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Japan Regional Information

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Shimane

Narrow plains and a long coastline - Full of must-see spots including national parks and cultural monuments
Shimane is situated on the western tip of Honshu Island (the main island of Japan), and faces the Korean Peninsula over the Sea of Japan. Trade with the continent and China thrived in olden times, and this region was once the leading edge of culture. The Chugoku Mountain Range extends from east to west, and rivers flow down northwards from the mountains, carving out cool, pleasant valleys before running into the sea. The long coastline changes rhythmically, as cliffs and boulders give the coastline a rugged appearance, before giving way to gentle sand dunes. First-time visitors get a strange feeling of nostalgia from the atmosphere of little fishing villages by the inlets and small towns nestled in the valleys.

Shimane is full of must-see places, starting with the Daisen-Oki National Park that contains the Oki Islands, Shimane-hanto Peninsula and Mt. Sanbe-san, Hiba-Do-go Taishaku Quasi-National Park and West-Chugoku Mountain Quasi-National Park. Other essential sights are cultural monuments such as the Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, Matsue, named after the beautiful city Matsue-fu (Songjiang) by a district near Lake Taihu in China, which it is said to resemble, and the old castle town of Tsuwano reminiscent of olden times.

Getting there
An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport or 1 hour and 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Izumo Airport.
 

  • Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine
    A huge 13-meter long sacred straw festoon that weighs 3 tons - Grand scale shrine that preserves the myths
    The Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is located in Taisha-machi, Hikawa-gun in eastern Shimane. According to the myth handed down in the Izumo district, the god of fortune, O-kuninushi-no-mikoto, obtained Izumo in compensation for giving his territory to another god. The existing shrine sanctuary was built in the 18th century, which is said to be the 25th reconstruction. While the present sanctuary is 24 meters tall, the first construction is said to have been 96 meters tall. The main sanctuary is built in the Taisha style, which is the oldest style of shrine architecture. It has a pillar called Shin'no-mihashira at the center of the interior, surrounded by a total of nine pillars on the ground forming four symmetrical squares, and a gabled roof with an opening in the front. It also has O-torii, the largest shrine gate in Japan, and a huge sacred straw festoon that is 13 meters long, 9 meters in girth, and weighs 3 tons. There is always a ceaseless flow of visitors to appreciate its grand scale.

    Getting there
    An hour and 20 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 1 hour from Osaka Itami Airport. Take the Ichibata Dentetsu Line for 20 minutes from Izumo Station to Izumo-Taisha-Mae Station.

     

  • Lake Shinji-ko
    View from Shinji-ko-ohashi Bridge famous for beautiful sunsets

    Lake Shinji-ko is situated in the northeast of Shimane, surrounded by the Shimane-hanto Peninsula on the north, the Izumo Plain on the west and the Matsue Plain on the east. Its circumference is 48 kilometers, and it is the 7th largest lake in Japan.

    The scenic beauty of the lake with Yome-ga-shima Islet on the east coast is especially magnificent when viewed from the Shinji-ko-ohashi Bridge in Matsue, and the novelist Lafcadio Hearn (after naturalization to Japan, Koizumi Yakumo) highly praised the sunsets. The views from Shirakata Park and Mt. Kita-yama in the hills behind the Shimane-hanto Peninsula are worth seeing. You can also enjoy the scenic beauty from the lake on a pleasure boat that also runs a sunset cruise. As Lake Shinji-ko is connected to the Nakaumi Lagoon, it is a brackish lake in which fresh water blends with seawater. Thanks to this water quality, a rich variety of fishes and shellfishes inhabit the lake. Fishery is thriving with whitebaits, sea basses and eels being highly treasured as Shinji-ko Shitchin, or the seven delicacies of Lake Shinji-ko. The most famous of them all is shijimi shellfish (the corbiculas shellfish) caught with joren, a rake with a basket that is a tool unique to Lake Shinji-ko.

    The Matsue-onsen Hot Spring, Tamatsukuri-onsen Hot Spring, and other hot spring resorts are located along the coast.

    Getting there
    An hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 1 hour 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Izumo Airport. Take a bus for 35 minutes from Izumo Airport to Matsue Station.

