Bentenjima and Inasanohama Beach
A godly reunion.
In spiritual Shimane prefecture, there’s a sacred beach where eight million gods are believed to congregate once a year to determine the destiny of lovers.
Located less than a kilometer away from the historic Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, this holy stretch of shoreline is the national venue for a spectacular Shinto ritual held every November.
Up until the 19th century, Japanese people lived according to the lunar calendar (based on cycles of the moon), where each month was given a particular name. The tenth month was known as Kan-na-zuki, or the “Month of No Gods”.
Except, not in Izumo.
According to legends recorded in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest historical record, the tenth month of the lunar calendar is known as the “Month with the Gods”, marked by the week-long Kamiari Festival. This yearly homecoming, usually held around the 10th to the 17th of November, welcomes a myriad of deities from all over Japan to Izumo, beginning with a ceremony held at Inasa Beach.
After the glow of a dramatic crimson sunset dissipates into twilight, Shinto priests burn bonfires to receive the heavenly beings from beyond the dark sea before escorting their temporary guests to the oldest shrine in Japan. The gods do a bit of catching up, then get down to business holding sake-fuelled meetings to decide the fates of couples across the country.
During the span of seven days, residents of Izumo observe this ceremony in quiet, careful not to make any disturbances, whether it be through singing, dancing, or even playing music. Finally, the gods are seen off in another ceremony to head back home to their respective shrines.
Throughout the year, you can spot a weathered shrine perched on a colossal rock at Inasanohama beach. This tiny yet mystifying shrine called Benten-jima is believed to house a female sea deity, keeping watch over seafarers and protecting them from being tossed on the waves of the Sea of Japan.