Tuesday 6 June Matsue

This morning we arrived in Sakaiminato Port and our tour to Matsue Castle left the ship at 8.45. Matsue is the capital city of Shimane Prefecture, in Southwest Japan. Known as the “Town of Water”, Matsue is beside the Sea of Japan where Lake Shinji and Nakaumi meet, in the middle of Shimane Peninsula. Matsue was a former feudal stronghold and is a castle town with many canals and has one of the twelve remaining original castles in Japan. Matsue and its surrounding areas are rich in cultural assets and historical sites, and many of Japan’s most ancient legends are set in the area.
Our bus took about 45 minutes and along the way Junko gave us interesting facts about the area and Japan. We had a beautiful drive and went over the Eshimo Ohashi bridge which is 45 metres high and 1.5km long. We could also see Daisen Mountain, which is the highest mountain in the Chugoku region and it is known as Japan’s second Mt Fuji. Daisen Mountain has 60 temples and a ski resort for the winter. We drove past solar panel farms – they are a new source of energy for Japan – and we also saw lots more rice paddies. Rice is eaten by all Japanese at least once a day, sometimes 3 times a day, and because the groceries are done on foot or by bicycle, they get their rice delivered in 10, 15 or 20kg bags and of course, they can now be ordered online.
As we got closer to Matsue, we saw lots of vegetable growing areas for ginseng, which have to be covered with roofs as they don’t like the sun and we saw other vegetables growing too. All the agricultural land is privately owned, but sometimes a community owns it together. Coming into Matsue City, there were lots of tall buildings to house 200,000 people.
Matsue Castle (Matsuejō) is one of only twelve original castles in Japan. Its main tower has survived to this day through fires, earthquakes and the anti-feudal demolitions of the Meiji Period. It is sometimes called the “Black Castle” or “Plover Castle” after its darkly coloured exterior. Matsue Castle was completed in 1611 and most castles in Japan were dismantled at the start of the Meiji Period, but thanks to a citizen’s group led by a wealthy farmer named Katsube Motouemon, and a former Samurai of the Matsue Domain named Takagi Gonpachi, the Castle Tower was the only one in the San-in region to be saved. It is now the beloved symbol of Matsue.
We climbed up many stone steps to enter the Main Keep of Matsue Castle, which is perched on top of a hill and surrounded by a moat and thick walls. Major renovation works were commenced in the 1950s to preserve it. Inside the main keep is a museum, which has displays of period arms and artifacts. We took our shoes off at the entrance to the Main Keep and climbed up many wooden stairs (original stairs) to the 5th level – the Castle has 6 levels but the top one is not open to the public. We had magnificent views on this beautiful sunny day looking out on all four sides towards the mountains and the whole of Matsue. We climbed down the steep wooden stairs one step at a time and stopped at the 3rd level and the 2nd level for the museum displays. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Matsue Castle.
We were then driven in the bus about 10 minutes to the Horikawa River Boat Cruise around Matsue in small boats that hold up to 10 people. Boatmen and boatwomen drove the boats around the moat and narrow canals that form the Horikawa River. We went on the inner moat and part of the outer moat that remain as they were when the castle was constructed. When we boarded the boat we had to take our shoes off and leave them at the front of the boat and crawl under a canopy and sit on a mat on the floor. During the 50 minute cruise, we went under 16 low bridges that our little boat with its canopy just fitted under, four of which were very low and involved the boatwoman signaling us, and us lying down so that she could lower the canopy to fit under the bridges. It was all a lot of fun, very peaceful with lovely views and when we returned to the landing dock we crawled back off the boat and put our shoes back on, laughing with the other groups as they got off their boats.
We boarded our buses for the 45 minute drive back to the ship for lunch. We had lunch out on the Lido Deck enjoying the view with our usual group.
After lunch we boarded our buses again for the 25 minute drive to Daikon-jima Island to visit the Japanese Garden, Yuushien. Our words will not be able to describe this absolutely stunning ten-acre garden. Yuushien is said to be a “Miniature Garden of the Land of Izumo”, a pond-centred Japanese-style garden that reflects the scenery and traditions of the Izumo region. The Peony flowers bloomed in April and May so they are finished now, but we were delighted to discover that Yuushien has a Peony House that is air-conditioned and kept at the perfect temperature all year round, so we were able to see the most amazingly beautiful Peonies!
As we wandered around the garden soaking up the beauty and taking many photos, we saw two men trimming Pine Trees by hand, one leaf at a time, to complete the perfect shape. We saw Irises and the most amazing Moss, which was kept at the right humidity by constant misting. We saw a waterfall tucked away in a corner of the garden and a stream that “babbled” its way over rocks down the hill to form a pond, which of course had a lovely red Japanese bridge over it and we also saw a beautiful Zen garden.
Our visit to this stunning place was completed with a visit to their amazing gift shop with lots of hand-made items.
When we arrived back at the port, some of the local tourist bureau greeted us with gifts from Sakaiminato and then shortly before the ship sailed away, we were asked to come back down to the pier so that the children from the local elementary school could give us a gift they had made – two origami in a lovely gift bag and then when we were back onboard, we were treated to a song and dance performance by the children from the local elementary school and the local high school. They were absolutely adorable and they waved goodbye to us until we couldn’t see them anymore.
Tonight was the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party followed by the Captain’s Farewell Dinner – we sat at our usual table with our usual group – Alison & Nic & Dave, Liz & Pat, Barb and us. We shared the Moet champagne that was in our cabin when we arrived on the ship and we had a good night with lots of laughter as usual.
Another wonderful day in Japan!

2 Responses to “Tuesday 6 June Matsue”

  1. Maria Highes says:

    Ha ha Sandy – your description of having to lie down on the boat brought back memories of us doing the same in Capri so we could get into the Blue Grotto – so much fun and laughter – keep enjoying every moment, love us xoxo

  2. sandy says:

    Hi Sis, Yes I did think of you guys in Capri going into the Grotto, It was lots of fun. We will keep enjoying ourselves – it is raining here in Kanazawa – hope it is not raining in Tokyo, We will be heading to the station in a while to catch the Shinkansen (fast train) to Tokyo. Lots of love. xoxo

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