In Shimane’s Shiroyama Park sits Matsue Castle, one of Japan’s most striking and one of only 12 of the nation’s original castles. Completed in 1611, and it was predominantly home to Matsudaira clan, a branch of the Tokugawa clan, which ruled at the time. 

Mastsue Castle spring
Photo by Lucy Dayman

While most of Japan’s feudal castles perished over the centuries, falling victim to fires, war, bombings and earthquakes, Matsue Castle managed to survive. Its survival is thanks in part to the fact that it was built after Japan’s last great war, meaning that it never had to withstand battle. Although, in 1950, major renovations were undertaken to preserve the structure further. 

black castle
Photo by iStock.com/MasaoTaira

Also known colloquially as the “black castle,” this impressive piece of history is open to the public throughout the year. Inside the main keep are displays covering the history of the castle and the wider Matsue area. From the top, visitors can admire rolling views of the Matsue city skyline.

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matsue castle moat
Photo by iStock.com/MasaoTaira

Around the main castle grounds is a moat that was once used as a protective measure. It is now home to riverboat cruises, which depart every 20–30 minutes, offering incredible views of the castle grounds and their surroundings. In summer, the castle grounds and Shiroyama Park are popular cherry blossom viewing destinations. Also, entry is 50% off for foreign guests!

matsue castle spring cherry blossoms
Photo by iStock.com/itasun