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Getting There

By Train -- The easiest way to reach Matsue is from Okayama via the 2 1/2-hour JR limited express Yakumo train ride that costs ¥5,670 for an unreserved seat.

By Bus -- A bus departs from Tokyo's Shibuya Station (in front of Mark City) nightly at 8pm, arriving at Matsue Station at 6:26am and costing ¥11,550 one-way. From Hiroshima, 14 buses depart daily, taking 3 1/2 hours and costing ¥4,000 one-way.

Visitor Information

At the Tokyo or Narita or Kansai airport Tourist Information Centers, pick up the leaflet "Matsue and Izumo Taisha Shrine" (you can also download it from the Japan National Tourist Organization's website at www.jnto.go.jp by looking under "Browse by Destinations"). Upon arrival at Matsue Station, stop at the Matsue International Tourist Information Office (tel. 0852/21-4034; daily 9am-6pm), located in a contemporary-looking kiosk in front of the station's north exit, where you can pick up English-language brochures on Matsue and Shimane Prefecture and a good map of the city. Be sure, also to ask for a brochure listing discounts (up to 50%) available to international visitors for nine tourists sights in and around Matsue, including Matsue Castle and Adachi Museum of Art (you'll have to show your passport at each sight for the discount). Go to www.city.matsue.shimane.jp and www.kankou-shimane.com/en for more information on Matsue online.

Internet Access -- On the third floor of Town Plaza Shimane, 8-3 Tonomachi (tel. 0852-31-5056; Lake Line stop: Town Plaza Shimane), computers are available with free Internet connection. It's open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm and Sunday from 9am to 5pm.

Mail -- The main post office is a 5-minute walk from the north exit of Matsue Station, on the street that runs in front of the station to your right (east). Its ATM facilities are open Monday to Friday 7am to 11pm, Saturday 9am to 9pm, and Sunday and holidays 9am to 7pm.

Orientation & Getting Around

Matsue's attractions lie to the northwest of the station and across the Ohashi River, and although buses run virtually everywhere, you can easily cover most distances on foot. Matsue Castle is about a 30-minute walk from Matsue Station, with most attractions located just north of the castle along a picturesque moat on a street called Shiomi Nawate. To the west of Matsue Station, about a 10-minute walk away, is Lake Shinji, famous for its sunsets.

If you prefer to ride, ¥500 buys you an all-day pass for the Lake Line, which features red, old-fashioned buses running every 20 minutes in a 50-minute loop through the city beginning at Matsue Station and stopping at most tourist sights daily between 8:40am and 6:56pm (8:20am-6:11pm Dec-Feb). Single trips cost ¥200.

Goodwill Guides

Although Matsue's sights are concentrated in one area of town and are easy to find on your own, you may want a "goodwill guide" to show you around, especially if you're going to Izumo Taisha Shrine. Established by the Japan National Tourist Organization, the goodwill guide network is composed of volunteers with foreign-language abilities who act as guides in their city. All you have to do is pay their transportation costs and entrance fees into museums and sights -- and it's nice if you buy them lunch, too. If you wish to have a guide, apply at the tourist information office 2 or 3 days in advance (by phone tel. 0852/21-4035; by fax 0852/27-2598).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.