Matsue, Japan – A road trip off the beaten path

by Mike Still
Matsue, Japan – A road trip off the beaten path

After Matsuyama Andrew and I drove through Kochi to pick up his buddy David (a Welshman) before driving north to pick up Tobias (a Kiwi) in Okayama rounding out our international group at 4 so we could drive to Matsue.  The drive across Shikoku was quite beautiful taking us through mountains and massive tunnels, some as long as 4 kilometers!

Crossing the Seto Inland Sea brought even more amazing views from the expansive Great Seto Bridge but we were excited to get to Matsue and explore.  Our first stop was the original castle; it mimicked Matsuyama Castle architecturally but had a beautiful moat and much nicer garden surrounding it.

What to do in Matsue, Japan


Matsue Castle

What to do in Matsue

Matsue Castle and many other sightseeing destinations on southern Honshu offer discounts of 20-50% for foreigners.  These destinations are out of the main tourist path and locals will be happy to see you but speak very little English.

  • Visit Matsue Castle
  • Bird watch for cranes & Hawks at Gokoku Shrine
  • Stroll around the Samurai Street
  • See Lafcadio Hearn’s House

Matsue Castle

After strolling around the Matsue Castle we made our way to the samurai street, in effect an old town.   Along the way we passed Gokoku Shrine, a beautiful Inari Shrine and I had the chance to do some bird watching.  There seem to be plenty of hawks and cranes throughout every Japanese town and I was able to snap a few great shots.

The ancient shrines are world famous for their gates signalling Shinto shrines throughout the country.  This would be the first of thousands that I’d walk through in the next 2 weeks.  

Shinto is in effect the indigenous religion of Japan but Japanese people happily practice Buddhism and Shinto side-by-side.

Inari shrines area specific type of Shinto shrine dedicated to the god Inari who takes the form of a fox.  You’ll find hundreds of fox sculptures around any Inari shrine.On the other side of the temple was a quaint old neighborhood.  Samurai used to live here with easy access to the castle and thus an old town was formed.  You’ll find small buildings along the samurai street and other cobble stoned pathways lined with delicious restaurants and souvenir shops.  

Strolling along makes quite nice afternoon but sadly we arrived just before New Years and couldn’t tour a samurai house or Lafcadio Hearn’s, a famous Irish poet who lived in Matsue in the late 1800’s.

We finished out our day with a visit to the Japanese garden, Yuushien, located in the middle of the Lake Nakaumi before eating some amazing Japanese cuisine and a relaxing at the local onsen.  If you want to get off the beaten path in Japan be sure to check out Matsue!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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andrew ng March 31, 2018 - 7:29 pm

I am planning to drive from Mihara to Matsue. and onward to Tottori and back down to Kobe. How is the drive up to Matsue, it is a straight drive or there is up and down and lots of curves. What about rest stops are there rest stops in between. Any tips or advice. My first driving trip in Japan. I have done driving in Australia.

Mike Still April 2, 2018 - 11:12 am

Hi Andrew, I hope you have fun on your road trip across Japan. We came from Shimanto and there were a lot of up and downs, my friend had a small car and there were 4 of us. Plenty of rest stops and a beautiful drive for the most part. When you are in Matsue check out Izumo and Hinamisaki too. If you get a chance I enjoyed the UNESCO Iwami Ginzan Silver mine that we stopped at on the way across the Shimanami Kaido Bridge back to Shikoku. and I highly recommend that drive too.


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