Towering over the surrounding cityscape, Matsue Castle stands as a remnant of feudal era Japan. The castle is one of the only authentic medieval castles remaining, still standing in its original wooden form rather than a rebuilt, modern construction. Built over nearly five years, it was completed in 1611 and served as a military hub for the region, largely under the Matsudaira clan’s rule, a branch of the ruling Tokugawa clan. Matsue Castle owes its remarkable preservation to timing; since it was completed after the last massive conflicts of feudal Japan, Matsue Castle never saw combat. Today, it serves as a museum and monument to Japan’s martial past. Inside, it features an impressive collection of samurai arms and armor, including a wide array of artful kabuto, the famous style of helmet worn by samurai.
A climb up the steep steps to the sixth and top floor rewards the effort with a glorious 360 degree view of Matsue and Matsue Bay. The castle grounds also feature an authentic samurai officer’s quarters, offering a glimpse of domestic life for a mid-ranking officer hundreds of years ago. (Many visitors may find the basic design of Japanese homes has changed remarkably little.) As of July 9th, 2015, Matsue Castle was designated a national treasure of Japan. For a chance to see life as it existed 400 years ago, a visit to the castle is a must for samurai buffs and history lovers of all levels.
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