Secrets of San'in | Grab a Bike, Hop on a Train, and Enjoy the Beauty of Matsue's Lake Shinji

Shikoku / chugoku Tour Sanin 2021.10.13
Circling this San'in region landmark by train and bike, travelers can look forward to gorgeous views and spectacular sunsets!
The city of Matsue has long been a prosperous community in the San'in region, and for hundreds of years the local seat of power found its place in Matsue Castle, one of Japan's few remaining wooden castles. But at the heart of this unique city is Lake Shinji (or Shinjiko, 宍道湖), which spears the western side of Matsue and feeds the rivers that run through the busy downtown streets. Lake Shinji's brackish waters are teeming with fish and shellfish that make Matsue famous among clam-loving foodies, and the calm waters provide the perfect backdrop for a day outdoors in the sun.
One of the best ways to explore the shores of Lake Shinji is to spend the day on and off of Ichibata Electric Railway's "Rail & Cycle." This railway line skims the northern edge of the lake, making stops at a number of popular local sightseeing destinations, lakeside view points, and rest areas, before traveling all the way to the neighboring city of Izumo and its famous grand shrine. The best part about this "Rail & Cycle," however, is the convenient bike rentals that the railway provides, and the convenience of seeing the sights armed with both bicycles and a train line.
Travelers can start their journey around Lake Shinji at Matsue Shinjiko-Onsen Station, the eastern end of the line, and rent a bicycle on-site directly from the train station! Within minutes, the bikes are ready to be wheeled through the ticket gates and onto the train, to begin the lakeside journey.
On the train itself, there is plenty of space at the ends of each car for bicycles to be lined up during the trip, and straps keep the bikes securely in place while the train is moving.
Part of the fun of riding the Ichibata Electric Railway is the view from the train! Speeding along the edge of the lake, the railway tracks snake along the shore and further inland among the green trees, giving passengers glimpses of the bright sun glittering on the calm lake water.
Travelers planning to hop on and off the train have a number of different options when it comes to destinations along the train route, on top of the many stops that offer great biking paths and views of the water. While some spots are right next to the train stations and others are a few minutes away by bike, convenient sightseeing destinations include Matsue Castle, Matsue English Garden, Matsue Vogel Park, and plenty of particularly scenic lakeside views!

Ichibata Electric Railway ・ Matsue Shinjiko-Onsen Station (一畑電車・松江しんじ湖温泉駅)
Dotecho Nakabaracho, Matsue, Shimane
  Passenger Day Pass 1,600 yen / children 800 yen
  Bicycle Tickets 320 yen / 5 for 1,000 yen
Official Website (jp)
Before returning the bike at the end of the day, there's one last stop that travelers shouldn't miss when making the most of a day at Lake Shinji. The lake is a famous sunset spot, and there are a handful of popular evening hotspots to watch the sun dye the lake waters pink and orange each evening before dark.
One of the most convenient of the go-to sunset spots is the Sunset Spot Terrace, near the lake's tiny Yomega Island, where stone steps form stadium-style seating right next to the water, attracting locals and visitors alike to this romantic destination.

Lake Shinji Sunset Spot Terrace (宍道湖夕日)
5 Sodeshicho, Matsue, Shimane
One last way to enjoy the best of Lake Shinji is through the taste buds! For a little taste of what Lake Shinji has to offer, plenty of restaurants nearby offer diners a selection of the day's daily catch. A five-minute walk from Matsue Station, Waraku is a traditional Japanese restaurant Waraku that offers high-end Japanese fare with subtle flavors and plenty of umami, the menu filled with local delicacies. 
Head to Waraku for lunch, and their "Seven Treasures of Lake Shinji Bamboo Steamer" set is a decadent and generous mid-day meal that might just be the perfect way to see what Matsue has to offer―including the city's famous freshwater clams (called shijimi/しじみ), caught fresh out of nearby Lake Shinji!

Waraku (和らく)
565 Otesenbacho, Matsue, Shimane
Hours: lunch 11:30 - 15:00 / dinner 17:30 - 23:00
Official Website (jp)

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