     

  • Matsue
    White walled house with black wooden fences in a row of old pine trees - A castle town surrounded by the Lake Shinji-ko, Nakaumi Lagoon and Shimane-hanto Peninsula
    Matsue is the center of the administration and economy of Shimane situated in the eastern part on the Matsue Plain surrounded by the Lake Shinji-ko, Nakaumi Lagoon and Shimane-hanto Peninsula. The Ohashi-gawa River runs through the center of the city, and a network of canals and rivers makes Matsue a city of water. The water network was created for military reasons when the Matsue Castle was constructed in 1611. Today, pleasure boats cruise through the waterway.

    The Matsue Castle has the only remaining castle tower in the San-in Region (the Japan Sea Coast). There is a view spot in the castle tower that commands a view of the Lake Shinji-ko and Mt. O-yama. The wooden Western style building, Geihinkan Guest House built in the early 20th century is now a provincial museum, and the site where the castle once stood has become a Shiroyama Park offering a relaxing and recreational area to the people of Matsue. On the Shiomi-nawate Street along the northern moat of the Matsue Castle, a samurai's residence built in the early 18th century is preserved. Its white walls, black wooden fences and a row of old pine trees are the reminiscence of the olden times. There is also the former residence and memorial hall of a novelist Lafcadio Hearn (Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo), who loved Matsue and the view from the Shinji-ko Ohashi Bridge and naturalized to Japan. Both are open to public.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 1 hour and 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Izumo Airport. Take a bus for 35 minutes from Izumo Airport to Matsue Station.

     

  • Mihonoseki
    Pivot for marine traffic and trade with the Korean Peninsula - Scenic beauty with inlets, precipices and caves
    Mihonoseki is located in the area at the eastern edge of the Shimane-hanto Peninsula in northeastern Shimane through Sakai-Suido-Ohashi Bridge to Sakai-minato in Tottori. It is a port town that thrived as the pivot for marine traffic and trade with the Korean Peninsula from olden days. There is the Mihonoseki Lighthouse built with stones in the late 19th century at Jizo-zaki Point at the eastern edge of the peninsula. You can see a variety of natural beauty on the Miho-no-kitaura Coast on the northern side of the peninsula with inlets, precipices and caves, from a pleasure boat.

    At the tip of the long, narrow peninsula on a hill overlooking the Mihonoseki Harbor stands the Miho-jinja Shrine with a long history first documented in the 8th century. This shrine is dedicated to two deities, and has a rare structure of two different styles of architecture for the principal sanctuaries. They celebrate the traditional ritual of Ao-fushi-gaki-Shinji that derives from a Japanese myth during which time a boat decorated with green brushwood fences cruises around Miho Bay. In the western hills of Miho Harbor at the top of a 150-meter tall hill is a park called the Gohon-matsu Park. It has a hiking course to the Mihonoseki Lighthouse. You can take a lift to the hilltop to view the sights of Miho Bay.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 1 hour and 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Izumo Airport. Take a bus for 35 minutes from Izumo Airport to Matsue Station, and another bus for 1 hour and 10 minutes from Matsue Station to Mihonoseki.

     

  • Mt. Daisen
    Historically sacred and highest peak in the Chugoku region - Enjoy outdoor leisure in the highlands
    Situated in the western part of Tottori, Mt. Daisen, chosen as one of the best one hundred mountains in Japan, is the generic term for a chain of mountains with Mt. Tsuru-ga-mine, 1,729 meters above sea level, as its highest peak. It belongs to Daisen-Oki National Park. It is the highest peak in the Chugoku region (the southwestern end of Japan's main island) and has historically been regarded and worshipped as a sacred mountain.

    Severe cliffs stand out on the northern side of Mt. Daisen, but a view from the direction of Yonago reveals the elegance of a mountain also known as Hoki Fuji or Izumo Fuji. Daisen-ji Temple on the Mountain is an old temple built around the year 720 and Reiho-kaku Treasure Hall, Amida-do, O-gami-yama and Okumiya carry vestiges of holy ground. Towering cliffs on the eastern side of Daisen-ji Temple Hondo (the main inner temple) is called Kin-mon, the Golden Gate, and is the best spot to see the north wall of Daisen.

    The view from Kagikake-toge Pass is splendid. You can enjoy the panoramic view of virgin beech and oak forests that change colors from spring green, dark summer green to glowing yellow in autumn. In the vicinity is a selection of facilities that make the most of Mt. Daisen's nature such as a tourist blueberry farm, a dude farm where you can barbeque, field athletic facilities and horseback riding center from which you can go for a long-distance ride into the open air. You can ski in the winter, too.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Yonago Airport. Thirty minutes from Yonago Airport to Yonago Station by bus. Three hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Station to Okayama Station by the JR Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Line. Forty minutes from Shin-Osaka Station. Two hours 10 minutes from Okayama Station and Yonago Station by JR Hakubi Line Limited Express. Fifty minutes from Yonago Station by bus to Mt. Daisen.

