The only city on the north coast of western Honshu, Matsue boasts one of Japan’s few original castles. It is a treasure trove of samurai armour, intricately designed pottery and floor-to-ceiling screen paintings from the Matsudaira clan’s 250-year reign until 1875. Well-preserved samurai houses, a row of pretty teahouses with koi carp ponds, and the house where trail-blazing westerner Lafcadio Hearn lived are nearby. Just outside Matsue is Izumo Taisha shrine – generally agreed to be the oldest in Japan - and the Adachi Museum of Art with its renowned garden.

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