Despite the forecast, I wake up to a drizzling Matsue.
Since it is raining, going to the Conan Museum and its 5km walk is probably not the best idea. Touring Matue, at least shelters are nearby if the rain becomes too heavy.
The rain got super heavy as I near the castle and I am forced to take shelter inside the history museum. I duck and dashes from cover to cover, shielding the X10 with the umbrella.
Since the rain showed no sign of abating immediately, I took the opportunity to look around the museum.
In Matsue there a Taiko Drum parade （松江祭鼕行列 dougyouretu）is hosted each year in October, where all the historic districts of the city each wheels out their cart-mounted drums and march before the castle with beats that shakes the heavens.
It’s a shame these festivals aren’t on when I visit. It’s a conscious choice I make to simplify planning and avoid high prices, opting for off-peak seasons, perhaps one day when I’m ready for an extended trip, like over 2 weeks, I’ll be able to plan for some bigger events.
I didn’t take the tour boat because they take far too long and you lose perspective of the layout of the city. Business is good even on a non-holiday season week day, most boats going past have at least two to three passengers.
From here I swing north, around the outside edge of the wide moat. The idea is to do a full tour of the castle area without repeating the same path. I’ll first go to the northern edge where some of the old historic feudal buildings are preserved, then enter the castle proper from the north western entrance. Cut down and across and see the whole castle before exiting from the south, then swing back up the outer edge on the west side. One of those “traverse all points using shortest path without repeating” problem.
Entry fee is just 150Y (50% off 300Y with passport). It’s not a very big place and it takes under 20min to fully tour it.
I kept wondering how people ever moved around the building without any passages. Even the porches aren’t connected, and rooms joined directly with other rooms. Add in the samurai’s whole family, the servants, the place must get awfully crowded. As I pass the sandy courtyard, a scene of servants hauling water out the wells and pouring into the basin half-buried in the kitchen wall flashes across the mind.
The place also have the area’s taiko drum on display in the back and running recordings of previous performances.
From the north west entrance it’s a long steep climb up the once fortified hill.
The Jozan Inari Shrine (Harvest Shrine) is watched by a line of slit eyed fox statues that blesses the area with their wisdom. From the torii to the main gate is a long stone stairway, so steep I had to watch my footing.
The castle consists of 6 levels, built as a true fortification rather than the residence of the local lord, its cellar is vast and deep, capable of storing supplies to support an army of men. It towers above an already raised mound and bristles with arrow slits and chutes to drop falling stones.
The San’in, especially Matsue and Izumo area, is famed for its agriculture outputs and the variety of soba milled from local buckwheat.
For lunch I go to a fairly well rated place on Tabelog, at Kamiyo Soba.
The young waitress was kind and when told I can read better than hear, wrote down her question to me on a piece of paper. Turned out she was asking what soup base I’d like for my soba. Out of a choice of more traditional looking meat based stock and seaweed broth, I chose the former.
To get to Izumo Taisha, the best way is to take the Ichibata train. Although the JR train to Izumo then transferring to the Ichibata line is quicker, this way is more scenic.
Just outside the Ichibata station at Shinjiko Onsen is an ashiyu (foot bath), whose warm mineral waters will surely be paradise in the cold of winter while waiting for the train.
Izumo Taisha is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, said to once be the home of the gods and the reason why San’in is birthplace to so many myths and tales. It is believed that the gods gather here in October to have a meeting every year, this is why October is usually referred as Month Without God around Japan, but Month With God here in Izumo.
Apart from the history, Izumo Taisha is also regarded as the shrine for fated relations. People come here from all over the country to wish for finding that destined someone, or becoming closer in the relationship.
I should make it clear here that this did not factor into my choice of picking San’in…
All the same, I did buy a destiny omamori.
As I came via the northern banks of the lake, I now return via the southern bank.
At Tamatsukuri Onsen I hop off for a quick tour, curious what an onsen street is like.
The onsen area is just over 1km from the station which is easily covered with my pace.
The onsen street proved a disappointment. The waterway was filled with weed that had only recently been cut down (probably in preparation for the summer season), and the streets devoid of shops, people, and atmosphere.
Sure, Tamatsukuri isn’t one of the really famous onsen streets, but it still features prominently on all the tourism sites and brochures.
Upon return to Matsue, I head to the supermarket once more.