The black Castle of Matsue

Matsue Castle in the Shimane Prefecture of Japan, is one of only 12 remaining medieval castles in their original wooden form. The castle was built as a fortress over a period of five years and completed in 1611 CE by the local feudal lord and founder of Matsue City, Yoshiharu Horio. The castle is sometimes called the “black castle” after its dark-colored exterior.

I and my wife, Mani were in Izumo for a few days. We were staying at the Dormy Inn Hotel, adjacent to Inzumoshi Station. It is a good place to stay if you are touring Izumo. The hotel’s proximity to the JR train station is very helpful if you will be using mostly public transport. There are several convenience stores nearby as well for daily needs.

For the last couple of days we went around some of the interesting places around Izumo including Cape Hino, Izumo Taisha and Hinomisaki Shrine. On our arrival, we had purchased the “Perfect Ticket” that allowed us to move around most public transits in Izumo, for a small pre-fixed fee of ¥1500. This ticket is valid for three consecutive days of travel.

We woke up to a lazy day. The weather had deteriorated and dark grey clouds had surrounded Izumo. After a simple breakfast of bread and eggs, we left the hotel at around 10.30 am. At 11.34, we caught the Yakumo 16 Limited Express bound for Okayama via Matsue. The “Perfect Ticket” will not work for JR Trains. For this ride we used our JR Passes. JR Passes are a great way to travel around Japan. It is only provided to people visiting on tourist visas. It is cheap and very helpful for traveling across Japan.

We reached JR Matsue Station a little after noon. The weather was still depressing but the day had certainly brightened up a bit. Matsue city is a castle town. Most cities in Japan were originally constructed as castle towns (Jo-ka-Machi). Matsue was no different. The city and its surrounding areas are rich in cultural assets and historical sites. The castle is located about 2 kilometres northeast of the station and lies at the center of many of the city’s tourist attractions.

Near the shopping areas, you find numerous shops selling local products such as wagashi (Japanese sweets), Yakumo-nuri (lacquerware), local sake (spirits), and kamaboko (fish sausage). Most cities in Japan were originally constructed as castle towns (Jo-ka-Machi). Matsue was no different. The castle is located about 2 kilometers northeast of the station and is in the center of many of the city’s other tourist attractions.

From the station, it is best to catch the Gurutto Lakeline bus. With its distinctive retro looks, you will have no trouble finding the cute bus. It starts at the JR railway station from No. 7 stop. Please confirm the same before queuing up for the bus.

The bus painted in red and green, with wooden paneling inside, follows a convoluted loop around the city stopping at all the major tourist spots in the town. After leaving the station, it passes a couple of heritage places and then heads to Matsue Castle. A running commentary in Japanese and English announces the important landmarks as you pass them. Large screens, towards the front of the bus, display the upcoming stops. Just before the bus reaches your stop, press the button in front of your seat, to alert the driver that you wish to get off.

The bus runs every 20 minutes for most of the day. A single time fare costs ¥200 for adults and ¥100 for children. An all-day pass is also available, allowing you to hop on and off as many times as you like for one day. It costs ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for children.

If you are carrying the “Perfect Ticket” you will not need to pay for your ride on the bus.

The bus dropped us off near the entrance of the Matsue Castle. The first thing you will see after getting down at the bus stop, is the wide moat surrounding the castle. From here you can also see two of the castle yaguras (watchtowers).

Yoshiharu Horio

As you move towards the entrance gate, a bronze statue of Horio Yoshiharu (1542 – 1611) stands there with his sword stretched towards the sky. Horio Yoshiharu was a brave and able fighter. He was said to have possessed the calmness of an enlightened spirit of the Buddha. Matsue Castle was his brainchild. The exploration of Matsue Castle would be incomplete without telling his story.

Yoshiharu’s father was a vassal of the Iwakura Oda clan during the Sengoku period. They had an ongoing feud with Oda Nobunaga, one of the foremost military leader of Japan. Their wars with Nobunaga eventually led Yoshiharu’s father to become a Ronin, a masterless samurai.

In the Sengoku, or Warring States period, every day was a life or death struggle. Yoshiharu was raised during these turbulent times. He eventually came into the employment of Nobunaga as a lowly foot soldier.

One day in Owari province (Aichi Prefecture), when Nobunaga was out hunting, a large wild boar suddenly appeared out of the woods and came charging at the hunting party. Yoshiharu, who was just a foot soldier, stood his ground and wrestled the beast with his bare hands. The bravery & calmness with which he faced the boar impressed Nobunaga, who promoted him. Yoshiharu’s bravery and calmness served him well over the following years, through a number of battles.

Towards the end of 1600, for his admirable leadership in the Battle of Sekigahara, the Horio clan were awarded land in Izumo Province and he was made the Daimyo of the region. Yoshiharu continued to live rest of his life here until he passed in 1611.

Just beyond his statue, you will find the remains of Otemon gate. You can still see the circular base for pillars of the wooden gate.

It would be easier if you looked at the layout of this area to understand the smart design of this section. This cornered space, even before you enter the castle grounds is called an Umadamari.

The Umadamari used to be a feature of most castles in the Edo period (1600 – 1867) to protect against enemy invasions. The walls would squeeze the enemy troops into a vulnerable area surrounded by all three sides. It also served a double purpose, which was a place where the troops defending the castle would prepare themselves. The small structure you see in front of the massive wall used to be a well.

Right after the gate, the path turns left to reach the castle, where a series of steps will lead you up to the castle. Once inside, you will realize that there are two levels to the stone walls. The ninomaru (second enclosure) descends from the honmaru at a lower level.

These stone walls were made in the span of over three years by a master of Ishigaki wall building style and is still the same as it was when it was built 400 years old.

Two techniques were used in laying of the stone wall of Matsue Castle. One technique used stones that had already been cut in order to make the rocks fit together easily. The other technique used natural stones whose shape was not altered. You can find many stones with a carved seal which dates back to the time when the castle was initially constructed.

Did you know: It was once a rule that girls were not allowed to dance in the streets of Matsue city. If they did, the base of the city’s symbol, Matsue Castle, would begin to shake, endangering the towering building.

The story goes that Matsue Castle’s Ishigaki stone walls contain a Hitobashira, a human sacrifice, entombed in the stonework to act like a guardian spirit of the castle. In this case, the Hitobashira was a young girl who loved to dance, and so to prevent the castle from ever falling, a law was passed preventing girls from dancing in the streets and ever upsetting the spirit within.

But before you go, you can also indulge yourself at the lovely park at the base of the castle grounds. The extensive grounds, now called Jozan Park is spread over a vast sixteen hectares wooded park. Many paths go around under the steep stone walls of the castle, the wooded hillsides, and along the moats, making for some quiet pleasant walks. This area is free to public and does not require any admission ticket.

The area is full of beautifully pruned Japanese matsu pine trees. These are still only very young trees in the Castle grounds. If you are lucky, you might also see a samurai armor wearing person, wandering around the park.

After a short climb, we reached the castle entrance. The castle appears behind this last fortification wall. On the left you will find the admission booth from where you can purchase the tickets. It cost us ¥560 per person to get inside.

A brief history of Matsue Castle

As already mentioned while talking about Horio Yoshiharu, that Tokugawa Ieyasu gave him 240,000 koku at Toda in Izumo Province as a reward for his achievements at the decisive “Battle of Sekigahara.” Matsue city didn’t exist then and Yoshiharu came to reside at the now-ruined Gassantoda Castle. Gassantoda Castle was located in Yasugi, tucked away deep in the mountains and Yoshiharu had higher aspirations.

In 1607, he began the construction of a new castle on Oshiroyama (Mt. Oshiro), which was then just an uninhabited small hill overlooking Lake Shinji, where he could take advantage of the transport possibilities offered by numerous waterways. Surrounded by wetlands and protected by the sea to the north and the lake to the west, the location was an excellent defensive base for his future fortress.

Yoshiharu was a smart man. The Renkaku-shiki layout of the castle, with its hilltop positioning, wide moats, and high Ishigaki provided an efficient defense to the castle. Construction of Matsue Castle was completed in 1611. Interestingly, it’s defenses were never put to test.

Among the 12 original castles, Matsue Castle has the second-largest donjon (keep), is the third tallest at 30m, and is the sixth oldest.

Unfortunately, the Horio clan came to an end in 1611 with the death of Yoshiharu. After Yoshiharu passed away, Kyogoku Tadataka was made Lord of Matsue for a brief period of time, followed by Matsudaira Naomasa, a grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose descendants ruled until 1871, after whom the castle was abandoned.

