First built in 1888, this waterfront ryokan is by picturesque gardens
History & culture | Relaxation
Sandwiched between two lagoons – Nakaumi and Shinji-ko – Matsue is a pretty prefectural capital lauded for its almost-Venetian waterways. However, it’s best known as the site of Matsue-jõ, one of Japan’s only still-standing medieval castles. Its monolithic stone foundations give way to tiers of blackened timber roofs, each curving upwards; the architecture is typical of the early 17th century feudal period. And, riverside Minamikan is just a stone’s throw away, reached by walks past samurai residences. If you head outside of the city, you’ll be treated to hot-spring resorts along with ancient shrines and burial mounds.
Each of the ryokan’s 14 rooms are individually designed to incorporate modern luxuries into traditional authenticity. Don a kimono and slide back the latticed paper blinds to views over Lake Shinji; from your room’s picture windows you can look out beyond Minamikan’s Japanese gardens – complete with raked rock lawns and delicate bonsai trees – to stunning lake sunsets. Back inside, soft lighting illuminates traditional low-rise furnishings as tatami mats line the floors and Kanji characters decorate the walls. En suite deep soaking tubs come as a very welcome touch and some even feature yet more of those gorgeous lake views.
At the Minamikan’s garden restaurant, traditional Japanese cuisine – termed washoku – is prepared using only generation-old techniques, making use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Given Matsue’s location, seafood from Lake Shinji, the Sea of Japan and the mountain streams of the Chugoku region feature heavily while thin strips of carefully seared wagyu beef are also a chef speciality. Over multiple kansei courses it’s possible to sample some of the seven local delicacies, which include shrimp, sea bass, eel, clams and carp.
By now, it won’t surprise that Minamikan’s gardens have won international awards, having featured yearly in the Journal of Japanese Gardening. Pine trees – many of which are 200 years old – frame immaculately kept white sand. They overlook the lake whose north shore provides heated water for the ryokan’s onsen. Minamikan features two shared baths – one granite and one timber – each with views over the lake.
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