Matsue’s number-one tourist attraction is its castle (松江城), which is absolutely worth a visit. Here are eight photographs, with diversions into ninja and programming culture. (For previous context, see 島根 September — Matsue Morning.)

This is the view as you arrive, the moat expanding to a considerable pond, which is full of slow-moving turtles and high-jumping fish.

Arrival at Matsue castle

Once you get a little closer, you realize how big that wall really is. The gentleman in the picture is Bruce Tate, author and programmer, and he’s quite a tall fellow. The walls are dry-built, the stones hand-placed with no concrete; a remarkable achievement. As we admired them, Tom Enebo said “And to think that ninjas can run right up there.”

Bruce Tate stands in front of Matsue castle wall

Bruce is convinced that the era of functional-programming languages is at hand. This is something I’m starting to hear a lot; Bruce’s variation on the theme is that non-relational data stores containing versioned records are a key part of the story.

Inside the castle grounds it’s green, shady, and really very pleasant, with lots of interesting little structures and mini-museums and monuments. One could easily a day just enjoying the views and relaxing.

Lawn on the grounds of Matsue castle
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On the grounds of Matsue castle

Which brings us to the keep. It was built for a war which failed to take place; always a good thing, with the added benefit in this case of leaving behind a perfectly-preserved seventeenth-century wooden castle. If you look closely at the first picture you’ll observe a person standing in the main front doorway, which might give a feel for the size.

It’s really a remarkable piece of architecture.

Matsue castle keep
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Looking up at Matsue castle keep

Inside, there are six stories; the floors, pillars, and stairways connecting the levels are all outstanding pieces of woodworking. Some levels are pretty empty, others have museum exhibits and models of the town.

Here are some decorative samurai helmets.

Samurai helmets on display inside the keep of Matsue castle

The view from the top is remarkable, the town in one direction, forested countryside in most others. For one like me used to Tokyo, all that greenery was pleasing and refreshing.

View from the top of the keep at Matsue castle

The visitor book was up on the top floor with the views; I guess you need to show commitment to be recorded. I leafed back through a few pages and can testify that very, very few foreign visitors make it to Matsue castle.


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From: Christopher Mahan (Sep 18 2009, at 05:54)

Lovely pictures all.

I had the pleasure to go to Kumamoto castle in 1999, and I remember it fondly.

I'm glad you got the chance to go. Visiting a Japanese castle shows you that even in the exercise of absolute power, balance and beauty are important!


From: Simon Starr (Sep 19 2009, at 13:30)

My wife (then girlfriend) and I visited Matsue and its castle during a month in Japan as part of our RTW trip a couple of years ago.

I was especially impressed with the samurai armour exhibition on the top floor :)

I'd love to go back one day for Ruby World - at the time I'd barely heard of Ruby and had no idea I'd start coding with it a year later.


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September 12, 2009
· The World (144 fragments)
· · Places
· · · Japan (4 fragments)
· · · · Shimane (8 more)
· Technology (90 fragments)
· · Ruby (93 more)
· Arts (11 fragments)
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