On entering the uppermost castle area, I was surprised to see some Momiji trees were still glowing brilliantly in the dull afternoon. We played around for a bit among the fallen red leaves.

This is a shot of my new Amazon camera backpack. I am not really thrilled with it. It’s comfy at the shoulder pads, but not very user-friendly. I am also not too happy with the single stitches, the tripod holder section is already bursting at the edges. My lower-pro backpack was amazing, unfortunately they stopped making that model.

Matsue Castle Architecture

Matsue Castle is classified as a hirayama-jiro, a castle built on a hill surrounded by flat land. The moats, stone walls, and levels of concentric embankments that encircled the castle compound, ascending in a staircase fashion from the sannomaru section at the base of the hill, up to the central keep, are all a classic example of flatland hill-castle defensive layout.

The present-day honmaru (the walled enclosure surrounding the keep) is now an expansive open space, but the keep (tenshūkaku) was once surrounded by six watchtowers (yagura) connected by roofed passageways known as watari-yagura.

The castle’s keep is a fine example of an early Edo period tenshu with five levels concealing six inner floors and an underground basement. Built in a borogata or watchtower style, and perched atop the 28-meter high hill, Matsue Castle keep has a commanding presence in the center of the city. It has an overall dark appearance, with wooden paneling covering a large part of the building.

The dark timber cladding is designed to protect the lower floors from rain. The exteriors of the lower sections are covered in black shitami-ita, to protect the mud walls beneath.

The tenshu features curving roofs that look like birds with their wings spread. For this reason, the castle is also known as Chidori-jō or Plover Castle, resembling plovers in flight.

Let’s look a bit closely at the various ingenious add-ons of Matsue Castle. The keep was designed as a defensive stronghold and was well-equipped with defensive design features, including numerous gaps for firing at invaders and ishiotoshi structures for dropping rocks on anyone attempting to scale its walls.

The shachi-hoko (mythical dolphins) on the roof of the keep are slightly over two metres tall (2.08 m). Carved in wood and covered with copper, these are the largest such pieces remaining among the 12 original castles in Japan.

Among the currently existing castles, Matsue Castle is the only castle that has inherited the “Irimoyahafu”, an architectural style from the late 1500’s. The Irimoyahafu is the triangular part on a four-sided hip and gabled roof.

Its south-facing tsukeyagura connecting tower serves as the entrance.

Matsue Castle Interiors

The interior of Matsue Castle is maintained in excellent condition and contains a fine collection of samurai helmets, armour, weapons and items of historical interest. You will have to leave your shoes near the gate at the entrance.

From its main entrance, visitors climb to the upper floor, with a halt at each floor to admire carefully staged reconstitution, of samurai armors especially, that help picture Japan’s feudal times.

Designed for warfare, you will be able to witness many defensive elements, like precarious stairways, a large turret affixed to the main building, arrow and gun holes, holes for dropping stones along with an underground well in case of siege.

Inside the castle, there is a large collection of historical artifacts. Each floor is dedicated to specific displays such as the armor, swords, and helmets of the samurai in the time of war, materials used to build the castle and a pictorial display of the castle’s history, photos of all the castles throughout Japan, and miniature replicas of the layout of Matsue as it has changed over time.

The first basement floor is known as the known as Shiogura or Salt Cellar. This section was built specifically for stockpiling food and drinking water in case the inhabitants could not leave the castle during a siege. You can find a huge 24 m deep well in a corner of the storehouse. I don’t think I have seen any other currently existing castle with a well inside. Along with the well, this salt was to be used in an emergency, showing how Matsue Castle was built with serious consideration to its utility in actual combat.

You can feel like you are back in the Edo Period. Many of the pillars and stairs of the castle and other materials that were used to make the castle are still here since the castle was first constructed. The original shachi (mythical sea creatures) of the castle’s roof is also located inside the castle.

Shachi or Shachihoko were frequently used as roof ornaments in the Edo period (1600-1868) and found atop castles, tower gates, and samurai homes. It represents an imaginary sea creature with the head of a tiger and body of a fish. These fish-shaped ornaments were placed at both ends of the main roof ridge, with the male Shachi, with thicker scales, placed on the left and the female Shachi on the right. These pieces, placed at each end of the ridge, had a duty to protect the building against fire and evil spirits.

From the basement, we moved up to the second floor. To prevent the load from being applied to the center of the building, several pillars were added here. The floor has six ishi-otoshi openings to throw stones out, and its outer wall is largely dark, thick wooden board siding with battens. Several wooden benches are spread in the center of the room for visitors to take a second to absorb the centuries-old smell.

On this floor, you can find several old exhibits from the original castle. Here we can see an onigawara, which is a roof tile made from baked clay into the shape of an ogre, a mythical creature in old tales passed down from long ago. The ends of the roof ridges of Matsue Castle were decorated with these onigawara tiles.

Not far from the ogre shaped roof tile, you can see one of the original pillars. As a general rule, Japanese castles are built around two huge wooden pillars (hashira) from foundations to the top. In Matsue Castle, for financial reasons, pillars were made of timber beams clipped together with staple-like hooks called Kasugai.

The internal staircases are all very narrow, to make it difficult for attacking enemies to secure the upper levels, and are made of paulownia, a very light and fire-resistant timber so they could be raised quickly before an enemy could use them. Stairs made of paulownia to prevent fire and decay are a distinct feature not seen in any other castle.

The third floor was mostly empty with a few scattered pieces of exhibits.

Here we see an idol of Matsudaira Naomasa, the grandchild of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. He is remembered for his valor in the Battle of Osaka (1615) at the young age of 14. After Kyogoku Tadataka, the territorial authority was granted in 1638 to Matsudaira Naomasa who enjoyed favorable relations with the Tokugawa shoguns.

Rule by the Matsudaira Clan as a daimyo house continued unbroken for over 230 years, until Japan’s feudal domains were abolished and replaced with modern prefectures. For this reason, we see a deep relationship between the Matsudaira Clan and their subjects.

On the same floor, you can find the samurai armor of Goto Matabei, a much-respected professional warrior who often proudly boasted of the 53 scars on various parts of his body, trophies of the many wars in which he had participated. Goto Matabei was also recognized for his fierce bravery during the Battle of Sekigahara where Yoshiharu Horio fought along his side.

The fourth floor contains on its walls the photos of all the other original castles of japan. Made me realize, I still have a lot to cover.

On this floor we have a row of mural paintings depicting the main historical events of Matsue domain. Murals depicting the stories surrounding the construction of the castle are also easy to understand, so that the more you know the more interesting the tour becomes. They were created by Fuden Adachi, an artist from Matsue city about 300 years back.

The top floor was designed in Boro style to resemble an observation tower with a 360-degree view. The view from the large, open window spaces on the top floor offers a clear view of the town, rivers, and moats below, giving you the chance to experience the same extensive view of the city as the samurai and warlords had.

Ruin of Matsue Castle

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, a large number of castles were demolished or auctioned off for their building materials. Matsue Castle’s age and size contributed to the considerable cost of upkeep, and former daimyō and new governor of Matsue, Matsudaira Sadayasu requested permission to tear it down in 1871.

Having been protected by three successive Edo Period (1603 – 1868) clans, the Horio, the Kyōgoku and the Matsudaira, Matsue Castle was slated for demolition through the Castle Dissolution Edict (Haijōrei) issued by the Meiji Government in 1873.

Matsue Castle fell under the jurisdiction of the military headquarters at Hiroshima, but the army was reluctant to pay for maintenance. In 1875, the army attempted to sell the Matsue tenshu and other buildings for scrap. The value of the castle materials was seriously compromised by the cost of dismantling and removing the structures, and the watchtowers, gates, and other outbuildings were sold off for a pittance and scrapped.

The tenshu was bought by Saitō Naotada, an officer from Kanazawa, for 180 yen, the equivalent of sixty bags of rice at the time.

However, local volunteers raised funds to save the castle keep, which now remains the only original castle keep in the whole of San’in Region.

Once we completed our exploration of the exhibits of the castle, we walked around the castle grounds, looking for other interesting places in this vast area. There are three shrines within the park, but the one worth seeking out is down a quiet lane to the rear of the castle. As we kept walking towards the north part of the castle, we stumbled onto the Inari shrine.

