Completed in 1611 and one of only 12 remaining original castles nationwide, Matsue Castle was built over a five-year period by Horio Yoshiharu, feudal lord and founder of Matsue City. The castle tower offers a panoramic view of the surroundings and Lake Shinji (Japan’s 7th largest lake).
Like so many other places in Matsue, the castle offers great discounts for international visitors.
- One of the most beautiful castle of Japan
Matsue Castle is often cited as one of the most beautiful Castle of Japan. It has recently been ranked third as the top Japanese castle by a survey from Trip Advisor (see results in English on Japan Today). It also boasts 5 Stars on the brilliant Japanese Castle.
- One of only 12 remaining original castles nationwide
There are only twelve castles in Japan that are considered « original » (現存天守12城). Most of the Japanese castles have effectively been torn down after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Several turrets and gates of Matsue Castle were torn down in 1875 too but, thankfully, the castle tower (天守閣, Tenshukaku) was saved by efforts and donations from the people of Matsue.
Among the 12 original castles, Matsue Castle (top one in the middle) is the second largest, the third tallest and the sixth oldest. It is the only castle remaining in the San-in Region and is designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
The castle tower was refurbished between 1950 and 1955, and three turrets have been restored in 2001 (they can be seen in the picture below).
The castle tower is surrounded by many layers of protection, as well as inner and outer moats. The moats can be cruised thanks to the Horikawa Sightseeing Boat.
- Characteristics of the castle tower
The castle has the solemn and majestic features typical of the Momoyama-style castles. The elegance of the castle’s swooping roofs is often compared to the wings of a plover bird (‘chidori’), which has led to the castle’s alternative name as « the Plover Castle » (千鳥城, chidori-jo).
Unlike other famous castles such as the one in Himeji (« the White Heron »), Matsue Castle has an overall dark appearance, with wooden paneling covering a large part of the castle tower. Painted with a thick black substance, the wooden panel would protect the castle from fire.
The castle is a complex structure, built in a watchtower style, that appears to be five stories from the outside, but has in fact six levels inside. Designed for warfare, it features many defensive elements, like a large turret affixed to the main building, arrow and gun holes, and also stone dropping holes. The top floor offers a 360° viewpoint, making the castle both a lookout point and strategic control tower.
More info in
< Characteristics of the Castle Tower >
- Inside the castle tower
Inside the castle, there is a large collection of armor and battle helmets, along with a pictorial display of the castle’s history, photos of all the castles throughout Japan, and miniature replicas of the layout of Matsue as it has changed over time. The wooden floors, pillars, and stairways connecting the levels are all outstanding pieces of woodworking.
More info in
< A Tour Inside Matsue Castle >
- The castle grounds
Matsue Castle is not only about the castle tower, as the castle grounds have many a beautiful sight to offer. In addition of impressive walls and turrets, as well as the moats and their many bridges, the surroundings are home of no less than three shrines and an old palace built for the emperor. The grounds are also blessed with a beautiful nature, and one could easily spend hours just enjoying the views and relaxing.
Matsue Castle is located 2 kilometers northeast from JR Matsue Station. You can easily walk there in 25 min (see itinerary on Google Map) or take the Lakeline Bus. Get off at stop number 7 or 8. Please find the bus map and more details on Visit-Matsue.com.
- Hours and admission fee
Open 7 days a week. Entry to the Castle Tower:
Apr.-Sept. : 8:30am – 6:30pm
Oct.-Mar. : 8:30 – 5pm
Last admission 30min before closing
Discounts for international visitors:
Adult: ¥560 (50% OFF) →¥280
Child: ¥280 →¥140
- Useful links