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Photo By: Laura Payne
Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Matsue
Population
761,499

Taikodani Inari Shrine

Journey through the boundary between the ordinary and the sacred.

By Laura Payne

Thousands of Inari shrines exist throughout Japan, but Taikodani Inari is considered one of the five most important. Situated in the small town of Tsuwano, also known as Little Kyoto, Taikodani Inari draws visitors with promises of traditional cultural experiences minus the crowds of larger cities.

Built to defend

Photo by: Laura Payne The deity Inari is associated with prosperity and safety, so prayers for these are particularly strong here.

Taikodani Inari sits on a mountain northeast of where Tsuwano Castle once stood. According to traditional beliefs, the northeastern direction is the kimon–a demon gate where bad spirits can enter one’s life and wreak havoc. To counter the unlucky power of the northeast, cities in Japan often build temples or shrines facing this direction so that deities can offer protection. Taikodani  Inari was built in the 18th century for this purpose, and although Tsuwano Castle was left to ruin during Japan’s modernization period, the shrine still exists to defend the residents of Tsuwano.

The main entrance to the shrine grounds is a switchback trail shaded by a tunnel of over 1,000  red torii gates, which represents the boundary between the ordinary and the sacred. Tiny shrines featuring fox statues, messenger’s of Taikodani Inari’s deity can be found along this approach before reaching the main grounds.

Upon emerging from the torii gate tunnel, visitors find themselves high above Tsuwano,  surrounded by mountaintops and shrine buildings. Here, anyone can offer prayers or buy amulets to carry the power of the shrine home.

Iwami Kagura performances

Photo by: WikiCommons/ Pattio A dance with an ancient history.

Kagura is a traditional style of dance that is believed to be centuries old. It is often performed for the purpose of prayer or to ward off bad luck. Western Shimane Prefecture is renowned for a  unique local style of this art known as Iwami kagura, which is characterized by elaborate costumes, vibrant masks, and lively music. Even if one doesn’t understand Japanese, Iwami kagura performances are a captivating experience.

Taikodani Inari Shrine occasionally hosts Iwami kagura performances on the weekends or during certain festivals. These performances portray tales of Japan’s Shinto deities battling demons, and it is said that some of these legends took place in what is now Shimane  Prefecture. If visitors time their trip to Taikodani Inari according to the Iwami kagura schedule,  an unforgettable opportunity to witness the legends of the land around them awaits.

Things To Know

Iwami Kagura performance schedules change from year to year. Information on current performances can be found at local tourist information centers or online at western Shimane’s official travel website.

How To Get There

Address

By train

From Matsue or Izumo Station, take the San’in Line Limited Express to Tsuwano Station. This  train reaches Tsuwano in two and a half to three hours. The shrine approach is about a 15- minute walk from Tsuwano Station and it takes about 15 minutes to walk up the trail to the main  grounds. 

By car

Tsuwano is accessible via local toll roads or the Route 9 highway. Taikodani Inari Shrine offers free parking next to the main shrine buildings.

Where To Stay

Tsuwano Onsen Yutorelo Tsuwano
  • 82-3 Ushiroda, Kanoashi-gun Tsuwano-cho, Shimane, 699-5605 Japan
  • ¥8,800 - ¥18,700
  • 4.13/5 (215 reviews)
  • 0.4 km
Condominium Tsuwano Sou Vacation Rental
  • 84-4 Morimura, Kanoashi-gun Tsuwano-cho, Shimane, 699-5604 Japan
  • ¥20,000 - ¥28,000
  • 0.7 km

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