Glimpse an unfamiliar Japan
The secrets' out in Shimane where the attractions are undeveloped and far-flung—and all the better for it.
Stretching along the San-in coastline bordering the Sea of Japan, Shimane prefecture is about as remote as you can get on Japan’s main island of Honshu. Rural traditions and unspoiled landscapes remain as they have for centuries, thanks to efforts to preserve the region’s cultural heritage.
See bright carp swimming through streetside waterways in picturesque castle-town Tsuwano before heading along the dramatic coastline towards the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. From the prefectural capital Matsue, you can cross the sea to explore the spectacular Oki archipelago, the home of exiles.
The surrounding town is a portal into the past, with perfectly-preserved samurai houses and mom-and-pop shops lining quiet streets.
Shimane’s most famous sight, however, is the magnificent Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine. Here, all 8 million of Japan’s Shinto gods gather for an annual meeting to decide the fates of us mortals.
Shimane Prefecture Highlights
Tsuwano, in western Shimane, is sometimes referred to as “Little Kyoto.” Strolling among the old samurai mansions, storehouses, sake breweries, and traditional sweets stores, it’s easy to agree. Upon first glance, you may think the photo at the top of this page is Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.
You’d be wrong—it’s actually Tsuwano’s Taikodani Inari Shrine where thousands of red torii gates line mountain slopes. We can guarantee you the relaxing rural town is less crowded than Kyoto, too.
Shimane’s historical delights go beyond shrines, though. The city of Oda is home to the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine which once produced a third of the world’s silver. This World Heritage Site and the surrounding town are a portal into the past, with perfectly-preserved samurai houses and mom-and-pop shops lining quiet streets.
To access the spectacular Oki Islands, you’ll need to take a ferry from Shichirui Port. Get away from it all with camping, hiking, or just plain beach buming on these remote islands. After you’re done exploring treat yourself to warigo soba, a specialty in Izumo city, for lunch.
Speaking of Izumo, Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is thought to be the oldest in Japan, dedicated to the god of relationships and marriage. To summon marital bliss, worshippers clap four times instead of the usual two in the Shinto tradition. The extra two claps are for your current (or future) partner.
For one week in October, Izumo transforms into the spiritual meeting place for all of the Shinto gods across Japan who gather for a sake-fuelled destiny conference. Festivals and ceremonies are held to encourage the deities to act kindly.
Still, Shimane has even more sacred treasures and traditions in store for curious visitors. Use the locations below to start planning your trip.