Matsue Castle – the Black Castle of Shimane
The historic Matsue Castle rests atop a small hill overlooking Matsue City. Rich in culture, history and tradition, this is a castle not to be missed.
Located in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, Matsue Castle is one of five castles that are considered Japanese Important National Treasures. The other four being Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture, Inuyama Castle in Aichi Prefecture, Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture and Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture. Shimane Prefecture is a mountainous, sparsely populated coastal region in the western part of Japan’s Honshu Island. Beautiful mountain and sea views make this prefecture a popular photography spot.
Want more castles? Check our article on Japan Castles – the 15 Best Japanese Castles
About Matsue Castle
Along the castle’s moat, buildings from the Edo period (1603 – 1868) can still be seen lined up in rows – old homes of the local populace. More history can be found at nearby Izumo Taisha, in Izumo, which is among Japan’s earliest Shinto complexes. Matsue Castle is nicknamed the “black castle” or “plover castle” due to its characteristic dark exterior. Not to be mistaken for the “crow castle” – also black – which refers to Matsumoto Castle.
The castle was constructed from 1607 to 1611 under the local feudal lord Horio Yoshiharu. In 1638, the property rights and fief passed to the Matsudaira clan, an affiliate branch of the ruling Tokugawa clan. The Matsudaira clan lived in the castle until 1871 and in 1935 Matsue Castle and the park were put on the list of national treasures protected by law as cultural heritage sites.
The castle is a popular destination for locals to visit in spring when the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full bloom. They contrast prettily with the stone and dark exterior of Matsue Castle, perfect for photographs. Autumn, when the leaves turn deep red, is another popular time to visit.
Further Info and Events
There are several events centered around Matsue Castle to participate in throughout the year. Hatsu hi no de (初日の出), the festival celebrating the first sunrise of the year, is one of them. Many castles across the country are closed over New Years, but Matsue Castle allows visitors to climb to the top of the castle and greet the new year with a beautiful view over Matsue city.
Plenty of information about the castle’s history and significance can be found all around the complex, and if you’re lucky you’ll even get a tour from one of the traditionally dressed entertainers. Spring festivals, castle festivals and summer festivals are also held every year at Matsue Castle and are a fantastic opportunity to mingle with locals and have some fun.
In mid-June, the castle holds a candle night event in which giant shapes and images are formed using thousands of small candles. If you like events at night, another event in October involves large numbers of lanterns floating down the streets, rivers and waterways of the town, which, with the castle in the background, creates a magical atmosphere.
More information on all the above events available on the official Matsue City Homepage here.
Mon – Sun
8:30 am – 6:30 pm (April – September)
8:30 am – 5:30 pm (October – March)
adult 560 yen (280 yen with a foreign passport)
child 280 yen (140 yen with a foreign passport – up to junior high school age)
The fastest access is from JR Matsue Station by tourist bus (Lakeline Bus) to any of the stops around Matsue Castle grounds (stops 7 to 10 on this PDF from the official bus site).
More access information: