Matsue Travel Guide   松江

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City of Water

The old samurai houses and teahouses mingle with the old canals in Matsue, making it a romantic and endearing regional capital. It's 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

The capital of Shimane Prefecture, Matsue is a city of history. Remodeled in the early seventeenth century 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 things, Matsue Castle, considered one of the best preserved medieval castles in Japan (it is among the last twelve medieval castles still standing). The building is the cultural center of the city, where many 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

Originally founded in 1889, 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 was then that Matsue became particularly famous for its culinary specialty of clams, but also for its seafood in general and the fish caught in Shinji lake, where 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, and the beautiful Buke Yashiki, former home of samurai, bears witness, as does the tea pavilion Meimei-an. Both buildings are located in the historic center of Matsue, north of the castle on Shiomi Nawate street.

International Relations

While Lafcadio Hearn is considered a classic author in Japan, we often forget that he was born far from the country and Koizumi Yakumo was 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 in Matsue and fell madly in love with Koizumi Setsu, a samurai's daughter, whose name he took.

Well integrated into Japanese society, he wrote about legends of the Matsue region and 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 good relations of the region with the English speaking world, including the area of New Orleans in the United States on which he has written. There are indeed similarities between Matsue, the city of water, and the United States region where bayous are everywhere.

Discover more about the city on its official website here.