Woke up to a rainy day in Okayama. Prior to the trip, the forcast had been sunny weather for the whole of my trip and I was quite sad when I saw the it is going to be raining on Day 2 of the trip. I had initially planned to make a trip to Tottori 鳥取 but visiting a sand dune in the rain doesn’t sounds like a good plan.
Checking on the weather, it seems like the only place in my itinerary with sun and clear blue sky is Matsue 松江. One thing about Matsue is the distance. It is a 2.5hr journey by the Yakumo Limited Express. Located in the Shimane Prefecture, Matsue is known as the “water city” due to its location between 2 lakes (Lake Shinji & Lake Nakanoumi) and the Sea of Japan.
I always love a good train ride, especially if it comes with beautiful scenery along the way. Check out some of my sightings!
A train ride is never complete without snacks and one cannot enjoy Japan without trying out all the different flavours in the season.
My first stop when I arrived at the Matsue JR Station is to visit the Tourist Information Centre. I was never one to visit these centre in the past but I was lost looking for my bus and hence decided to step in for some help. This definitely opened up my eyes to another part of travel planning that I have not explored. They have staffs in the centre who speaks various languages and the nice lady who assisted me speaks perfect English! She provided me with the bus maps and also gave me a rough idea how long I will need at each of the places of interest.
Here are some useful maps and timetable I had received from the tourist centre. I only have the Japanese version as their English version is only in Black and White so I opted for the colorful Japanese brochures.
Only the Matsue City Official Site, there is actually an English version of the Lakeline Bus Brochure that you can check out.
Bus timetable and maps in hand, I started my adventure from Bus Stop No. 7 for the Lakeline Loop Bus.
After boarding the bus, I purchased the One Day Pass at 500 JPY so that I can hop on and off the bus from one place to another.
I dropped off at Stop No. 7 which is right before the Matsue Castle 松江城. It is a short walk up to the Castle and there is a good view of the moat of the Castle.
I didn’t went into the castle as I wasn’t in the mood to climb another castle after Himeji so I just took a seat around the castle ground, enjoying the good weather and view of Matsue City.
Exploring the castle ground, I chanced upon Kounkaku 興雲閣. Unlike the traditional castle, this modern building caught my attention.
Built in 1903, this building was built for the Emperor Meiji but it was never used until 1907 when the then Crown Prince Yoshihito visited. This acted as a State Guest House for him. In 1912, this became the office welcome venue of Matsue City for various exhibition and functions. There is actually an English version of the above located outside the building but I found that some of the Japanese information were not translated. It’s always better to read them in the local language.
There weren’t many people in this building. When I stepped into it and headed up the stairs to the second floor, somehow I felt that the whole place had quietened down and it was eerily empty and silent except for the few exhibition in it. I didn’t stay long and headed back to the first floor where a cafe occupies most of the area. Despite the chilly experience, the interior is really grand.
The sakura was still in bloom when I was there and there are locals having their picnic (aka Hanami 花見) in the small park in front of Kounkaku. I decided to take a stroll along the castle as the weather was fantastic for the day.
I kind of got lost at this stage as I was just wondering around without a map and I ended up not knowing where I was. Luckily I found myself along the Samurai Street. This is a short stretch of traditional houses that used to be residence for the Samurai. They are open to the public but I was catching the bus to my next destination so I gave it a miss.
The Horikawa Sightseeing Boat 堀川遊覧船 is a 50mins cruise around the Castle’s inner and outer moat. It bypass various points of interest and the boatman will explain them and pointing them out to you. The guide is however in Japanese only. An interesting feature of the boat cruise is that it passes under some low bridges from time to time (4 times to be exact) so you will need to duck real low as the roof of the boat will lower. It’s actually quite exciting because everyone will be laughing and ducking when you approached the first ‘obstacle’.
The boat ride cost 1,230 JPY…BUT if you are a foreigner, you get a 33% discount which means it only cost 820 JPY for the ride! As usual, the forgetful me left my passport in my hotel room and I have no other identification to show them. So I used a different tactic this time, I spoke English to the cashier and try to explain to her that I am a foreigner and I forgot to bring my passport. The cashier was very kind to still offer me the foreigner rate! I guess that wouldn’t have work if I had spoken Japanese to her. ありがとうございました！
Took a long bus ride back to Matsue Station to catch my Shinkansen, leaving some time allowance for a quick meal. I get a good view of Lake Shinji and many other points of interest.
I have planned to visit Izumo during this trip but time did not allowed me to do so since it was a last minute decision to visit Matsue today and I had left Okayama later than required for this trip. To make up for it, I opted for the Izumo Soba! This was on my to-eat-list but I never quite made it there. For Izumo Soba, you have to pour the sauce on the soba instead of dipping them into it. They comes in 3 tier and with different toppings. I never figure out what is the topping for the one on the top of my picture and I didn’t really like it because it was too sticky.
Before heading back to Okayama, I bought some Shijimi (clams). Shijimi is a must eat in Shimane Prefecture! I couldn’t find a restaurant that sells the Shijimi Miso Soup which was on my bucket list so I have to get some back to make my own miso soup!
I really enjoyed Matsue. It is not a place that is frequent by tourist and most of the people I have met on this trip was locals. Places were not over crowded and it was very relaxing to just stroll and take a cruise to spend my time admiring the beautiful city. I will definitely be back to explore the places that I have missed out.