The bright morning light overwhelms my attempt to sleep in and peels me off the soft bed.
Outside a clear calm sky looks over the still lakeside city. A press of the phone shows the number 5:16…and here I thought it is at least 6:30. The sun rises too early here.
City Hotel does not have its own restaurant so there’s no buffet breakfast, nor does it provide bread buns like many of the rest. Neither does it tell you to go down to Lawson and solve it yourself. City Hotel provide small breakfast bentos and pot brewed coffee at the lobby which you can help yourself to. Not a bad solution actually, I get to eat in my own room, enjoy the vista outside (I specifically paid for the tallest level & lakeside room) while I plan for the day ahead.
While City Hotel is not fancy and is small compared to large chains like Toyoko Inn or Comfort, it definitely does not lose out. The wi-fi is lightning fast, the room is big and everything you can expect to be there is there. Vending (drinks and instant ramen), coin laundry, fully equipped rooms including fridge and kettle (you have no idea how much I hate not having kettle in a room).
It is about 15min walk from the station (less than 10 with my pace) but actually sits in a prime location, next to the Kyomise shopping street where by the looks of it has a lot of good restaurants, and is adjacent to the picturesque canal-side walk, also fairly close to Matsue Castle and very importantly (as I’ll explain later) a supermarket~!
I didn’t have plans for the 3 days here set in stone beforehand. Figured I’ll see how the weather is like and act accordingly. I have notes and timetables for the various potential sightseeing spots and will make up my mind in the morning.
My original plan of 1 day east, 1 day west and 1 day Matsue happens to go out the window at this point, deciding Izumo won’t take take all day and can fit in with some Matsue while there’s much more to do on the east side.
The Shimane tourism site provides a sunset forecast for the next week, as I browses on my phone it is giving a forecast of over 80% for today and tomorrow, and 60% for the 3rd day.
I quickly decides if today is going to have good weather, I’ll do the sunset schedule today in case it rains later. Which means Adachi Museum and Sakaiminato with its Kitara and monster statues, a manga from my childhoods that revolves around Japanese folklore monsters. Just going to 2 places should give me plenty of time to be back in Matsue before sunset.
A diesel-electric train with just 2 carriages pull into station and I hop on. There’s not enough population here to support the kind of 10 carriage trains in the big cities, with just 2 carriage the train is manageable with only a driver, who doubles as the conductor and checks ticket by opening only the door behind him on non-staffed platforms, and is able to run services more frequently than otherwise.
The train is diesel-electric because as I discover later, though the track is electrified between Yonago and Izumo (probably so they can run the Yakumo without attaching on a locomotive once it gets to San’in), the tracks between Yonago and Tottori is not only not electrified, but also single track only.
A quick 15min ride (15min is very quick in San’in) and I hop off at Yasugi.
No sooner have I passed the ticket gate did a gentleman with greying hair walk up to me and politely bows while asking if I am heading to the Adachi Museum. Turns out he is the driver of the shuttle bus.
Originally I had some concerns whether the shuttle bus stand will be easy to find in just 5 minutes, worry unfounded! Japanese are so well organized and considerate.
Being the first shuttle of the day might have something to do with how full it is, the 15 seater is almost full.
I’m the last one to get on. I ponder how these people got here, I am the only one to get off at Yasugi on my train and the previous train is 30min ago. Maybe they drove, or maybe they arrived 30min ago and waited all this time.
I still managed to snap a shot of the station before we departed.
The shuttle bus spends around 20min through the paddies covered countryside. I did not even realize we have arrived because the small cluster of inconspicuous buildings are surrounded by endless fields. I had expected something abit more… dramatic.
The Adachi Museum is celebrated for its Japanese garden. Its garden truly transcends the level of art, and has been regarded as the best Japanese garden for several years in a row.
Entry is a staggering 2200Y, thankfully like most attractions in Shimane, the Adachi Museum also has a discount for foreigners. Simply present your passport and you get 50% off, making it just 1100Y. Still quite a bit as far as museum entries go, but no longer as scary.
Hope they can keep the discount permanently, but even if one have to pay full 2200Y, I say it is definitely worth the price.
I also pick up the taped tour for 500Y. If you’re already spending then spare no expense. A decision that proves well made.
Every bit of the garden is meticulously cared and arranged, every tree, rock, shrub (and probably koi fish as well). The trees are hand chosen from all over Japan and replanted in the garden. This is supposedly why all the trees are at an angle, this is the natural angle which they stood in their original spot in the mountains. If they were to be straightened the trees will suffer.
At the end of May, nearing the end of spring and approaching the start of summer, the garden is a verdant shades of greens, sparsely decorated with few late flowers.
Already breathtaking in all its tranquil beauty, I can only imagine how beautiful the place must look in autumn with the shades of red and golden leaves.
Every turn, ever vista, is a perfect painting. You forget what you are looking at is real. Instead feel as though fallen into a painting itself, a surreal world of vivid clarity. And you are part of this painted world. It embraces you, beckons to you in silence. An unsung song caressing like the gentle breeze weaving between the leaves.