Matsue Inari Shrine

There are three shrines within the park, but the one worth seeking out is down a quiet lane to the rear of the castle. The Jozan Inari-jinja Shrine is a modest shrine tucked away in a quiet corner of the park. The usual torii gates guide you down the path towards some steep steps and at the top of them are two guardian foxes as is common at many shrines throughout the country. The shrine was established by Matsudaira Naomasa, who became the lord of Matsue domain in 1638.

the shrine—half-hidden amid the greenery and a bit difficult to find—contains thousands of representations of foxes, the messengers of the god (or goddess, depending on how the deity is represented) Inari, who determines the bounty of the rice harvest and, by extension, prosperity. Passing through a gate and along an avenue of sphinx-like foxes carved in stone, you reach the heart of the shrine, in a wooded glade crowded with more stone foxes, pitted by weather, covered with moss, crumbling with age—and accompanied by row after row of newer, bright, jaunty-looking white and gold ceramic foxes. Inari shrines, which have become increasingly popular in Japan, are thought by some to be haunted and best avoided after dark.

The shrine is the start and endpoint of the Horanenya Matsuri, a three-day festival involving decorated boats filled with musicians that is one of the three great boat festivals of Japan. Taking place only every 12 years, the next will be in 2021.

The shrine is often overlooked by all those visitors who seek out the castle and nothing more. You can find numerous small statues of kitsune, some covered in moss, the fox messengers of the deity Inari enshrined here. If you are a fan of numbers, there could be more than 2000 carved foxes surrounding the shrine.

Matsue Shrine

Going back towards the exit, we came by the Matsue Shrine, which is said to have been constructed at the same time as the castle itself. We had passed it while going up to the castle. Deified in the shrine are Horio Yoshiharu, the founder of Matsue City, and Matsudaira Naomasa, the first of the Matsudaira clan to rule the region among others.

Like most shrines there are two cute looking Shishi statues at the gate.

A smaller shrine stands nearby, separate from the main hall. I am not sure about the origins of that one.

After an overwhelming afternoon at the Matsue Castle, we gradually made our away towards the bus stop. The castle has 4 entrance/exit points. While leaving we took the Chidori bridge exit. The wind had picked up as we walked quickly towards the bus stop.

It was overall a good day. Even though it started with gross weather, it ended nicely. Matsue Castle is the symbol of the city of Matsue, and in 2015 it became the fifth Japanese castle to be designated a national treasure. I have to appreciate the craftsmanship that enabled the structure to be built without nails, assembled by artful joinery in what must be the supreme incarnation of tongue-and-groove construction.

I can only admire the burnished richness of the wooden siding; the art objects, samurai helmets, antique kimonos; the historical murals and architectural models in the castle museum; and the vertiginous view of the distant mountains from the open platform on the highest floor. Though centuries have gone by, the castle has been well maintained and preserved, allowing it to continue to project its strength and beauty to wide-eyed fanboys like us, in the same form as it was 400 years ago.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow we leave for Kyoto. It has been a wonderful week exploring various areas of Shimane. I am certainly wiser when it comes to the mythological stories about this region. I hope to come back again to enhance my experience of this area, its cultures, and its traditions. Please leave me a comment if you liked my story or follow me on Instagram.


In the spring from March to April, there is the Camellia Festival where you can enjoy looking at the camellia, and a Castle Festival where the illumination of the castle and cherry blossom trees are magical.

A Matsue Castle Grand Tea Ceremony is held in October annually. It is an event where you can enjoy various kinds of tea and Japanese confectionery and feel the Japanese charm.

Most of Matsue’s attractions are in a compact area north of the main JR Station and can easily be enjoyed in a day or two of sightseeing. You can also enjoy a boat ride along the moat of the castle. The Horikawa Sightseeing boat tour takes you along the 400 years old moat where the boatmen will tell you about the local history and culture. The boats departing roughly every 15 minutes from three convenient locations surrounding the castle.

The 3.7 km Horikawa Passage for small boats which has surrounded the castle since the time of its construction to the present day can be enjoyed for its elegant townscape of samurai residences and the old pine trees of Shiomi Nawate.


10 minutes by bus from JR Matsue Station

Open Days

Open every day.

Admission Hours

08:30 – 18:30 (closes at 17:00 between October and March)

Admission Fees

Adults 560 yen, children 280 yen.

Castle type

Hirayama-jō (Flatland hill castle)

Built by

Horio Yoshiharu

Date of construction

1607 – 1611

Alternative name

Chidori-jō (Plover Castle)

Inasahama Beach

Inasa Beach (稲佐の浜) is one of the most sacred Japanese beaches located in Japan. It is mentioned several times in Kojiki, said to be the oldest written chronicle in Japan. The book written in ancient words and difficult to read even for the Japanese, speaks of ancient Japanese myths and the beginnings of the island nation itself.

According to the scriptures of the Kojiki, there are said to be 8 million gods. The Amatsukami (heavenly gods) were ruled over by Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess & the most important deity of the Shinto religion. Amaterasu is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi who made their daughter ruler of the heaven. The Kojiki further states that the earthly world where the people lived was called Kunitsukami, and inside this very earth, exists the realm of the dead referred to as Yomi no Kuni.

After an entertaining afternoon in Hinomisaki we decided to drop in at Inasahama to catch its mesmerizing beauty during sunset. The bus dropped us off at Izumo Taisha stop and from there we just walked to the beach. You can also get down directly at the beach, it has its own stop. We just needed to get some refreshments and some souvenirs from the shops near Izumo taisha.

If you are coming straight from Izumoshi Station area, the bus ride costs about ¥540 per person. We had however previously purchased the “perfect ticket” which allows for a hassle-free travel on local buses. If you are in Izumo for a few days, I would recommend obtaining the “Enmusubi Perfect ticket” from the Izumo Tourist Information Center, inside JR Izumoshi Station. It enables you free rides on Ichibata trains and buses, including Matsue city buses for 3 consecutive days. The ticket also includes discount privileges at many tourist spots.

After walking for about 15 minutes to the west of Izumo-taisha Shrine, the Inasahama gradually emerges from the Sea of ​​Japan – a beach famous for the mythical story of the country’s inception.

Myths surrounding Inasa no Hama Beach

The myth surrounding Inasa no Hama has many variations, but in essence, it is the tale of how Takamagahara (The realm of the Amatsukami) came to be united with Izumo (A kingdom of Kunitsukami).

Takamagahara is a place of heaven in Japanese mythology. In Shinto, Takamagahara is the dwelling place of the heavenly gods (Amatsukami). It is believed to be connected to Earth by the bridge Ama-no-uki-hashi (Floating Bridge of Heaven).

It is said Amaterasu Omikami, the queen of Amatsukami, took grave offense to see Okuninushi, becoming a king of the land of Izumo in the earthly realm. Since she saw Okununishi’s actions as inconsiderate toward the right to rule given to her by her father, Izanagi, she ordered various messengers and negotiators to Izumo, to cease and desist his activities.

It is said that the messengers of heaven clashed their swords on this very beach and negotiated with Okuninushi for the transfer of land to them. After several negotiations, Okuninushi eventually gave in to the desires of Amaterasu and her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto-sama ascended to the rule of Izumo. In compensation, he was made ruler of the unseen world of spirits and magic on Earth.

As gratitude toward Okuninushi (or some say it was on a condition requested by him) she had Izumo Taisha built for him, and he was to have responsibility and jurisdiction over spiritual affairs, whereas Amaterasu Omikami-sama and her lineage would have responsibility and jurisdiction over physical affairs and government. Per this agreement, all of the kami, Amatsukami and Kunitsukami, would gather at Izumo Taisha every October to talk about affairs of the physical and spiritual. So the story goes!

Even today, the legend is inherited as “Kami-tei Shinto“, and on the 10th day of the 10th month in the lunar calendar, a bonfire is lit on the beach to welcome the 8 million Gods from all over Japan. Interestingly in all of Japan, the gods are away this month, so the month is called, “Kannazuki,” but in Izumo, where the gods gather, the month is called “Kamiarizuki.” Although there are no fancy illuminations or bursting of crackers, it is a ritual with a strict atmosphere that I would want to see at least once in my lifetime.

After the gods have been welcomed at the shore, people march to Izumo Taisha to the sound of flutes and drums with two sacred tree branches called Himorogi housing dragons, sea snakes, and gods at the head. After the celebration at Izumo Grand Shrine, it is said that the eight million gods stay in Izumo Taisha for a week, in the nineteen shrines to the east and west sides of the main shrine, as they hold a meeting, called Kamuhakari, on various matters related to human life.


