The Black Castle of Matsue
In the north of Shimane’s prefectural capital sits Matsue Castle, known colloquially as the black castle thanks to its striking black wooden panels which wrap around the bottom half of the building. Six-stories tall and with a history that dates back over 400 years, it’s one of Japan’s historical gems. The castle came to be at the turn of the 17th century when powerful daimyo lord Horio Yoshiharu relocated from Shizuoka Prefecture to Shimane. Under Yoshiharu’s good name, grandson Tadaharu built the castle and laid out the foundations for what later became the surrounding Matsue City. The castle design took inspiration from the outline of a watchtower, and from the top of the building today you can still admire incredible panoramic views of the city. An excellent place to visit for a half day adventure the castle grounds are also home to a small Shinto shrine and the western style Kounkaku mansion which houses a folklore museum and tea house.