Matsue Samurai Residences Travel Guide

Matsue Samurai Residences
See how the warrior class of Japan once lived in these extremely well-preserved examples of middle-class Matsue mansions.

If you’ve ever been interested in how the wealthy upper classes of Edo and Meiji era Japan lived, the city of Matsue is a fantastic place to find out. Located just north of Matsue Castle, you’ll find a street of historic residences named Shiomi Nawate where the well-heeled of the city once laid their heads.

Among them is a house once inhabited by the original gaijin expat Lafcadio Hearn, who made his name writing about Japanese myths and culture in the late 19th century. Matsue Buke Yashiki is also worth a visit, as you can go inside to see how the middle class of the region’s military and civil service used to live. Interestingly, these houses were often owned by the ruling clan themselves, and employees were allowed to live there as part of their compensation.

It might also surprise you that the most ostentatious parts are the entrance hall and reception rooms, while the actual living quarters are quite humble — even samurai had to keep up with the Joneses. Although in Japanese culture this design has another meaning: it preserves the humility of the owner while showing how much they care about the comfort of their guests.

Well-preserved examples of historic Japanese buildings are hard to come by, so it’s little wonder these residences are still so celebrated as a valuable piece of heritage.

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