Inasahama has a white sandy beach and a beautiful coastline. This scenic spot has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 Nagisa Beaches. On the beautiful beach, you cannot miss a small lonely rock standing with a miniature torii and a shrine on the top. The prominent round island at Inasa no Hama known locally as “Benten-jima.” In ancient times, it has been referred to as Okino Gozen and Okinoshima.

The Benten-jima Shrine is dedicated to Toyotama-hime, the daughter of Watatsumi – the God of the sea, and is said to protect seafarers. The beach itself, according to legend, was created during the Kunibiki land pulling, as the God Yatsukamizuomizunu used a rope to pull the land to Izumo and this rope later turned into the sandy Inasa no hama beach.

Benten-jima is not really an island as described by the name. The boulder used to be in the sea in ancient times, so the name “island” was given to it at that point in time. Until around 1965, it was only possible to reach Benten-jima using a temporary wooden bridge over the sea. However, due to changes in the tide, sand has gradually accumulated around the island, and now it is connected to the beach and can be walked to on foot. 

Thanks for reading! Inasa Beach is a nice place to relax during the evenings. If you are visiting Izumo-taisha, do not miss this lovely place. It is just a 15-minute walk from the heritage shrine. If you like my story, please leave a comment or follow my story as I continue to explore one of the holiest places in Japan – Izumo taisha.

Praying for love at Izumo Taisha

Izumo-taisha, also known as Izumo Ōyashiro, is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. No record gives the exact date of its establishment, but some of the oldest mythological stories of the country originate at this very place.

Located in Izumo of Shimane Prefecture, the shrine is dedicated to the god of nation-building, Okuninushi-no-okami, and it is said that, if you visit the shrine, you will have great luck when it comes to your love life and personal relationships.

How to reach Izumo-taisha

I and my wife, Mani, were staying at the Dormy Inn, just beside the Izumoshi Station. Dormy Inn is a nice place to stay in Izumo, with comfortable rooms and easy accessibility to local convenience stores.

This was my first visit to Izumo, primarily because the city is located on the extreme western edge of the Shimane peninsula, and it takes almost 4 hours to reach from Kyoto. I have been to Shimane before in 2016 when I visited the lovely Adachi gardens, but Izumo continued to remain on my bucket list.

The area surrounding Izumoshi Station is very quiet, unlike the bustling stations of Kyoto, Tokyo, or even Osaka. The town is literally littered with idols of Ōkuninushi, like the one below, which I saw on a roadside near the station. Ōkuninushi has had a massive impact on the history of Izumo, but we will delve into his story later on in this article.

It was 9 am in the morning. After a light breakfast of onigiris, we took the local bus to Izumo Taisha. Buses depart from bus stop #1 in front of Izumoshi Station roughly every 30 minutes. The one-way ride to the shrine takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥530.

The bus was mostly empty. I guess most travelers here are locals and they prefer their personal vehicles to travel. We had on us the “Enmusubi Perfect Ticket” which allows for a hassle-free travel on local buses. If you are in Izumo for a few days, I would recommend obtaining the “Perfect ticket” from the Izumo Tourist Information Center, inside JR Izumoshi Station.

This ticket costs ¥1500 per adult and entitles you unlimited free rides on local trains and buses for 3 consecutive days. The ticket also includes discounts and certain special privileges at a few tourist spots.

You can also take the local Ichibata train to the shrine, but it will likely take up more time as it involves changing trains midway at Kawato Station.

The red and white bus dropped us off near a large grey colored Torii gate that marks the beginning of the walk to the heritage shrine. A Torii is the symbol of a Shinto Shrine. It marks the entry into the sacred grounds of the Shrine. Four Toriis in total need to be passed before reaching the Izumo Taisha shrine and each is made of a different material: stone, wood, iron, and copper (in order from the first to fourth). We missed the first Torii since the bus went past it and dropped us off near the second one. If you are interested, you can walk back to the white torii, made of stone. In ancient times, it used to be the original entrance gate to the shrine.

From the wooden torii, a wide paved path leads visitors towards the shrine grounds. Along the way, you will find many stone lanterns like the one below. Moss had gathered around the top and the base. The detailing in the carving of the lantern will tell you that its made for Kimachi stones located near Lake Shinji.

Myths surrounding Izumo Taisha

Before I show you the age-old structures inside the Izumo Taisha complex, let me explain to you some of the myths surrounding this heritage site. Like most cultures, the Japanese also have their own interesting take on the origins of their country. The Shinto myths originating from Japan can be segregated into four eras. Izumo Taisha originates from the first – the mythical era of the heavenly and earthly kami. Kami are basically the spirits, gods, and deities in the Shinto religion. The gods were divided into Amatsu-kami (heavenly gods) and Kunitsu-kami (earthly gods.)

All my conclusions have been drawn from two of the oldest written records in Japan – Kojiki (the legendary stories of old Japan) and Nihon shoki (the chronicles of old Japan). The myths of Izumo represent their own cycle in these classical works, which have several discrepancies with the Yamato myth cycles which mainly concentrated on the tradition of the imperial family and repeatedly tried to downplay the importance of the stories originating from Izumo.

According to the Kojiki; Heaven and Earth were created in this era referred to as the mythical era. The Earth itself at that time was said to be just a formless ocean with no landmass. In the beginning, as is mentioned in Kojiki – five deities came into existence at the time of the creation of the universe, called the Kotoamatsukami. Unlike the later gods, these deities were born without any procreation. The Kojiki further portrays the birth of Inazagi-no-mikoto and his younger twin sister Izanami-no-mikoto as the seventh and final generation of deities that manifested after the emergence of the first group of gods. Together they are considered to be the patriarch and matriarch of all other Japanese gods.

Receiving a command from the other gods to solidify and shape the earth, the couple, with a jeweled spear, standing on the heavenly floating bridge that connected the Heaven to Earth, stirred the watery chaos of the ocean depths. As they raised the spear, it is said, brine that dripped from the tip fell to form solid islands, that together formed the archipelago of Japan.

The two then proceeded to have many children. Izanami, however, died after giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi. Izanagi, wishing to see Izanami again, goes down to Yomi no Kuni, the land of the dead, in the hopes of retrieving her, but fails.

On returning back, Izanagi, feeling contaminated by his visit to Yomi no Kuni, went to the river-mouth of Tachibana in Himuka to purify himself. As he immersed himself in the water, various deities came into existence. The three most important kami – the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami, the moon deity Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, and the impetuous god Susanoo-no-Mikoto – were also born here.

At this time a depressed Izanagi, said, “I have borne child after child, and finally in the last bearing I have obtained three noble children.” Then he goes on to remove his necklace and, giving it to Amaterasu, he entrusted her with her mission, saying, “You shall rule Takama-no-hara, the dwelling place of the heavenly gods.”

Next, he said to Tsukuyomi, “You shall rule the realms of the night.” Finally, he turned to Susanoo, entrusting him with his mission, “You shall rule the ocean.”

The Kojiki states that the world where the people lived is called Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, while the realm of the dead which was believed to exist inside the earth is called Yomi no Kuni.

While the other deities ruled their realms in obedience to the commands entrusted to them, Susanoo did not rule the land entrusted to him. Instead, he wept and howled until his beard extended down over his chest. It is said, the prolonged mourning Susano-o displayed for his mother Izanami, turned green mountains barren. His weeping was such that it caused the rivers and seas to dry up.

In a well-known sequence from that myth-history, the Kojiki relates how the god Susanoo was banished by decree of his father, Izanagi. During his mourning, he committed numerous transgressions like destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, desecrating the hall where Amaterasu was to taste the first rice, and interrupting the weaving of heavenly garments.

On coming to know of Susano-o’s transgressions, Izanagi asked Susanoo, “Why is it you do not rule the land entrusted to you but weep and howl?” Susanoo replied, “I wish to go the land of my mother.”

On hearing his reply Izanagi, became greatly enraged and said, “In that case, you may not live in this land!” Thus saying, he banished him with a divine banishment to rule over Yomi no Kuni, the realm of the dead on Earth.

Following his banishment, the Kojiki recounts Susano-o’s descent from the Heavenly Plain to the ancient province of Izumo, where his character undergoes a dramatic shift. He resigned himself to his fate and eventually after many wanderings on Earth, built a magnificent palace in Izumo, at Suga. Under his leadership, the Japanese islands came to be controlled from Izumo. Izumo came to be known as the realm of gods on Earth.

