I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to get my addiction to dessert cafes under control. It’s difficult with so many of them all over town, but I’ve been doing pretty well, and that makes the times I do treat myself all the sweeter (that was only a semi-intentional pun). I had a number of things to do on this particular Sunday in early March, but the Matsue History Museum was on my way so I stopped in to Kiharu for a quick break.

The museum is located right around the samurai district and the castle, so the outside of the building was designed in an old Edo period style–seeing as it was built on the same ground as a high-ranking samurai’s house in the past. The inside, however, is very comfortable has a sleek design, mixing Japanese elements–such as tatami flooring–with western elements–such as nice bathroom features. While the exhibits do charge admission (though it’s cheap admission to begin with and foreign visitors get a half-price discount), it’s free to browse the temporary photo and art exhibits, look around the library and the gift shop, peak at the perserved tea house, or stop in to enjoy a beverage and sweets at Kiharu, the cafe facing the garden.

Given characteristics like the color choices and the raised stepping stones, this is a characteristic examples of Izumo style gardening.

There are plenty of ice cream, wagashi, coffee, and tea sets to choose from, and the wagashi here are all Kiharu originals.

Sakaiminato may have Kitaro-themed everything, but I didn’t notice wagashi there! I like the Nezumiotoko one best.

What are you doing there, Shimanekko? You’re not a youkai!

I had just gotten my fill of wagashi the day before (which means staying out of cafes isn’t my only issue!), so I went with a matcha cream soda–green tea, soda, and vanilla ice cream. It hit both my craving for matcha and for something sweet–but to prevent brain freezes or overwhelming my tastebuds, it came with regular sencha anyway. For those who aren’t familiar with the terms, matcha and sencha are both green tea, but matcha is powdered green tea that you consume, whereas sencha is made by steeping the leaves.

There’s still so many more cafes that make me curious and that I want to treat myself to, but I guess this will tie me over for a while.

On a different topic, tonight the Shimane Civic Center is having a free showing of Stu Levy’s documentary about the Tohoku region’s post-earthquake recovery, “Pray for Japan“. The San’in region out here in the west part of Honshu isn’t very earthquake prone, but that doesn’t mean we’ll go through this 2nd anniversary unaffected. There’s still a lot of rebuilding to be done, and we’re sending aid and good wishes from here.

When the city of Matsue was founded shortly after the historical battle of Sekigahara which thrust Japan into the Tokugawa system of government, protecting one’s samurai lord from attack was of prime importance. Therefore the entire city was planned around the castle–and protecting it.

Thankfully the castle is still unscathed by anything more than time, and while many of the other measures are clearly no longer in effect so as to allow free flow of commoners into the castle grounds, you can still find evidence of these measures throughout the city. For instance, if I take the neighborhood route on the way home from work, I run into this.


Where did the road go? I could have sworn I saw a bridge around here!


Oh, there it is.

In modern times, we’d write this off to pour city planning, but infact this was intended to make continuing straight on a little more difficult. This way, when armies are invading, they have to slow down to march around a tight corner before they can continue across. There are a couple other sites like this in town, and this one is called “Sujikaibashi”.

To the north of the bridge, there was a clearing so that the samurai on the defense could have an easy place to start shooting them with arrows. Furthermore, the bridge was engineered in such a way that it could be very quickly burned down when enemies were approaching.


The area had it’s practical everyday uses, too. This is what remains of the steps now to the canal for everyday water transport.

Another view from the north…

And a view looking west–depending on the time of day, you could blind approaching attackers!