Matsue, Shimane - History


The present-day castle town of Matsue was originally established by Horio Yoshiharu, lord of the Matsue clan, when he built Matsue castle and planned the surrounding Castle town over a five-year period from 1607 to 1611. Matsue continued to be the seat of power in the Sanin Region for many years.

Matsue was first ruled by the Horio family. Horio Yoshiharu's son Tadauji died before his father, thus the province was inherited by his grandson Tadaharu. However, Tadaharu died childless so the province was passed on to the Kyogoku. The Kyogoku were daimyo from Omi and Wakasa. Kyogoku Takatsugu served Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. Takatsugu's son Tadataka married the 4th daughter of Hidetada, Hatsu. He served in the Battle of Osaka and reportedly took 300 heads. In 1634 he received the province of Izumo, succeeding the childless Horio Tadaharu. During his rule he was instrumental in engineering projects that helped control the flow of the Hiikawa river.

In 1637 Tadataka also died childless and the domain passed to the Matsudaira. Naomasa was the third son of Hideyasu. Hideyasu, daimyo of Echizen, himself was the second son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, making Naomasa the grandson of the first Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu. Naomasa made a name for himself fighting in the Battle of Osaka at the age of 14. He was daimyo of Ono in Echizen and later Matsumoto in Shinano before becoming the ruler of Izumo 1638. Unlike the previous rulers Naomasa had children and his heirs managed to keep Izumo for ten generations until the end of the Edo Bakufu. Overall, ten Matsudaira Daimyo ruled from Matsue. The most famous after the first (Matsudaira Naomasa) was the seventh, Matsudaira Harusato. He revolutionized the administrative system of the Matsue clan which was in financial difficulties and put it back on its feet. He invested in Mulberry bushes and promoted special foods like clams that were a delicacy in Matsue. Harusato was a great enthusiast of Tea Ceremony. His Tea Ceremony name was Fumai. He founded his own school, Unshyu. He has left the Meimei-An a famous tea house still operating in Matsue. Because his influence on wagashi, Japanese sweets for Tea Ceremony from Matsue are famous, especially one called 'wakakusa'.

The city boasts Matsue Castle, the "black castle" or "plover castle". It is one of the 12 remaining original castles in Japan. It is the second largest, the third tallest and the sixth oldest. The castle grounds include a winding path through mixed forests of bamboo, shrubs and trees, many of which are very old and identified by species. Surrounding the grounds and the castle park is the old moat, "horikawa".

Author Lafcadio Hearn taught in Matsue from 1890-1891. His house is now a museum about his life, and a popular tourist attraction in Matsue. Throughout the city there are monuments and landmarks honouring Hearn. Other museums in the city include the Shimane Art Museum and Tanabe Art Museum.

Sada Jinja in Matsue is the home to Sada Shin Noh, a sacred dance comprising a series of purification rituals related to the changing of the rush mats within the shrine. The mats are held by dancers who then offer them to deities to sit upon. Diverse dance forms are performed on a stage in the shrine accompanied by singing, flute and drums. The performance art is transmitted from generation to generation by the community. In November 2011, Sada Shin Noh was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Other important shrines include Yaegaki Jinja, Kamosu Jinja, and Miho Jinja, and there are the ruins of Izumo Kokubunji, an Historic Site.

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