     

  • Mt. Sanbe-san
    Gentle mountain ridge of a graceful volcano - Hot springs are located nearby
    Mt. Sanbe-san is the generic name of seven mountains, the highest of which is Mt. Osanbe, 1,126 meters above sea level. It is a scenic spot representing the Iwami district in the central part of Shimane Prefecture. The appearance is graceful, and the group of these volcanoes with the vast extent of their mountain bases belongs to Daisen-Oki National Park. In the Mt. Sanbe-san area, there are grassy plains at the feet of the mountains, forests of beeches and mizunara (a kind of beech tree) on the sides, and a crater lake on the top, all of which provide you with a wealth of various remaining types of nature. On the vast grassy plains spreading out over Nishi-no-hara and Higashi-no-hara at the foot of the mountain, cattle are left to graze, dead grass is burnt in spring, and picnics and hiking are enjoyed in summer. At Lake Himeno-ga-ike in Kita-no-hara, tens of thousands of irises are in full bloom in early summer.

    Hot springs dot the area nearby. Some of these are: Sanbe-onsen Hot Spring famous for being promoting longevity, Yukai-onsen, Koyahara-onsen, and Ikeda Radium-onsen where only a single inn is available. Inns at all these hot springs are suitable base camps for climbing Mt. Sanbe-san.

    Getting there
    Izumo Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 5 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport. Twenty-five minutes from Izumo Airport to Izumo-shi Station by bus. Forty-six minutes from Izumo-shi Station to O-da-shi Station by the JR San-in Honsen Line. Six hours 36 minutes from Tokyo Station to O-da-shi Station via Okayama Station. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Line changing lines at Okayama Station to the JR Hakubi Line to Oda-shi Station. Four hours from Shin-Osaka. Then take a bus from O-da-shi Station to Sanbe, which takes 1 hour.

     

  • Oki
    An irregular coastline and uniquely shaped rocks - One hundred and eighty-four islands of various sizes
    Oki is the generic term for an archipelago consisting of 184 islands of various sizes within the Daisen-Oki National Park, off the northern coast of Shimane on the Japan Sea side. It is a tourist spot with Do-zen, made up of Nishi-no-shima, Naka-no-shima and Chiburi-jima Islands, and Do-go that lies northeast from Do-zen, as its core. Do-zen has many scenic spots. They include uniquely shaped rocks such as a 257-meter-high Matengai on Kuniga-kaigan Coast on Nishi-no-shima Island and Tsuten-bashi and many caves, as well as wall-like rocks on the eastern coast of Naka-no-shima Island and Akeya Beach, and Chiburi Island's 1-kilometer long cliff eroded by the sea. There are shrines that worship guardian deities of fishery and the sea, Yurahime-jinja Shrine and Takuhi-jinja Shrine, and you can also watch the sea under the surface on board a semi-submerged tour boat with an observation room below deck.

    Do-go has many scenic spots including uniquely shaped rocks such as Tokage-iwa (lizard rock), Ro-soku-iwa that looks as if rosoku, or a candle, is sticking up from the sea, Shira-shima-kaigan Coast and Dankyo-no-taki Falls. It also has historical remains such as Oki Kokubun-ji Temple and Mizuwakasu-jinja Shrine.

    Getting there
    Three hours 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Oki Airport via Osaka Itami Airport. An hour 10 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport to Oki Airport. Thirty minutes from Izumo Airport.

     

  • Oku-izumo
    Hot springs in Oku-izumo, the land of the Yamata-no-Orochi legend The whole village is a museum of ancient iron manufacturing
    In the eastern part of Shimane, Hii-kawa River flows into Lake Shinji-ko, and the region where its tributaries, O-maki-gawa River and Mitoya-gawa River, run is called Oku-izumo.

    The small village of Yumura-onsen Hot Spring, deep in the mountains of Oku-izumo, has only two inns. One of the hot springs is an open-air hot spring in the middle of a river. In ancient times, this hot spring region manufactured iron by a method called tatara. The whole village of Yoshida-mura Village, in the southwest of Yumura, is an open-air museum of iron manufacturing history. Visitors can learn about iron manufacturing methods at Tetsu-no-rekishi Hakubutsukan (Historic Museum of Iron) and Mirai-kagakukan (Iron and Science Museum). The storehouses of samurai families who made their fortunes in iron manufacturing and Takadono, with its furnace, still remain.

