DAY 2: Matsue
I started early at Matsue Castle, one of only 12 original castle keeps left in Japan (the rest are reconstructions) which is good to combine with the history museum across the road. Original castles are always empty so we can appreciate the wood and how it would've looked in the past, but they don't have much going in terms of displays so it's always interesting to visit a museum to learn the history.
I also went for a 45min boat ride around the moat and canals of town, very beautiful and enjoyable. They had a kotatsu (tables with a blanket and heater)! My feet fell asleep soon, there wasn't much room to move, but the women driving the boat sang folk songs so I was properly distracted.
I also visited Lafcadio Hearn's old residence, an author who wrote many books about Japanese legends and folklore. In fact, his book Kwaidan, I read it as a teenager, is what initially made me interested in Japan, and he talks a lot about Matsue in his work Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan which I highly recommend checking out before visiting Shimane.
A couple small shrines and dango later, it was time to run to the other side of Matsue to see the festival! I won’t go into details about the festival since it’s a temporary event, you can read about it and see photos on my blog if you will be visiting in Spring.
And then, before heading to my hostel, I had to take the same boat ride again to hide under their kotatsu for a while (the ticket lasted all day, so I had to use it at least twice). It was cold!
DAY 4: Tamatsukuri Onsen, Matsue
The bed at Izumo Guest House was one of the most comfortable beds I’d tried in Japan (still is), it would’ve taken nothing short of an earthquake to wake me up. It was 1am when I realised the bunk bed was shaking. In my sleepy state, I didn’t realise this until later. A siren outside rang for a few moments, so I lifted my head to look outside the window, figure out what was going on. The roads were wet from rain, but the streets were quiet, just a few cars stopped at the traffic light in front of the house. It was one of those nights, when you just listen to the cars go by, follow their red lights with your eyes and simply enjoy the calm and peace of midnight, like the night has separated those moments from time.
I closed my eyes again, my bed still shaking lulling me to sleep.
In the morning I went down for some more tea, I asked the owner if there had been an earthquake during the night and he assured me there had. It had been a big one (this area rarely gets earthquakes compared to northern Japan, so it was unusual) and his family had already called to make sure he was fine. So I decided to head to the Tourist Information Centre first, ask if the trains and buses were still running. They weren’t, and my plans for Oda were cancelled once again. And so, plan C (plan B had also been cancelled) was put into action and I headed to Tamatsukuri Onsen instead.
Tamatsukuri is a small town, technically part of Matsue, known for its hot springs and cherry blossom tunnel along the river. It's an easy and scenic walk from Tamatsukuri-onsen train station to the town. Unfortunately, the sakura at Tamatsukuri had mostly fallen when I visited, the bad weather from the past few days haven taken away most of the flowers. But the few left still made the place look good! The town's shrine has a secret sumo ring in the back.
I went to Matsue in the afternoon to visit a couple sites I'd missed the other day, namely the Shinji lake and a temple.
At Shinji lake, right in front of the Shimane Art Museum, is a little island which is a famous sunset spot. It still looks good during the day.
And finally I headed back to Izumo to catch my night bus back to Tokyo, departing at 6:30pm.
#matsue #boat #castle #author #festival