|Travel Reports by Aaron Chong||view profile of Aaron Chong|
|Note: The opinions and views expressed in this user report are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of japan-guide.com.|
May 17, 2019 - Matsue Horanenya - Getting to Matsue from KIX
It's been a long time since I posted a travel report to japan-guide.com. This time I'm in the mood of sharing with you all my first trip to the San'in region, where I will be visiting the prefectures of Tottori, Shimane and Yamaguchi.
I planned to visit the San'in region in 2019 for a particular festival called Horanenya, held in the city of Matsue, the capital of Shimane Prefecture historically known as Mizu no Miyako, the city of water.
So what is interesting about this festival? Firstly, this is touted as one of the three great boat rituals of Japan, alongside Osaka's Tenjin Matsuri and Miyajima's Kangensai. Secondly, this festival is only held once every 10 years! Before this, this festival used to be held every 12 years according to the lunar calendar, but the authorities decided to revert back to the original schedule of once every 10 years that was followed during the beginnings of the festival more than 400 years ago.
So how did I find out about this festival? Well, I happened to catch a Japanese travel documentary about Matsue and the Horanenya festival on Malaysian TV. I got intrigued, searched the internet and found out that the next festival will be held in 2019. This was how I came to the decision to visit the San'in region in 2019.
A year before the festival, I got hold of the full schedule and learned that the festival will be held on three separate days over a 10-day period. The first day called the Togyosai will be held on Saturday. This is then followed by the Chunichisai (I thought it was pronounced Nakabimatsuri at first) on Wednesday. Finally, the festivals ends with the Kangyosai on Sunday. Since this is such a rare event, I have decided to watch the entirety of the festival, and include some sightseeing around the San'in region in between the festival dates. I will explain why this festival was held in the posts to come.
Now comes the part how I planned my transportation logistics for this trip.
From Kuala Lumpur, the closest international airport would be Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka. I managed to get a cheap ticket for a round-trip from KUL to KIX from Malaysia Airlines.
From KIX, there are multiple ways to get to Matsue by land. You can go to Osaka and take the bus all the way to Matsue, or you can take a bus from KIX to Okayama and go to Matsue from there by train or by bus. There's also the option of using the Sanyo San'in JR pass where you can take the shinkansen from Osaka to Okayama and then a express train from Okayama to Matsue, but in my opinion, the price was kind of expensive and since you can only use it for 7 consecutive days, it does not fully overlap with the 10-day period of the Horanenya festival.
Therefore, I ultimately decided on what I think was the cheapest way to get to Matsue from KIX. Firstly, I used the Kansai One-Day Pass to ride the Haruka Express to Shin-Osaka. From there, I took the regular train all the way to Kamigori station. From Kamigori station, I switched to the San'in Okayama Pass to take the express train to Tottori and then to Matsue. This allowed me to experience riding along the Chizukyu Express train line.
The good thing about this plan is that it is cheaper than taking the bus all the way to Matsue and trains are plentiful. Furthermore, I can also use the pass to make easy day trips to places such as Izumo Taisha, Iwami-Ginzan, Yasugi and Sakaiminato by express train. However, the bad thing is that this method can be very tiring, considering that there will be only about 4 hours of sleep in the overnight flight from KUL to KIX and you have a fight the jetlag when changing trains several times.
Fortunately, I arrived in Matsue safe and sound despite the tiring journey, filled with mishaps along the way. My flight was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to a worn out tire that was discovered during inspection before boarding, and in the Haruka Express from KIX to Shin-Osaka, the train was very slow due to some accident on the rails. Nevertheless, I arrived in Matsue early enough to have a proper rest and recover from the long flight and train journey.
My first arrival in Matsue station was somewhat, underwhelming.
I've been to several festivals before and I expect a sense of excitement when arriving at the station of a city where a festival will be held. I expect to find an information booth or two where I can pick up some brochures about the festival, a huge, lavish festival and thousands of tourists pouring through the ticket gates and gawking around the festively decorated station taking selfies for Instagram.
But after passing through the ticket gates at Matsue station, there were no displays, no ornaments, no festival information booth, no brochures. I was worried for a moment that I may have come at the wrong place at the wrong time. But fortunately, there were Horanenya banners outside the station along the covered pedestrian walkway, and very relieved that the festival dates were correct as mentioned on the festival website.
At my lodging at a new backpacker's hostel called Matsue Guesthouse, I was very surprised to learn from the staff that the hostel was not fully occupied even though there was going to be festival. Most likely due to the fact that it was after the Golden Week holidays and not a lot of people knew about the Horanenya festival since it was rarely held.
This was not like what I've experienced at the other festivals I've been to, where all the hotels were sold out and the city streets crammed with tourists during the festival period. The weather upon arrival in Matsue was cloudy and drab. It was, a somewhat underwhelming experience leading up to the festival.
After checking in at the hostel, I took a stroll along the river and Lake Shinji to survey for the best seating places of the festival. For dinner, I had oden at Oden Shosuke, located along the riverbank. I've read from the tourist website that Matsue is famous for oden, and they are absolutely right as I had huge pieces of daikon, shiitake mushrooms, fish cakes and a fresh octopus leg braised in a delicious, dark dashi broth. The oden here was way better than the one I had in Fukuoka.
As I savor my sumptuous first meal in Matsue, the city of water, a feeling of exciting inside was being nourished by the richness of the oden broth. I couldn't wait to see what the unique Horanenya festival would be like tomorrow.