Well off the bullet train line on the north coast of western Honshu is Matsue, home of perhaps the most complete castle experience in Japan. Like the one in Matsumoto this is a black wood original feudal-era building, not a concrete reconstruction. It is impressive enough from the outside, but within lies a rare treasure trove spread over three floors and accessed by ladders for a real sense of adventure. Marvel at the intricacy of the craftsmanship on tables, pottery and best of all samurai armour from the days when the Matsudaira clan ruled the roost here. There is a lovely walk along a lane of tea shops as well as along the lakeside here, and with Adachi art museum & garden as well as Izumo Taisha shrine just outside town it is well worth the detour. Hotels aren’t up to the standard of the cities on the south coast, but there are some excellent ryokan choices here and in nearby Tamatsukuri hot spring town.