Note the Yamabushi (mountain warrior) with deer horns, as well as the gender balance.

A perfectly nice Sunday in Matsue, and not unusually, there are warriors walking about the castle area. Also, stopping into Kiharu in the history museum for some tea and wagashi is just as pleasant as usual.

Around this time in spring, purple is in season. In addition to irises along the castle moats throughout the city, western Japan is also covered in blooming wisteria. I had always imagined them only being vines covering archways in gardens, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see they grow as tall as cottonwoods in the wild.

You might be surprised to have your tea and inspired confection experience interrupted by the sounds of gunfire. Gunfire in Japan!? Nothing to take cover from, it’s just the Teppo-dan, Matsue’s rifle group that practices rifle use according to how it was practiced in the Edo era. They perform demonstrations at special events throughout the year, but you can also catch them for free at the history museum courtyard.

Seeing as this is was simply one part of martial arts training for the samurai class, the group is armed with not only rifles (gunpowder only), but also swords. Sessions begin with a little sword practice.

After that, they move into displaying a few different gunfire formations.

This formation is called “Chidori-uchi”, which could be interpreted as either being arranged like a plover in flight, or shooting plovers. Either way, it seems fitting for Matsue since Matsue Castle is nicknamed Chidori-jo (Plover Castle) for it’s wing-like shachihoko (decorative fish) at the top of the roof, the largest in Japan.

The length of the performances may be weather dependant, but they typically perform at 10:00am and 2:00pm on the third Sunday of every month. According to one of the group members, this may also be one of the only places in Japan with all-female groups putting on displays sometimes, too. They practice elsewhere outside of the city center, and if anyone who lives here is interested enough, I’m sure they’d be excited to bring on beginners.