Susanoo lived in Suga with his wife and had many children. One of his descendants was Okuninushi. Okuninushi had eighty brothers and was always reckoned to be the least among them. How he came to rule these lands from being one of the most unworthy among his siblings is another interesting story.

It should be noted that the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki – compiled at different moments, in different linguistic modes, and with different sources and audiences in mind contradict each other on various fundamental points.

As we continued our walk towards the shrine, we were surrounded by tall pine trees that were hundreds of years old. In order to protect these ancient trees, visitors are not permitted to walk through the central pathway. The third Torii lies at the start of these pine trees. We took an adjacent path that led us into a wide, open area from where we could see Mt. Yakumo clearly.

At the end of the trail we found a small stone torii. This is the shrine of Kinazuki Forest. Interestingly there is no shrine after the torii. The forested area is itself considered a shrine.

It is said in the old days, the gods of Takama-no-hara gathered in this place to build the “Sunshine Palace“, the predecessor of Izumo Taisha. At the time of construction, the gods used a “pine” to beat wood and solidify the ground. This “pine” used by the gods is said to be still buried deep in the ground of this forest. This torii gate was built and worshiped as a place where tools used by the gods are buried.

The story of Okininushi

As we neared the fourth torii, that leads directly into the innermost shrine grounds, we found the temizuya, or ritual cleansing place where you should stop and wash your hands.

Near the Temizuya, you can find a statue of Okuninushi and what looks like a giant wave with an orb balance on it. This statue is a more artistic depiction when Okuninushi met Omono-nushi, represented by the gold orb on top of the wave. This is an important moment in the mythology of Okuninushi because at this moment he realized that he had the support of the heavenly gods.

The main god worshiped at Izumo Taisha is Okuninushi-no-Okami, who is also well known in Japan as Daikoku-sama.

Okinunishi married several times and had many children. The procreative actions of Okinunishi created alarm bells ringing as their descendants started taking over Earth. Amaterasu, who was still the ruler of heaven, taking displeasure at this act sent deities down to pacify and subdue the land, which was being overrun by unruly and troublesome divinities.

The initial attempts to subdue the unruly divinities ended in failure, as the first deities sent down from Takamahara ended up allying with Okuninushi instead. On her third attempt to dissuade Okuninushi, the heavenly deities decided to send a powerful warrior Takemikazuchi-no-kami who descended on Inaba beach in Izumo. Only after the deity Takemikazuchino descends and is about to kill Okuninushi’s son did he agree to surrender the land to Amaterasu’s envoys.

In exchange for his submission, Okuninushi received recognition for his own status as the deity of the great shrine of Izumo. As a sign of gratitude, Amaterasu let him retain dominion over the religious and magical world.

According to the Nihon Shoki, the goddess Amaterasu said, “From now on, my descendants shall administer the affairs of state. You shall cast a spell of establishing a good relationship over people to lead them a happy life. I will build your residence with colossal columns and thick and broad planks in the same architectural style as mine and name it Amenohisu-no-miya.”

After the subjugation of Okuninushi, a crucial episode in the imperial legitimation follows. Okuninushi resigned and retreated into his palace in Kizuki. Amaterasu assigned her grandchild Ninigi to descend to Earth and take over the rule. Thereafter no other lineage than that of the sun goddess was to hold the sovereignty. The Gods of the Izumo line were thereby downgraded for all times into a subordinated position. The end of the mythical era thus sees the earthen kami subdued by the heavenly kami.

As per her deal with Okuninushi, the other gods were gathered and ordered by Amaterasu to build a grand palace at the foot of Mt. Uga. I used the term palace, do not be confused by it, I am still referring to Izumo-taisha. Izumo-taisha has been known by various names in the past: Sunshine Palace → Kizuki Taisha Shrine → Izumo Taisha Shrine

Since then, couples and sweethearts both young and old have made the pilgrimage together to pray at the temple for good fortune and long lasting commitment. This connection of the divinity to love and sexuality is preserved in the corresponding religious traditions. Okuninushi, the great God of Izumo, today is as popular as he was in the past – as Enmusubi no kami, the divinity of the fateful bonds of love between two people. The belief traveled miles over the years and is now known all over Japan for bestowing fortunate marriage.

As with all mythological stories there are variations and they should be just consumed as a story and nothing else.

Brief history of Izumo taisha

There is no knowledge of exactly when Izumo-taisha was built, but a record compiled around 950 CE (Heian period) describes the shrine as the highest building, reaching approximately 48 meters, which even exceeded in height the 45 meter-tall temple in Nara that enshrined the Great Buddha of Tōdai-ji. A gigantic ramp is said to have led to the shrine building.

There exists a book named “Kuchizusami“, that recorded the names of the famous rivers, long bridges, great buildings, or any other major landmarks in Japan. In the book, one of the phrases mentions “Izumo is the top, followed by Yamato, then by Kyoto”. It could have been in reference to the height of the buildings in Japan at that time, the main building of the Izumo Grand Shrine was number one; the hall for the Great Buddha figure of Todai-ji temple in Yamato (present Nara) was second, and Daigokuden Palace in Heiankyo (Kyoto) was the third in height.

The document from the 10th century, indicate that the highest building in the complex was around 48 meters and stood on 9 massive columns. To reach the temple there was probably a massive flight of steps as well. Excavations have confirmed its probable existence.

Posters with illustrations of this reconstruction can be found throughout the region; they show an archaic shrine, embedded in a mystical scenery. The message of such pictures is clear: The main shrine of Izumo was in antiquity not only the tallest building of Japan – but it was also always stressed that this building was higher than the Todaiji in Nara.

The colossal size of Izumo shrine was quite literally also its downfall as it collapsed on its own weight multiple times in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Up to the Meiji Era, Izumo Taisha was called Kizuki Grand Shrine.

During the Kamakura period, around 1200, the main structure was reduced in size. Then in 1744, the shrine was reconstructed to the present size of 24 meters high and 11 meters square at its base. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as travel became more common in Japan, the shrine became a central place of pilgrimage.

Since the shrine spirit was settled in the inner shrine in 1744, it has been relocated three times for renovation, using a traditional ceremony. The relocations took place in 1809, 1881, and 1953. From 1871 through 1946, the Izumo-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.

In April 2008, the spirit was moved to temporary housing in the front shrine of Izumo-taisha in preparation for the Heisei-period renovations. Izumo-taisha’s inner shrine was opened to the public for the first time in 60 years in the summer of 2008. On completion of the renovations, Ōkuninushi was returned to the inner shrine in a ceremony attended by over 8,000 people, held on May 11, 2013.

Inner area of Izumo Taisha

Let me quickly share a map of the grounds so its simpler for you to follow. The red rectangular text blurb is where the temizuya is.


When you go through the fourth copper Torii, you will see the Haiden, where visitors in general pray. The Haiden (prayer hall) will be the first visiting point for most people. It was re-built in 1959 after the end of the Second World War. The prayer hall holds an impressive three-ton Shimenawa, made of rice straw. A Saisen-bako (money offering box) lies in front of the gate.

I have heard that throwing a coin into the Shimenawa will bring luck, if the coin gets stuck in it. However, I didn’t observe anyone doing it so I too reclused myself from doing it.

Although it is usual to bow twice, clap twice, pray, then bow once more at Shinto shrines, the practice at Izumo-taisha is to bow twice, clap four times, pray, and bow once more.

The Haiden is often directly connected with the Honden. In the case of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, the Haiden is standing on its own. In its role as a prayer hall, it is used to pray to the kami of the shrine and also host a variety of ceremonies.


Just beyond the Haiden, you will find the Honden, or main shrine, where a statue of Okuninushi resides. Okuninushi is worshiped at the shrine as the deity of nation-building, but, more popularly, also as the deity of ‘en‘, or the ties that bind us to each other.

The main shrine is enclosed inside the Yatsuashi-mon gate, with only a portion of its roof visible from outside. The Yatsuashi-mon is an eight-columned gate, the front of which is occupied with another Saisen-bako. The main shrine was built using one of Japan’s oldest shrine architectural styles, the Taisha-dzuki method, and is recognized as a Japanese National Treasure. This area is surrounded by two sets of Mizugaki (fence).

I was not allowed entry to the inner-shrine precinct. From what I gather, it can be only entered by priests and Miko. An exception is the New Year when during Hatsumode, the Saisen-bako is moved closer to the Honden and visitors can step through the gate.

