I returned today from four days in Shimane prefecture (島根県); the occasion was RubyWorld Conference 2009. I came back with a few stories and a ton of pictures, so I’ll wrap the former around the latter for the next few days.

While I’ve been going to Japan regularly since 1991, dozens of times and months in aggregate, I’d never previously managed to escape the Tokyo agglomeration, so this trip was a major thrill. Matsue (松江) was surprisingly less surprising than I’d braced for; more or less what one might think a small and fairly remote Japanese city might be like. The surprises I did encounter were fairly few and each has a story, which we’ll get to.

Members of the Ruby community who aren’t offended by assiduous photography or meandering narratives may find this series interesting because Matsue is where Matz comes from and he appears in a few of the stories, as do other notable Rubyists.

The organizers flew in seven foreign speakers for the event and took just grand care of us. The conference was Monday/Tuesday; they arranged for us to arrive Saturday night so that we could spend Sunday recovering.

We were at the Matsue Tokyu Inn, which is just fine and I recommend unhesitatingly. On the Sunday morning, six of us got an early start and took to the streets.

The big deal about Matsue is that it’s on Lake Shinji, Japan’s seventh largest, so that’s where we went. I don’t know what if anything the ceremonial structure is celebrating, but it’s a nice peaceful spot, a good place to read your morning paper.

Ceremonial structure on Matsue’s waterfront

Just off the shore is a little island that is conveniently to Matsue’s west so you can watch the sun setting behind it.

Small island in Lake Shinji near Matsue

Having seen the lakefront, we decided to visit the famous castle. It was a little complicated getting over the river, but we were rewarded by evidence that we were nearing a shrine.

Shrine in Matsue
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Entrance to a shrine in Matsue, with parked bicycles

Whenever you’re in Japan and go by a shrine, I recommend taking the time stop in. Many are remarkably beautiful and they’re unfussy about gaijins in shorts wandering around taking pictures.

Here’s the interior of the main building.

Interior of a shrine in Matsue

It’s a source of embarrassment to me that, while I’m reasonably well-informed about the major flavors of Buddhism and have even read a bit about Shinto, I’ve never actually had a conversation with a Japanese person about their religion and haven’t the remotest idea either about the details of this sort of obviously-complex system of worship, or their own feelings on the matter.

The shrine’s front gate included some wonderfully graceful and thoughtful woodcraft.

Woodcraft at the front gate of a shrine in Matsue

Next it was on to the castle, but that’s enough pictures for now. Here is the membership of our Sunday expedition, excluding your humble servant.

Bruce Tate, Tom Enebo, Charles Nutter, Evan Phoenix, and Abigail Phoenix, at a shrine in Matsue

From your left to their left: Bruce Tate (head in shadow), Tom Enebo, Charles Nutter, Evan Phoenix, and Abigail Phoenix.

A lot of Ruby talent in that picture, and all interesting people; great fun to walk around a small Japanese city with. My thanks to all of them for their company.



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From: Giacomo (Sep 11 2009, at 03:55)

Woodwork is almost invariably fantastic in Japan, as in the past they weren't supposed to use almost anything else when building. Rocks were forbidden by central authorities at various times throughout history (to stop feudal lords from building fortifications), and metal was considered impure -- even if you used it, you weren't supposed to let it be seen.

Ahh, Nihon, what a strange and beautiful place... if it wasn't for the terrible Japanese attitude towards salaried work, I'd move over there in a second.

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From: Greinau (Sep 11 2009, at 12:37)

Great pictures!! In may next year we will be there.

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September 10, 2009
· Technology (85 fragments)
· · Ruby (93 more)
· The World (116 fragments)
· · Places
· · · Japan (4 fragments)
· · · · Shimane (8 more)
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Photos (958 more)

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