Lunch is the water garden side restaurant. 1500Y beef curry & iced tea….(I know I know, shocking, I didn’t order coffee)
Even though there’s no adjective fitting for the garden, the food here is… lacking. Not that it taste bad or anything, it’s just too light and felt incomplete. I wish they have something like the Straw Hat at Ghibili Museum, where it was a full restaurant with mains, desserts and expertly brewed coffee. Granted, if memory serves that meal at Straw Hat cost me close to 3000Y, I don’t think I would have minded paying more for a better rounded experience.
The museum also has a large collection of paintings, many of them works of Yokoyama Taikan. Despite having never learned about Japanese art, I thoroughly enjoyed the paintings with some provided background from the taped tour.
You cannot take photos of the inside of the museum, so no photos to provide here.
The Adachi Museum has the power to relax the mind, instill a rare sense of peace and calmness. It is something hard to capture on camera.
Not to mention I took far too few.
After long insightful morning at the museum, I return via the shuttle bus and is back at Yasugi close to 1pm.
Again the bus is well timed to connect with the trains. A quick hop and I arrive at Yonago.
Right when I get onto the platform I notice a yellow train at the next platform…
It’s the Conan train, one that runs maybe 3 times a day at the most inconvenient time, one which I had given up on catching. And here it is, right before me.
It never occurred to me that, while it is not easy to fit in a ride on the Conan train, it is not hard to catch it when it is in station. After all it often starts and terminates at Yonago, there’s maybe a 10-20min window to take photo of it at the platforms, one simply has to drop in at the right time.
Yonago is much smaller than Matsue, and it shows in the station. It doesn’t have any arcades or department stores, only a row of traditional shops.
The train to Sakaiminato departs from a dedicated Platform 0, and the branch line to is served by special trains painted with decor of the most famous characters in Kitara. There are 4 decors, the blue Kitaro Train, the green Medamayaji Train (eyeball monster), the pink Neko Musume train (cat girl) and the yellow Nezumi Otoko train (rat man).
Along the Yonago-Sakaiminato line, each station is also nicknamed after a folklore monster, with signs giving backgrounds to the monsters.
The main street of Sakaiminato is lined with several hundred monster statues. I remember several from the mangas but for most of them I only have vague inklings about. It would be great if they present more details on the statues with more than just the monster’s name.
Taking photos of the statues is a game of gotta catch them all. I’m sure I missed a few.
The street is lined with shops that sell monster shaped buns, candies, sandals and various other merchandises. I browsed a few but didn’t find anything particularly interesting.
At the end of the main street is the Mizuki Shigeru Museum, creator of Kitara manga.
Around the halfway mark, there is also a monster shinto shrine.
Mizuki’s success is the design of monsters, unsettling but cute and endearing at the same time. All this make Sakaiminato an unique experience. You can spend endless hours studying each monster statue and the designs, picturing terrified villagers running from these creatures in the dead of night and getting their head… salivated on.
Or a young man walking home alone when he sees an old woman with sandals walking slowly up ahead. He calls out to the old woman, only to be greeted by an empty featureless face illuminated in the pale moonlight.
Ahh.. childhood memories. This is ghost stories in a very innocent, childlike way, with the aura of history and mystic.
On the the train back to Yonago I fell asleep. The roughly 3 km walk was more tiring than I realized.
At Yonago I jump out and bought a sushi bento. Before the Edo era nigiri sushi weren’t so popular (from what I’ve read). Because fish, especially ones like mackerel, goes bad easily they often had to be preserved in some way, either marinated and cooked, or salted and fermented.
The Komego Gosaemon (米屋吾左衛門鮓) is very famous for its traditional pressed mackerel sushi.
The taste is nothing like what I’ve ever tried. Haven’t only ever experienced sashimi nigiris, the first bite was cringe inducing. Then it quickly grows on you. The flavour is richer with a very heavy “sea-like” feel but not the revolting kind you get from bad oysters.
To be honest, I think 5 pieces is too little for me to fully experience the complex taste.
The trip back to Matsue is on the Yakumo. How I love JR Pass, I get to jump on any train at will, even limited expresses. This saves me almost 20 min.
The sun is already leaning west. I head to the Shinji-ko lakeside, very grateful I decided to head back early instead of spending an extra hour at Sakaiminato. The sunset time is 7:18, when I planned the schedule in the morning it didn’t set on me that you have be there before then to watch the sunset…
Then suddenly it’s all over. A layer of clouds over the horizon hides the sunset prematurely. A disappointment.
On the way back I take a little detour through the Kyomise canal-side and up to the Mishimaya (みしまや) supermarket to see if I can get some cheap bentos.
Sheepishly I glance left and right, half expecting some silver haired highschool girl to somersault out and drop kick me in the head, thankfully these are 20% off ones and not half price so I should be safe.
Only an anime can promote tourism in supermarket bentos.
That 1L bottle of milk tea lasted me 3 days.