Standing in front of the Honden, I bowed and then clapped my hands four times, instead of the two that is the standard ritual at Japanese shrines. Clapping twice is believed to get the attention of the gods, but since Okinunishi is the deity of relationships, at Izumo Taisha you need to add a couple of claps for your significant other.

Worshipers are not permitted inside the Honden except on special occasions.

We walked around the sprawling complex. Long rectangular buildings with shuttered entrances lined either side of the Honden. In front of the small structures, you can see hundreds if not thousands of omikuji tied to the trees and makeshift wooden panels. If you are a souvenir collector, you can buy amulets created from a hinoki cypress tree that used to support the shrine.

If you’d like to, you can also purchase an ema at the shrine here. The small wooden plaques are a way to write down your prayers or wishes, and by leaving them at the shrine, the gods are believed to be able to receive them. It’s always interesting to have a look and see what people are wishing for at different shrines.


According to an age-old myth, it is said that various gods gathered together at Izumo in the 10th month of the old Japanese lunar calendar. October is thus referred to as Kannazuki, or the “month of no gods” throughout most of Japan. During this time, Okuninushi, is said to summon all earthly deities to decide the fate of all people for the year ahead. For this reason, this month in Shimane Prefecture alone is known as Kamiarizuki – the “month of the gods.”

The row of wooden structures you see below called Jukyusha, are the said to the rooms where the various deities gather and stay during their visit to the shrine.

As we made our way towards the back area, we found ourselves in front of the Shōkokan.


The Shōkokan consists of two floors. The first floor is the reception office for Kaguraden. The second floor consists of a museum for important items. Unfortunately it was closed at the time of our visit.

Some items in the museum are items designated as national treasure and important cultural assets, like jewelry, household articles, paintings, swords, and musical instruments.

Considered most important in Shōkokan are a set of Japan’s oldest wooden pestle and an igniting board and a small boat that was hollowed out of a piece of wood. The small boat was believed to have come from the upper stream of the Yoshino River, through the Seto Inland Sea, and to the Inasa Beach near Izumo-taisha.

Soga-no Yashiro

A few paces beside the Shōkokan, you can find the Soga-no Yashiro shrine, standing exactly behind the main hall, almost enveloped by the forest at the base of Mt. Yakumo. This shrine is dedicated to Susanoo.

On the right side of the shrine, you will find a tray filled with sand. According to Shinto practice, many shrines in the Shikoku and Chūgoku regions, called Izumo yashiki, were purified with small quantities of sand taken from under the floor of this shrine.

If you take some of Soga no Yashiro’s sand with you and place it around your house, it will protect your home.

In front of Soga-no Yashiro you will find a bunch of rabbit idols. According to legend, Okuninushi once saved a rabbit, which is why you will find many cute rabbit statues at Izumo Taisha.

From Soga-no Yashiro, we completed a full circle of the walkway surrounding the main hall. From there we slowly made our way towards the Kagura Hall, which is one of the most photographed shrine on the complex.

Kagura Hall

Izumo-taisha’s Kagura-den was first built in 1776 by the Senge family, as a grand hall for the performance of traditional rituals. It was rebuilt in 1981 to commemorate the centennial of the foundation of the Izumo Oyashiro-kyo order.

The written sign inside Kagura-den is not made with ink, but it’s in fact embroidery. You will see the cross-stitch style if you look closely. There is also a stained glass with pictures of clouds in the shape of Izumo Taisha.

The Kagura-den features the largest shimenawa (sacred straw rope) in Japan. The rope is one of the most easily recognized and distinctive features of Izumo-taisha. The shimenawa is 13.5 meters long and weighs 4.4 tons, making it one of the biggest in Japan. You are sure to be surprised at the sheer scale of this straw rope hanging a few feet above your head.

A few feet away from the Kagura-den you can see a huge Japanese flag swaying in the wind.

After fully exploring the area we walked down to capture the stunning sunset at the Inasahama beach where in a few months the gods would be greeted again for the first day of “Kamiarizuki.”

The sun was just setting behind a veil of violet-hued clouds, and the wide beach was empty save for a few local teenagers and a couple busy with their pre-wedding photo shoot. As the daylight sunk bank into the horizon, we walked back to Izumo Taisha. The road devoid of any streetlights gets pretty dark and we did have some difficulty walking back to the shrine.

Once we reached the shrine, we found ourselves all alone on the massive grounds. A lone guard, neatly dressed in his “royal blue” attire, was standing guard on the premises. I politely asked him if I could use my tripod on the shrine grounds. In a very simple gesture of touching the index finger with his thumb, he gestured that it was okay. I took a couple of pictures of the Haiden, and then walked briskly to the Yatsuashi-mon gate.

Yatsuashi-mon at night

It was a bit eerie around on the grounds with not a soul in sight, but it was also easy on me as I took some lovely night shots of the gate without any photobombs getting in the way.

Kagura-den at Night

Lastly, I captured some shots of the Kagura hall which was looking immersive in the beautiful blue night. Once I had my fill of night shots, we made our way towards the bus stop.

On the way, the Okinunishi’s statue was sitting beautifully illuminated in the night. While the area is mostly unexplored by foreigners, it’s very popular with the Japanese, many of whom arrange to spend summer vacations in this region known for the relatively unspoiled, rugged beauty of its countryside and the relaxed pace and cultural riches of its towns.

Once we reached the iron torii at the edge of the shrine grounds we waited for the next bus, sitting on a roadside bench in front of a lively Starbucks.

Izumo Grand Shrine is one of the most recognized shrines in Japan, and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. This historic temple is such a valued landmark, that you’ll see some of its architectural elements copied and utilized on the exterior entrances of various restaurants, bars, and shops in the city.

It’s recommended that the best time to visit is in the month of October when a large festival takes place to commemorate the meeting of Japan’s deities within the city of Izumo. If you can’t make the October festivals, you can still take part in a special tradition called shiokumi that is held on the first of every month. In the early morning, you take water from the sea with a special bamboo container. Then, you walk to Izumo Taisha stopping at all the shrines along the way.

Thanks for reading! If you liked my story, please add a comment below or follow my travels as I visit the only original castle remaining in the San’in region – Matsue Castle.

When was Izumo Taisha built?

Unknown. The first written records compiled around 950 CE describes the shrine as the highest building in the region.

What is the Kojiki?

Kojiki is Japan’s oldest book, which was presented to the Emperor of Japan in 712 CE. It is said that a group of government officials of the Imperial court led by Oono Asomi Yasumaro compiled the book based on traditional folklore. The original copy no longer exists, but several manuscripts have been passed down over the ages. Most historical events, myths, and legends from the beginning of the Japanese civilization up to the era of Japan’s first empress, Empress Suiko in the early 7th century, are presumed to be recorded here.

What is the Nihon Shoki?

Nihon Shoki is Japan’s oldest official history, established in the Nara period in the 8th century. It was compiled by a group led by Prince Toneri of the Imperial family and was completed in the year 720 CE. It writes about events of early Japanese mythology up to the era of Emperor Jito to the end of the 7th century.

How to pray at Izumo Taisha?

Bow twice deeply with hands placed around your knees, then clap four times, praying silently, and finally bow once again for the last time. Worshipers may recite this short prayer while praying :
“Saki-Mitama, Kushi-Mitama, Mamori-Tamae, Sakihae-Tamae”

Admission Fees


Open Timings

Always open

Admission cost for Treasure Hall

Yen 300

Treasure Hall timings

8:30 to 16:30

Hinomisaki Shrine

After spending a beautiful breezy morning at the Hinomisaki lighthouse, we walked down to the Hinomisaki Shrine, which is just about 15 minutes away. It was pretty easy following the markers leading towards the shrine.

Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and Susano, the god of storms and the sea. The temple is believed to bring luck in business & travelling.

The weather had greatly improved and the dark grey clouds had scattered away. At the entrance of the shrine grounds a white stone Torii welcomed us into the temple grounds.

As you pass the Torii, you can find a large embossed carving on the side of the path. It depicts the Me-kari shinji, a religious rite of seaweed (wakame) harvesting. Izumo Province is delimited by the mountains of Chūgoku in the south and the Shimane peninsula in the north. In the lowland areas of the central plains, the large-scale opening up of rice-farming land was moving forward in conjunction with the reclamation of lakes and marshes. The mekari rite is performed on the fifth day of the first month of the lunar calendar at Hinomisaki Shrine.

Local fishermen offer their harvests, other than wakame, which are presented to the gods with other food offerings. Wakame can be harvested only after this rite is completed.

