectable adventures await.