They have some very nice stuff out here. I already knew about the awesome archeological stuff, but was not expecting swords from master craftsmen (two Masamunes and a Muramasa) or excellent Relics of Historical Importance. (Hideyoshi's sword, for example, or a letter written by him declaring war on someone. Or the fan that Sanada Yukimura threw at Matsudaira Naomasa -- there really has got to be a story in that.)
The food out here has been awesome. Chestnut cream donuts from Mister Donuts top the list, but the lunch we had at an Italian place next to Matsue Station was out of this world. At home I would have paid well over $25/plate for such excellence (and, even at that price, may not have gotten something quite as good), but here it was only around $10.
The area is pretty remarkable too. It's both rural and built up (a pretty remarkable feat.) There is an air of antiquity that lingers, almost as if the weight of the history from the major shrines seeps out and adds a little something extra to the air.
The major shines (Izumo Taisha, Yaegaki Jinja and Kamosu Jinja) are both smaller than what I would expect. I'm too used to the glitz and tourism of the big temples in Nara and Kyoto (or Nikko). Here, they are small, peaceful, and obviously frequented more by believers than tour groups.
More people speak English out here than I expected, and more people are willing to speak English than I would have thought. The hotel staff (since this is a business hotel) obviously try to communicate with the guests in English -- though they are willing to stick to Japanese if the guest does so. (Something I have not seen at any other large business hotel I have stayed at.) But we have had folks volunteer English in other places that I would not have expected, like the moat boat tour through the moats of Matsue Castle.
Speaking of the hotel, the bath has been wonderful -- almost more like something you would find in a spa. That and the free internet access have more than made up for having to stay at a Western hotel.
All in all, I have really enjoyed our stay on the Sea of Japan side. It has been new enough that I haven't slipped into the inattention of familiarity that I am prone to in Kyoto or Tokyo, but welcoming enough that it has felt almost home-like.
Tomorrow we move to Kotohira, in Shikoku. The plan is to visit yet another original castle, an incredibly famous garden, an old battlefield (Yashima, for those familiar with The Tale of the Heike, and hopefully pick up a couple of the Shikoku pilgrimage shrines. And then back to Kyoto, where I might pop on for a brief bit, but won't be able to upload pictures.
*wavies* Bye, all!