Samurai, Kami, Canals and a CastleMay 10, 2017 in Japan
Up early today, the forecast is good! Breakfast at the hotel then off for a brisk walk up by the lakefront and across lots of bridges to the Matsue Castle grounds. There are only 12 Castles remaining in Japan, most having been destroyed during the Meiji Restoration. I have visited 6 so far and will visit one or two more on this trip. Today it was the turn of Matsue Castle. Not the largest or most imposing - Himeji takes that accolade - but with a beauty and authenticity that immediatly make it one of my favorites. Inside is a veritable history lesson with many suits of samurai armour, minature models of Matsue in different eras and lots of original artefacts as you climb up the levels to the top floor. The top floor is open on all sides for some stunning views out over Matsue and environs. Really helps appriciate the city and its many canals.
The grounds also contain two Shrines, the most famous of which is the Jozen Inari Shrine filled with thousands of fox statues of every shape and size and some clearly very ancient. Its amazing to think that these places have been here for many hundreds of years, especially coming from N.Z. where almost nothing is more than 150 years old.
I take a boat ride around the canals in a boat whose roof lowers so it can get under low bridges. Lowers so much I have to lie almost flat on the floor of the boat. Everything in Japan is made for small flexible people not large inflexible ones like me. The bus seats are so small I have to stand even when the bus is empty :-)
I wander aimlessly around the city streets exploring and come across many Temples. In fuedal times they served a military purpose too, being situated in strategic spots that were easily defensible.... and many 'monks' were actually troops in disguise. There is a whole area of them the 'teramachi' among a network of canals that served to defend the city and make it difficult for attackers to get anywhere near the Castle.
After lunch I head off to visit two 'Art Museums' but they deserve a post all of thier own :-)Read more