Located on the shore of Lake Shinji with numerous moats and canals running through the city center, Matsue has long been described by writers and poets as the City of Water. Though its streets can be easily explored on foot, you haven’t truly seen this charming castle town in all its glory until you’ve seen it from below. The Horikawa Pleasure Boat will take you on a leisurely fifty-minute tour through the city’s waterways, passing under seventeen of its unique and lovely bridges.
The Horikawa Pleasure Boat course begins just beneath Matsue Castle. Take off your shoes and relax as a friendly and knowledgeable boatsman welcomes you aboard and shares essential information for your journey. You’ll also practice ducking down when the boat’s retractable roof lowers—some of the bridges are so low that that’s the only way you can pass through! In colder months, a kotatsu heater will keep you warm and toasty throughout your journey.
As the course begins, you’ll pass through the inner moat of Matsue Castle, its keep and walls an even more striking and majestic sight when gazing up from below. You’ll then glide along Shiomi Nawate Street, where the painstakingly preserved historical architecture and elegant pines will have you thinking you’ve traveled centuries back in time. Gaze along, atop, and beneath the peaceful waters and you’ll also appreciate the river’s rich flora and fauna, including a colorful array of variety of seasonal flowers, elegant white herons and charming ducks, and countless varieties of fish swimming below the surface.
While you can choose to take in the whole tour in one go, your ticket allows you to disembark and board the pleasure boats as many times as you wish, meaning that you’re more than free to stop along the way and explore all the city has to offer. Visit the Matsue Horikawa Microbrewery to refresh yourself with some delicious craft beer, or take a moment to appreciate Matsue’s modern side at the Karakoro Art Gallery.
Winding around the waters, the boat will take you under some of the city’s lowest and most fascinating bridges before escorting you safely back to Matsue Castle. Now that you’ve seen the city from below, why not take the time to explore some of the sights you saw on your way? At Shiomi Nawate Street, just a short stroll away, you can visit samurai residences from Japan’s feudal age as well as the museum and former residence of Lafcadio Hearn, the renowned writer and folklorist who was one of the first to introduce Japan’s rich cultural history to the English-speaking world.
Matsue is truly a city of many faces, with something to offer every traveler in every season, and there is perhaps no better way to see it all than by gliding across its waters. So hop aboard the Horikawa Pleasure Boat, and discover its wonders for yourself!
From Izumo Airport, take a shuttle bus to JR Matsue Station (about thirty minutes). From there, take a Lakeline Bus to the Horikawa Yuuransen Noriba bus stop, and walk a short distance to the boarding point.
Hours: Boat tours are available every day, rain or shine. Tours begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. (March to June and mid-August to mid-October), 6 p.m. (July to mid-August), or 4 p.m. (mid-October to February). Boats depart every fifteen minutes (twenty minutes from December to February).
Admission: Tourists from abroad can purchase a one-day pass, allowing for unlimited rides, for 820 yen (adults) or 410 yen (children aged 6-12) by showing their passport or residence card. Two preschool aged children may ride for the price of one child’s fare.
Reservations are required for groups of ten or more. Recorded English guidance is available for tour groups (reservation required). (*Please note that many of our guides are not able to provide full assistance in languages other than Japanese.)