Tachikue Gorge (Tachikuekyo)
A hidden gem near the second biggest city in Shimane PrefectureBy Laura Payne
Tachikue Gorge (also called Tachikuekyo) is a hidden gem located about ten kilometers from the center of Izumo—the second biggest city in Shimane Prefecture. Famous for cliffs that tower over the Kando River, the gorge was designated a national scenic spot in 1927 and a prefectural nature park in 1964. Since long before that, however, Tachikue has been a place of worship as evidenced by the presence of temples and over 1,000 Buddhist statues.
In addition to these claims to fame, Tachikue is a renowned autumn leaf viewing spot. Around mid-November, the forests light up with seasonal hues, drawing hikers who want to enjoy the season while avoiding the crowds that can appear in other areas.
Tachikue Gorge’s hiking trail lies on the other side of suspension bridges that span the river. Upon crossing, a leisurely walk laced with religious connections awaits.
It is said that about 1,200 years ago, a Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage traveled through Tachikue and suddenly heard a voice calling from the river. Upon investigating, the monk saw a light shining beneath the water, and it was then that a turtle carrying a statue of Yakushi Nyorai (the Medicine Buddha) on its back emerged from the depths. Receiving the statue, the monk placed it in a nearby cave. Later, in the year 824, a temple called Kienzan Hikoji was built, and it is here that Yakushi Nyorai and the turtle are worshiped today. Another temple called Reikoji was built in 1919, and it venerates Shaka Nyorai (the historic Buddha).
In addition to these two temples, anyone who embarks on the gorge’s walking trail can see about 1,500 small statues scattered throughout the forest. The newest statues were erected around the same time Reikoji was built, but others are much older and have been weathered with time.
Camping and More
The western side of Tachikue Gorge is home to a campground, which offers spaces for both tent and car camping. Along with enjoying the gorge, campground guests can join hands-on experiences such as pottery workshops and Izumo soba noodle-making classes (with an advance reservation).
Meanwhile, the eastern side of the gorge is home to the hot spring inns Tachikue Onsen and Hakkouen. Here, overnight or day visitors can relax in baths that boast views of the gorge’s scenery or have a meal made with local ingredients.