    In the upper stream of O-maki-gawa River, torrents erode the rocks into a V-shaped valley, Oni-no-shitaburui, or the Trembling Tongue of the Ogre, and many people come to see the tinted foliage in fall. Hii-gawa River also has Ama-ga-fuchi, a very deep valley among woods and rocks. The Creation Myth of Japan tells that a giant snake with eight heads, Yamata-no-Orochi, lived in this valley of Ama-ga-fuchi.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Haneda Airport, 1 hour 30 minutes to Izumo Airport. From Osaka Itami Airport, 1 hour 5 minutes. From Izumo Airport to Matsue Station, 35 minutes by bus. From Matsue Station, take the JR San-in Honsen Kisuki Line to Kisuki Station via Shinji Station for 55 minutes. Take a bus from Kisuki Station to Yumura-onsen Hot Spring, 20 minutes.

     

  • Tachikue-kyo Valley
    Preserves the traces of a compound for mountain ascetics - Uniquely shaped rocks and pillar rocks that stretch for 2 kilometers
    Tachikue-kyo is a valley along the Kando-gawa River about 8 kilometers south of Izumo in Shimane. Its geographical features were created by erosion of rocks, represented by andesite, and the area is designated as a national scenic spot, as well as a natural monument. Uniquely shaped rocks and pillar rocks that tower up to 100 to 150 meters above ground continue for about 2 kilometers. Some of the unique rocks are called Saru-iwa, Eboshi-iwa, Byobu-iwa, Okyo-iwa which looks like piled up o-kyo, or sutras, and Tenchu-ho that resembles the face of a colossal statue of Buddha as seen from the side.

    The reason why there are many names related to Buddhism is because the place was used as a compound for mountain ascetics in mountain Buddhism. It's been told that in the vicinity were many buildings that enshrined Buddha. In the center of this valley is Reiko-ji Temple known for Tachikue-yakushi. Passing though the line of five hundred disciples of Buddha who attained Nirvana and one thousand Buddha in a cave here, you can see the vestiges of those days.

    There is a promenade set up from the hanging bridge near the bus stop towards the upper stream for about one kilometer. There are huge colonies of iwahiba (selaginella), sekkoku (dendrobium) and sumiremo, a kind of an alga, as well as thick natural forests around them in which you can enjoy a relaxing walk.

    Getting there
    An hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Izumo Airport, and 1 hour 5 minutes form Osaka Itami Airport. Twenty-four minutes from Izumo-shi Station to Tachikue-kyo by bus. Twenty-five minutes from Izumo Airport to Izumo-shi Station by bus.

     

  • Tsuwano
    A "Little Kyoto" Castle town with historic spots and a wealth of nature
    Tsuwano is located in the westernmost part of Shimane Prefecture. It is a castle town, developed along the Tsuwano-gawa River and surrounded by nature, and is also called "Little Kyoto" in the San-in region (the Japan Sea Coast). Near Tono-machi in the center of the town, there are streets lined with neat rows of stores and houses, including sake (rice wine) breweries with lattice doors and Japanese sweets stores, and also samurai residences and storehouses with white mortar walls remaining as they were in the 17th century.

    You can find koi, carps of various colors swimming in the waterways along the streets in Tono-machi. The carps in Tsuwano were first kept in the waterways built for irrigation and fire prevention, as emergency provisions in case of famine, in the period from the 17th century to the 19th century.

    A holy ritual, horseback archery yabusame is dedicated to the god at Washibara-hachiman-gu Shrine in spring, and together with the heron dance sagimai at Yasaka-jinja Shrine in summer, attract lots of tourists. In addition, Youmei-ji Temple where successive rulers rest and Taikodani-Inari-jinja Shrine where thousands of torii (shrine gates) stand in rows, are some of the well-known tourist sights.

    Getting there
    Iwami Airport is 1 hour 20 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 55 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport. Then take a bus from Iwami Airport to Masuda Station, which takes 15 minutes. Tsuwano Station is 40 minutes from Masuda Station by the JR Yamaguchi Line. Ogo-ori Station is 5 hours 35 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and 2 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station. Tsuwano Station is 1 hour 10 minutes from Ogo-ori Station by the JR Yamaguchi Line Limited Express.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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