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Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Matsue
Population
761,499

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

By Laura Payne

Archeological evidence, historical texts and oral traditions trace the story of Shimane Prefecture so far that eventually, one exits the realm of concrete records and enters the world of myths. This is why exhibits at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo blend historical and mythological sources to capture a glimpse of the old Izumo Province (now eastern Shimane).

Located just a short walk from the famous Izumo Taisha Shrine, visitors to this museum can expand their knowledge of Shimane and learn what makes this rural region important in the history of Japan.

Life in early Japan

Photo by: Laura Payne Check out the recreated models and videos of life in early Japan.

When one pictures Japanese history, samurai and castles often come to mind, but what did the country look like before this feudal era emerged? We can imagine thanks to a record from Izumo Province.

During the early 8th century, when Japan was a young nation, fudoki (records of regional geography, traditions, and resources) were compiled and sent to the imperial court. Of the many fudoki created, only the ones from Izumo Province survive in a nearly complete form today. These pages offer insight into the daily life of old Japan, which is recreated in models and videos in the museum’s permanent exhibits.

Mysteries of the ancient world

Photo by: Laura Payne Ancient, pristinely preserved artifacts fill the museum halls.

One of the museum’s most prominent artifacts is the remains of enormous pillars excavated on the grounds of Izumo Taisha Shrine. These remnants and historical records suggest that Izumo Taisha was once the tallest structure in ancient Japan–about 48 meters tall. Scale models in an exhibit dedicated to Izumo Taisha imagine what the shrine would have looked like in this state.

Other key artifacts include a collection of 358 bronze swords, 16 spearheads and numerous bells. These were discovered in Izumo city in the 1980s and 90s and are estimated to be from Japan’s Yayoi Period (800 BCE-30 CE). Their exact purpose is unknown, but they are believed to be ceremonial, and this collection is currently the largest of its kind in Japan.

Mythology and more

Photo by: Laura Payne Learn about the ancient myths and legends originating from this side of Japan.

Ancient texts such as The Kojiki claim that prominent legends from Shinto mythology occurred in what is now Shimane Prefecture. The museum documents this mythological heritage by displaying a collection of short films portraying traditions connected to these myths, such as Izumo kagura dances. Items such as kagura props and costumes are also displayed, showing how these ancient myths contribute to modern art.

Things To Know

Hours and fees

Admission discounts are available for international visitors. Please show your passport or residence card upon purchase.

Special exhibits are held at the museum throughout the year, and admission to these is charged separately from access to the permanent exhibits.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. from Mar. through Oct. It is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Nov through Feb. It is closed on the third Tuesday of every month or the day after the third Tuesday if a national holiday occurs then.

Many written explanations are currently in Japanese, but multilingual audio guides are available to rent for free. Additionally, videos throughout the exhibits typically come with multilingual subtitles.

How To Get There

Address

By train

Take a local train from Dentetsu Izumo Station or Matsue Shinjiko-Onsen station. Transfer at Kawato station and alight at Izumo Taisha-Mae. The museum is a short walk from here.

Please note that trains on this line are locally owned and operated and do not accept JR Rail Passes. However, local sightseeing discount passes are available for purchase. Details can be found on Matsue city’s official tourism website.

By bus

Take a bus to Izumo Taisha or Hinomisaki from Izumo station and get off at Seimon-Mae. The museum is a short walk from here.

Where To Stay

Oyado Tsukiyo no Usagi
  • 1443-1 Taishacho Shurimen, Izumo-shi, Shimane, 699-0721 Japan
  • ¥17,765 - ¥27,170
  • 4.5/5 (1,338 reviews)
  • 0.4 km
Dormy Inn Izumo
  • 1-3-3 Eki Minamimachi, Izumo-shi, Shimane, 693-0008 Japan
  • ¥13,150 - ¥19,150
  • 7.5 km
Green Rich Hotel Izumo Futamata Yunohana
  • 1489-2 Imaichicho, Izumo-shi, Shimane, 693-0001 Japan
  • ¥7,900 - ¥13,400
  • 4.09/5 (1,204 reviews)
  • 7.5 km
Hot Spring Inn Kunibiki Glamping Base Izumo
  • 1230 Koryocho Nibu, Izumo-shi, Shimane, 699-0812 Japan
  • ¥12,540 - ¥12,540
  • 4.45/5 (153 reviews)
  • 8.5 km

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