Nishengu Shrine Gate

As you keep walking along the cemented path, you will reach the vermilion colored Nishen-gu gate. It looks like most shrine entrance gates but its style is based on based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style.

Just beside the Nishen-gu Gate, you will find the chozuya, a purification place, where visitors can purify themselves before visiting the main place of worship. Now, there is a procedure to undergo the purification: pick up the ladle with your right hand and pour water over your left hand, then switch it to your left hand to wash your right hand.

Note: Do not drink water directly from the ladle, spit into the fountain, or return water from the ladle back into the fountain!

Follow it by pouring some water on your cupped hands, then rinse out your mouth with the water in your hands and spit it out beside the fountain. Finally hold the ladle upside down over the ground to let the remaining water trickle down rinsing out the handle.

The purification part is only optional and you can choose not to undergo it if you feel. Once you walk into the main temple premises, you will see two smaller shrines near the gate on either shrines. I am not sure to whom those were dedicated to.

Brief History of Hinomisaki Shrine

What Shimane prefecture lacks in size and population, it makes up for in scenery and ancient mythology. Izumo-taisha, in the middle of the prefecture, is said to be Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine, where stories that delve into the creation of the Japanese archipelago have been passed down over centuries.

Encircled by a grove of old pine trees, the vermilion-lacquered Hinomisaki is an ancient Shinto shrine standing on Cape Hino. Though not as popular as Izumo-Taisha, its name is recorded as the “Misa Gisha” in the ancient text of the “Izumo no Kuni Fudoki.” Hinomisaki Shrine is in fact the collective term for two shrines—the Hishizumi no Miya, dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-omikami and the Kami no Miya, dedicated to the god Susano-no-mikoto.

Izumo Fudoki was a collection of books created as a result of Imperial edict in 713 CE, ordering each province to gather detailed information of its region.

The current Hinomisaki shrine was built by the Matsue domain at the order of Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shogun of the Edo Shogunate. The current main shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634. It was completed in 1644 under the supervision of Matsudaira Naomasa.

A grandchild of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, Matsudaira Naomasa is remembered for his valor in the Battle of Osaka (1615) at the young age of 14. The empowerment of Naomasa as the lord of the Matsue domain marked the start of the longest reign a single-family held at Matsue Castle, spanning 10 generations (1638-1871).

In years when he was resident in Izumo, he would frequently tour the province under the pretext of visiting the grand shrine of Izumo Taisha and Hinomisaki Shrine, practicing falconry, and making forays into the innermost reaches of Izumo. On such occasions, he would often stay with wealthy local farmers, using their private residences as a headquarters for his own retinue.

Hishizumi no Miya

As I mentioned before, Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea. The Hishizumi no Miya hall is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, considered Shinto’s most important kami.

Initially, Amaterasu Omikami was enshrined on the Kyojima Island (Fumishima) just off the coast of Kiyoenohama, about 200 meters from this place.

At the time Hinomisaki Shrine was built, the area was a prosperous seaport, and the local lord commissioned the shrine to stand guard over the coast and protect the area’s trade. The vermilion-lacquered shrine pavilions were based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style. Being a valuable architectural work of the early Edo Period, the shrine is designated as a nationally important cultural property.

Gongen-zukuri is the name of a complex Shinto shrine structure in which the haiden, or worship hall, and the honden, or main sanctuary, are interconnected under the same roof in the shape of an H.

The shrines with white walls and wooden cuts, and the pillars and cross-cuts painted in red are the Gongen structure that both the upper shrine and the main shrine are connected to, leaving the glamorous image of the Momoyama period.

On the roof of the shrine, the symbols of the three gods “Souboutsuson”, “Amaterasu Omikami” and “Tsukiyomison” are engraved. The engraving in the center which consists of three circles, may look like simple geometric shapes, but actually they represent the sun goddess Amaterasu, the moon god Tsukuyomi, and the sea god Susano.

You can also find a depiction of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” which originated in Japan and have become a familiar motif in cultures the world over.

Kamino miya Honden

The Kami no Miya hall is dedicated to Susano-no-mikoto. The grains of sand from within the grounds of Hinomisaki-jinja are much in demand for Land Breaking ceremonies. For a very long time, the sand is thought to have protective properties so is a very popular charm among worshipers.

Shrine protecting the night

The Hinomisaki shrine is related to the famous Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture in a spiritual way. Ise Shrine in the east where the sun rises, and Hinomisaki Shrine in the west where the sun sets. The shrine (more specifically, the Hishizumi no Miya), famously protects Japan’s night, as opposed to Ise Jingu shrine, which protects Japan’s day.

Because the shrine was intentionally built to face the west in the direction of the setting sun, Hinomisaki Shrine has been seen as the guardian of the night once the day sets in Japan.

Every August 7th, a special shrine sunset festival is held. The festival is open to all visitors.

This is a much more compact shrine than Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, with a different atmosphere. It is designated as an important cultural property of the country as a valuable shrine structure including all structures inside the complex including stone structures. It is well worth visiting both.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a comment if you liked my journal or follow my story as I hurry towards Izumo Taisha to capture the most revered of all shrines in Japan

What are the shrine visiting hours?

8:30a.m. – 4:30p.m.

Admission Fees


Who built Hinomisaki Shrine?

The current shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634 CE, but it was completed by Naomasa Matsudaira in 1644 CE.

How to reach Hinomisaki Shrine?

Get off at the end of the bus bound for Hinomisaki from JR Izumo Station. 1 minute walk from the bus stop.

Exploring the Hinomisaki Lighthouse

Hinomisaki is a cape at the western-most part of the Shimane Peninsula. The Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse, which stands in the corner, boasts to be the highest masonry lighthouse in Japan. Situated in a quaint fishing village overlooking the rugged coastal terrain, this iconic guidepost has been aiding maritime navigation since 1903.

It was a pleasant morning. I and my wife, Mani, left the hotel at about 10 am. We were staying at the Dormy Inn Hotel, just behind Izumoshi Station. It is a nice place to stay, especially because of its proximity to the train station. The Wi-Fi access was pretty good and the room was nice. The hotel also provides a Japanese-Western semi-buffet with Izumo Soba for breakfast.

How to reach Hinomisaki Lighthouse

First thing you should know that there is no local train service to Hinomisaki Lighthouse. There are some direct buses to the lighthouse towards the afternoon, but in the morning time, you have to reach Izumo Taisha first. From there we were advised to change to a different bus that would take us the rest of the way to the lighthouse.

The bus stand is partly hidden from the main road, but after a bit of searching, we eventually found it. There was still some time on our hands before the departure to Hinomisaki Lighthouse, so we spent it exploring part of the Izumo Taisha grounds.

A day earlier when we had reached Izumo, we had already purchased the “En-Musubi Perfect Ticket” which is very helpful if you are going to use trains and buses for touring these parts. The ticket is priced at ¥3000, but we got it for just ¥1500 with a special discount for foreign tourists.

You will need to show your passport to avail the discount on the En-Musubi Perfect Ticket

We got back to the bus stand at the scheduled time. From Izumo Taisha, the bus takes about 20 minutes, on a narrow winding road along the coast, till it reaches the parking lot near the lighthouse. There are some sections along the route that are so narrow that with my level of driving skills, I would find it difficult to encounter an oncoming vehicle.

On the way, the bus also made a short stop at the Hinomisaki Shrine, where some of the people got off. Initially, we didn’t have any plans to visit the shrine, but we eventually did later in the day when we found out that it was just a short walk away from the lighthouse.

We reached the Hinomisaki Lighthouse parking lot just before noon. Once we got down from the bus, we were not very sure about the correct direction, so we instinctively just followed a group that had gotten off along with us. A narrow staircase from the parking lot led us into a wide road lined with shops selling souvenirs and local delicacies.

The area was mostly empty except for a school group, maybe because it was a Tuesday. The shops had on display shellfish specimens, capiz shells, and dried blowfish, some of them hanging outside the stores. You can also find various seafood items to eat if you are hungry including seafood bowls, squid grill, dried fish, set meals, and Izumo soba. One of the shops also sells grilled turban shells. After a short walk, the road turns right, and at the end of which there is a small gate-like entrance that has statues of a seagull sitting on either side.

As you enter this area you will find yourself in a wide-open space, with a couple of benches. It was here that we got to see the first full view of the bright white lighthouse standing majestically in the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky peppered with soft white clouds. The benches are placed in such a way that you can enjoy the thrilling view of the cape along with the towering lighthouse.

