Matsue Historic District
Beyond the castle moat, learn more about the history of Matsue along with its rich samurai and tea culture.By Laura Payne
Across Matsue Castle’s moat, much of the district where middle-ranking samurai lived, known as Shiomi Nawate, still stands.
Here and in other areas around the castle, museums, shops and historical sites allow visitors to experience Matsue’s samurai history, tea culture and local ghost stories.
Since these sites are within walking distance of Matsue Castle, travelers can stop by any of them before or after visiting the castle.
Matsue History Museum and Horan-Enya Memorial Hall
The Matsue History museum outlines the city’s founding, development and key figures, making it a good source of information for first-time visitors to Matsue.
The Horan-Enya Memorial Hall, dedicated to Matsue’s most famous boat festival, sits around the corner from the history museum. Every ten years, decorated boats carrying costumed dancers appear on Matsue’s rivers to pray for prosperity. If one’s visit does not coincide with the festival, its atmosphere can still be experienced through this memorial hall.
Lord Fumai, the seventh lord of Matsue and a patron of tea ceremony culture, commissioned this teahouse in 1779. Today, visitors can explore Meimei-An’s garden and peer into the building where Lord Fumai practiced tea ceremony.
Next to Meimei-An, a modern teahouse invites guests to enjoy a cup of matcha and sample wagashi, which were favorites of Lord Fumai.
Former Samurai Residence
Samurai are best known for their fighting skills, but what did these warriors do when they were away from the battlefield? The Buke Yashiki, or Former Samurai Residence, invites visitors to explore a historical estate and glimpse the daily life of a middle-rank samurai.
Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
The Irish-Greek writer Lafcadio Hearn traveled to Japan in the 19th century and lived here for the rest of his life. Enamored by his adopted home, he published several books introducing the English-speaking world to Japanese culture and folklore.
Hearn lived in Matsue for a time and his former residence is open to visitors. Next door, a memorial museum details Hearn’s life in Japan. Copies of his books that portray old Matsue’s daily life and ghost stories are also sold here.