Here it is…Friday the 13th. How’s it going to turn out? To begin with, the ship didn’t arrive in port until 10 A.M. A sleep in day! Off to a good start.
Now up by 9 A.M. for a quick shower etc. and upstairs for a leisurely breakfast. A look outside shows weather that will be easy to enjoy; warm, no rain, no beating sun. Ok…this seems pretty good so far.
Off the ship to catch a shuttle into the downtown area and we make note of where we are to ensure a ride back to the ship later. This turns out to be easy enough as it is right at the main train station. What to do now? A look back at our notes for the day remind us that visiting a castle and its surrounding moat seemed like a good idea. Another benefit to this train station is that it is also a bus station and a taxi stand. How convenient!
Stopping in at the nearby tourist information center reveals a price break in the bus ride to get to the castle. Basically half price if we get tickets from them rather than the bus driver. Works for me. What arrives to take us away appears to be nothing more than a local bus rather than a tour-type transport. This quickly proves significant as there are clearly more people than seats. Our luck continues to hold in that we do get to sit down, but the bus is now well past standing room only. This is also worth noting because not only are there 3 stops before the castle (where some people actually want to get off) but the entire ride is also an hour long. This is no short jaunt.
We’ve finally arrived and given our immediate bus experience, it seems prudent to verify when the bus will be stopping here for the return trip. It is now 12:30ish P.M, the next one is at 1:40 P.M. and the last one at 2:40 P.M. What we don’t want is to have to take a cab…much too expensive (approx. $75) on top of the fact that we bought round-trip bus tickets.
The Matsue Castle is one of the oldest surviving castles in Japan and it is located in the town of Matsue. The castle, and some of the town, is surrounded by a very large moat that has a number of small vessels to take visitors around. Given the castle has more than a few stairs, it’s felt no more practice on those are necessary. Moat cruise it is.
Now the day begins to reveal more of its superstitious potential. First, the cruise will take the better part of 45 minutes. That means no way to get back for the 1:40 bus. However it still leaves lots of time to catch the last one at 2:40. Second, the boats have collapsible rooftops. There are a number of very low bridges that must be floated under and the only way is to lower the roof for some of them. “Let’s practice” the boat driver says.
Ok…back up a bit. When we got on the boat, we had to take our shoes off and sit on the carpeted floor. Not totally uncomfortable, but the roof is about 6 -7 inches above our head. Fully extended. How far does this thing need to drop?
Quite a bit as it turns out. And not just once or twice, but 4 times!! When lowered as much as necessary, we actually need to lie almost flat. Remember…it’s all about the experiences. Sure.
The trip is both uneventful and not as claustrophobic as it could have been. The lowered roof provided more humour than discomfort and being part of the moat flotilla really was time well spent.
Back on shore, a pause is made at a local ice cream stand for a green tea and vanilla swirl which disappeared on the stroll back to the bus stop. The time was now almost 2 P.M. and the line for the bus started with us.
Apparently many, many people decided the last bus would be the best bus, perhaps thinking more people would have taken the earlier bus. Time dragged on with more and more people filling the sidewalk. The ‘bus stop’ was flexible it seemed because when the bus actually came by, he didn’t stop where he had when we got off, nor did he stop right at the bus stop proper. Let’s complicate this a little more with the fact that, in Japan, you get on in the middle of the bus and pay at the front when you get off.
Somehow we managed to get almost the exact same seats we had on our first trip, but once again the bus was way past full. And another hour to get back. All in all Friday the 13th has been unusual in its kindness to us.
Now back at the train station we find that one of the more famous streets is half a minute walk away. Mizuki Shigeru Road is named after the manga artist Shigeru Mizuki. He is also the creator of the “Yokai” spirit monsters that will crop up anywhere in Sakaiminato. This street not only has a plentiful number of his Yokai, there are also an excellent variety of little stores, souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants, begging for your money…oops, I mean your attention. 😉
A dinner of Red Snow Crab (which was quite tasty) and sake (which was less so) and it was time to grab the ship’s shuttle for a return.
Tomorrow is another tour day in Tsuruga.