Glimpse at 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.
From the prefectural capital Matsue, you can cross the sea to explore the spectacular Oki archipelago, the home of exiles. Shimane’s most famous sight 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.
The capital city of Shimane, Matsue, is home to one of Japan’s few remaining wooden castles. Matsue Castle was constructed in 1611 and features its original tower. The castle sits on Lake Shinji’s shore and is one of Japan’s “Three Great Lake Castles.”
Shimane’s historical treasures go beyond the capital. 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.
For those who want to witness a one-of-a-kind Iwami Kagura performance, tourists can pay a visit to the Tatsu no Gozen Shrine. The performance is typically held from 8 pm to 9 pm every Saturday evening.
Located in western Shimane, this town is sometimes referred to as “Little Kyoto” and for good reason. Strolling among the old samurai mansions, storehouses, sake breweries, and traditional sweets stores, it’s easy to agree.
One of the most famous shrines in Tsuwano called Taikodani Inari Shrine is reminiscent of the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine where you can see thousands of red torii gates line mountain slopes. We can guarantee you the relaxing rural town is less crowded than Kyoto, too.
If you still have some time left, head over to the Tsuwano Castle Ruins. Whether you hop on the chairlift to the top or take a leisurely half-hour hike, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sweeping views of the
The biggest draw to Izumo is undeniably Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine. This shrine is particularly 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.
Discover Shimane with the links below!