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Matsue Travel Guide
松江

Matsue, The City of Water

The old samurai houses and teahouses mingle with the millennia Matsue channels, making it the romantic and endearing regional capital. Also known as the "city of water" amongst the Japanese.

On the north coast of the Chugoku region, Matsue is surrounded by water, and that's what makes it beautiful. The city is crossed by the Ohashi River that connects Lake Shinji from the west and the lagoon of Nakaumi from the east of the city.

Channels at the castle

Capital of Shimane Prefecture, Matsue is primarily a city of history. Remodeled in the early seventeenth by the great strategist Horio Yoshiharu, the city was reputed to be impregnable. The Horikawa, navigable canals, were, at the time of their construction, strategic facilities to slow the enemy in case of an attack. Today they have become true attractions on which it is very pleasant to wander by boat.

The Horikawa protected, among other, the Matsue Castle, considered one of the best preserved medieval castles in the archipelago (it is among the last twelve medieval castles still standing). The building is the cultural center of the city, where you come to admire the moat. However, its gardens are also particularly appreciated during hanami, as well as for its camellias and Japanese azaleas.

Shellfish and Tea Houses

Founded at the beginning of our era, the city was passed from hand to hand over the centuries. Harusato Matsudaira,  scholar and master of the tea ceremony, ruled the city in the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century and decided to modernize it. It is then that Matsue became famous especially for its culinary specialty: the clams, but also for its seafood and fish caught in the lake where Shinji fresh water and seawater mix. People come to attend the numerous tea ceremonies given there. But the city also attracts worshippers of the Shinto religion due to its proximity to Izumo, a great religious center.

The city has long welcomed numerous samurai, protectors of the Matsudaira family. The beautiful Buke Yashiki, former home of samurai, is the witness, like the tea pavilion Meimei-an. Both buildings are located in the historic center of Matsue north of the castle in the street Shiomi Nawate.

International Relations

If Lafcadio Hearn is considered a classic author in Japan, we often forget that he was born far from the archipelago and Koizumi Yakumo is an alias linked to naturalization. Born in Dublin to a Greek mother and an Irish father, Lafcadio Hearn traveled widely in France, the United States, Guadeloupe and finally to Japan, where he became a professor of English at Matsue and fell madly in love with Koizumi Setsu, a daughter of a Samurai, whose name he takes.

Very well integrated into Japanese society, he wrote about legends of the Matsue region and writes several essays on Japan. The house he occupied on Shiomi Nawate street is now a museum that gives a good overview of his life and his work. Today, Lafcadio Hearn remains the guarantor of relations of the region with the English speaking world, including the area of New Orleans in the United States on which he has written. The similarities are indeed great between the city of water and the United States region where the bayous are everywhere.


Discover more of the city on its official website here.