Matsue Castle

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.

Matsue Castle - Tenshukaku

  • 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.

Matsue Castle - Hanami Cherry Blossoms Festival - Most Beautiful 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.

Le donjon de Matsue vu de loin.

Matsue Castle is a hilltop castle that can be seen from many places in the city.

Matsue Castle - Map of the grounds

Map showing Matsue Castle’s grounds as they were before several turrets and gates have been torn down in 1875.

 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).

Matsue Castle in the snow - South sideThe 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.

Matsue City, Castle tow, Japan - Old map 1600's

Map of Matsue castle-town after it was built in the early 17th century. The castle stands right in the middle. The overall layout of the city hasn’t changed much in 400 years.

Meimei-an Tea House  - Matsue, Japan

View on the castle tower from Meimei-an Tea House, north of the castle.

  •  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.

Le château de MatsueThe 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 >
(under construction)

  • 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.

Matsudaira Naomasa - Statue inside Matsue Castle - Battle of OsakaThe castle tower offers a panoramic view of the castle grounds and surrounding city all year round.

View on Lake Shinji and Shimane Art Museum (south side)

View on Matsue History Museum, Fumon-in Temple and Horikawa moats (east side).

More info in
< A Tour Inside Matsue Castle >
(under construction)

  • 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 grounds  - North sideMatsue Castle Grounds - Camphor TreeMatsue Castle Walls during Fall

Useful info

  • Access

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

  • 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

Matsue Castle official website (jp)
♦ Our photo album on Facebook
♦ Beautiful pictures of the castle by Chateaux du Japon
♦ Old pictures of Matsue Castle: matsue-ehagaki



2 réflexions sur “Matsue Castle

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