Matsue Castle 

Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle was built between the years 1607-1611 by Horio Yoshiharu,

the founder and first lord of Matsue Castle. It is the last remaining original castle

in the San-in area, and is the 2nd largest, 3rd highest and 6th oldest in Japan.

It was designed and built primarily as a defensive structure, and so what it lacks in elaborate design and architectural features, it makes up for in strength and practicality. It is also quite deceptive in that is has five storeys but six floors…

On the castle roof are two shachihoko. Shachihoko are mythical half dragon half fish sea creatures that are said to bring rain.  They were typically placed on the roofs of castles and the homes of samurai to protect them from fire. On Matsue Castle, the male shachihoko atands on the left and the female on the right. Inside the castle there is a staircase that could be lifted up to block off the upper floors in the event of an enemy storming the castle. There are also very long narrow windows through which the approaching enemy could be shot at.

According to a story in Lafcadio Hearn’s Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, many problems arose when the castle was being built, which greatly hindered the progress of its construction. To appease the gods, it was decided that a young girl would be buried alive under the walls of the castle. It is said that the only thing known about this girl is that she liked dancing, and so soon after the castle was built, a law was passed in Matsue forbidding girls to dance in the streets of Matsue. When they did dance, the whole of the castle hill was said to shudder from base to summit.

Another story that has been passed down is that of Horio Tadauji, who was the son of Yoshiharu. Not long after Yoshiharu had decided to start work on the castle, Tadauji decided to explore the area that was to come under his family’s domain. One summer’s day, he went to Kamosu Shrine in the south of Matsue, and was annoyed to see that he was not allowed into the shrine area. He shouted to the gods that there was nowhere in this land that he could not enter and pushed his way deep into the shrine. When he got back to the castle, he started to feel unwell and suddenly collapsed and died. It is said that he had been bitten by a poisonous snake in the inner area of the shrine. He was 27.

Matsue Castle Park

There is a lot to see around the castle. The lower section by the moat has shrines, a forest trail, and woodland walks. In the upper sections are Matsue Shrine and a museum which displays historical photographs of Matsue. In spring the castle grounds are a great place  to enjoy cherry blossom viewing, especially at night, when the castle and grounds are all lit up.

Matsue Shrine and Material pavilion

Information office at Matsue Castle

Sightseeing Information Office

Castle: 280 yen for overseas visitors (50% off the normal fee.)

Getting There:

It takes around 25 minutes to walk from Matsue Station to the castle. By bus: Take the lakeline bus from bus stop No. 7 at Matsue Station and get off at Otemae stop.

Opening Times: Apr – Sept: 8:30 – 6:30, Oct – Mar: 8:30 – 5:00


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