The next morning I returned to Matsue Castle to see it one more time before I left Matsue. I had seen some of the castle the previous evening but now that it was daytime I could get a much better view of the castle grounds.
Matsue Castle was finished in 1611 and is larger than what you might expect to find a town like Matsue. As can be seen by the walls and the amount of land that the castle occupies, Matsue Castle was built to withstand massive assaults but it ended up never seeing combat since it was built after Japan’s unification wars had concluded. Matsue Castle also has the distinction of never being damaged by fires, earthquakes, or the other natural disasters that have wrecked many Japanese castles over the centuries.
I walked into the castle through the main entrance at the southeastern corner. Almost all of the castle’s buildings were dismantled in 1875 during the time when Japan was rapidly modernizing and castles were viewed as symbols of a past that the Japanese government was trying to put behind them. There are some reconstructed buildings at Matsue Castle but much of the castle grounds are now a public park.
In the southern part of the castle most of the lanterns from the previous night had been removed. Right by the field where the lanterns had been placed is a western-style building from the early 1900s that holds a history museum. Matsue Shrine can also be found here.
At the very top of Matsue Castle is the main tower. While most of the castle’s structures were broken down in 1875, pressure from the locals kept the government from demolishing the main tower. Because the main tower remained intact, Matsue Castle is included on the list of Japan’s twelve original castles that have survived from their original construction to the present day. What you see now is what you would have seen back in 1611 when the castle was first built. The main tower is five stories tall and thanks to its dark exterior it is sometimes called “black castle”. The interior of the tower has been remodeled slightly to accommodate a modern museum and on the top floor you can look out the windows for a view of the castle grounds and the town of Matsue.
After I exited the main tower I continued my exploration of the castle and I found my way over to the northwestern region. There I came across Matsue Gokoku Shrine, which is also known as Morikuni Shrine. As best as I could tell, this shrine appears to be dedicated to Japanese naval pilots who died in World War 2. The line of flags leading up to the shrine building certainly gave it a somewhat militaristic feel.
I then walked a path by the castle moat before emerging over at Jozan Inari Shrine. Like other Inari shrines in Japan, you can find lots of small fox sculptures here.
My time at Matsue Castle was quickly coming to an end and I walked through the castle park to one of the exits on the west side. Visiting the castle had gotten me interested in seeing more of the Matsue area but unfortunately I needed to get to the train station to continue my trek across Japan. Next I would be going up into the mountains for a short visit to the town of Bitchu-Takahashi.
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