It was extremely windy so we decided to wait for the wind to calm down before we went to explore the lighthouse. On the left, a narrow pine-lined promenade goes all the way to the edge of the seashore. We went along the path which opened up to the unending sea just a few minutes into the walk.

The sea was calm. You could hear the waves gently splashing against the weathered rocks. As I got close to the edge, I was very impressed with the unique brown-grey-white texture of the weathered boulders. In the Hinomisaki area, you can see various occurrences of rhyolite that erupted about 16 million years ago along the sea cliff facing the Sea of Japan during the Pleistocene Epoch.

The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago.

Over the years the sea and strong winds have created an immersive art on the rocks. The weathered rhyolite is at its thickest distribution near the promenade from the Hinomisaki Lighthouse. I love photographing subjects that have aged into their beauty. It is amazing how the weather, in the form of rain, wind, and the salty breeze have created these masterpieces over thousands of years. I can’t deny that I had a lot of fun capturing the beautiful weathered rock textures.

From down here, near the shore, you can also get a beautiful shot of the Hinomisaki Lighthouse. There are no fences on the cliffs, so if you plan on getting close to it, please be careful.

If you dare to go further down to the edge of the sea, you will find the rhyolite here is made up of 5 to 10 cm-sized blocks. This type of rock fracture is called a columnar joint. They are created when lava flows slowly, like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube, and tends to pile up forming lava domes. When it cools it forms a geometrical shape that combines four to four hexagonal columns. You can see those hexagonal columns towards the bottom of the below image jutting out like “Pockey” sticks.

From the southern shore, we walked along a cemented path to the northern side of the lighthouse, where I had heard you can see a beautiful cluster of islands spread across the sea.

The path goes along the coast. At some points where the cliff is steep, you do have safety railings.

The trail gradually leads to an area where we again have lots of Pine trees. As you near the pine forest, the sound of the wind blowing across the trees grows even louder.

Even though the trail is not tough, there is a rest stop along the way. More than rest, I believe visitors find it extremely relaxing to just sit there and enjoy a few minutes of peace from the fast life.

Just after the rest stop, the path curves to the right and we can see the first views of the bay.

Izumo Matsushima

After a short walk, we reached a high point from where you can view the beautiful bay referred to as “Izumo Matsushima”. A group of interesting rocks formed by the erosion of the waves and the waves of the sea is one of the scenes to cherish. There are about 20 large and small rhyolite islands spread over the vast bay.

Rhyolite is very hard and is not easily weathered or eroded. The rocky shores of Shimane Peninsula are an ideal breeding ground for seabirds, especially the umineko (black-tailed gulls). Thousands of black-tailed gulls gather on Fumishima Island in Hinomisaki Bay off the western tip of the Shimane Peninsula to breed from early November to July. The only other place in Japan where you can find the black-tailed gulls is in Kabushima Island in Aomori Prefecture.

We stayed there for a few minutes, deliberating if we could go a little further. The weather had improved by then. Eventually, we decided against it. So, after catching a breather, we began our walk back to the lighthouse.

Going back presented us with some different perspectives of the cape.

Unusual rocks and cliffs line the foot of the bedrock raised by sea erosion. You can enjoy the beauty of nature created by nature while listening to the sound of the waves splashing against the towering cliffs.

Near the lighthouse compound at some intervals, you will find special manhole covers depicting the lighthouse and seagulls. I am not a fanboy, but I do capture these manhole covers in Japan from time to time.

Hinomisaki Lighthouse

The construction of Hinomisaki Lighthouse was started in 1900, towards the end of the Meiji era (1868-1912) to promote shipping. It was completed by 1903. The structure is built in three layers with a copper tube in the center, a brick wall around it, and a masonry wall outside.

The outer wall is made of large stones from Mihoseki town in Matsue City. The inner wall is made of brick with empty space between the exterior stones. It is said that this structure was adopted to protect it against earthquakes. The outside is painted in white using special paint that is not easily affected by the harsh seaborne winds.

You are not allowed to wear shoes inside the lighthouse. There is a shoe-box on the ground floor where you can leave them. The floor inside is carpeted so you will not feel cold. The stairs are not, so you better hang on to your socks.

At the foot of the lighthouse, there is an exhibit room, which was opened to the public on March 11, 2011. The history and mechanism of the lighthouse are introduced here via panels and images. You can gather a lot of information about the lighthouse from aerial photographs and a panorama gallery.

The stairs to the observatory of the lighthouse are quite steep with 163 spiral staircases. If you are not confident in your physical fitness, it would be smarter to just enjoy the view from below. There is no elevator.

We took our time climbing the stairs. It was tough, especially with my tripod and camera gear, aiding gravity do its thing. There is a window along the way but you can’t see much outside. The lens room is on the 7th floor. Thankfully, there was no crowd.

Hinomisaki Lighthouse Tower and Lens

The light tower at the top was constructed using vertical stones from Moriyama city during the Taisho era. In its initial years, the light source used to be petroleum. In the second generation, it was upgraded to oil gasification and combustion which was later upgraded to a nitrogen incandescent light bulb.

When argon became more affordable, it was substituted for nitrogen. At present, the lighthouse uses a metal halide lamp – an electrical lamp that produces light by an electric arc through a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and metal halides. It produces a luminosity of 480,000 candelas and is designed to reach up to 21 nautical miles away.

let’s talk a little bit about the lens system of the lighthouse. Lighthouses have different color schemes and time intervals to illuminate in order for the ships to clearly identify each lighthouse. The lenses of the Hinomisaki Lighthouse consist of two small convex lenses for white light emission and one large convex lens for red light emission.

The structure is controlled by a motor to rotate once every 20 seconds, and one rotation makes it possible to generate two white flashes and one red flash. There are 4 seconds intervals between white and white flashes, 8 seconds between white and red flashes or 8 seconds between red and white flashes, for a total of 20 seconds to complete the cycle.

The flash is actually not a flash but a strong, condensed light when the lens and the light source overlap. Also, there is no red light source, it is generated by a red filter plate between the light source and the lens.

Before the current setup, in the Showa period, it was operated with a heavy “weight”. A weight of 500 kg was attached to the wire, and the wire was wound by a winder and moved with the weight of the weight. It was possible to wind for 8 hours with one winding, and the winding work was performed once or twice a day.

From this floor, you can go outside to the balcony. A stainless steel handrail surrounding the deck will protect you from swaying in the strong breeze. But let me warn you, the wind was quite powerful on the deck.

People with a fear of heights might have some difficulty walking along the deck.

From here you can get a panoramic view of the Sea of Japan. The 360-degree magnificent view enables you to see the same strange rocks and cliffs but from an entirely different perspective.

On a clear day, it is said that you can also see the Oki Islands from the observatory.

We had about 15 energizing minutes on the deck before another couple came in. We let them have their fun and started our descent down the tricky stairs.

Back on the ground, I captured a couple more shots of the sea before saying goodbye to the lovely bay.

The lighthouse illuminates about 40 km offshore at night, and even now, over 100 years later, plays its part in keeping the seafarers safe. Because of its rich history, the Hinomisaki lighthouse was selected as one of the “100 Historic Lighthouses of the World” in 1998. In 2013 it was designated as a national tangible cultural property. The Japanese government designates properties with high cultural values as “Important Tangible Cultural Property” to ensure sufficient protection.

Although seafarers rely a lot less on lighthouses today than they would have when this beacon was first built, there is still something undeniably captivating about these sea towers that draw me to visit them. The coast around Hinomisaki was beautiful and I was thrilled that I had time not only to view the scenery from the top of Hinomisaki Lighthouse (the first lighthouse I’ve climbed up in my life) but also the nearby park. From here we decided to walk down to Hinomisaki Shrine, which was just a 10-minute walk from the Lighthouse. On the way, we visited a couple of shops looking for a nice souvenir. I fell in love with this porcelain doll. It might just as well be a “Made in China” item, but it would look great among my souvenir collection.

Before walking out I also grabbed a matcha/vanilla softy ice cream. I just love those!

Photographs can never tell the emotions I felt standing on top of the Hinomisaki Lighthouse. I hope they can inspire some of you to reach out and witness what I have. If you have the chance to tour Izumo, do not miss this unique experience. I look forward to your comments and questions or you can connect with me directly on Instagram.

Annual events at Hinomisaki Lighthouse

The Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse Illumination is an annual light-up event that takes place every year at the lighthouse. It is also known as the “Love Lighthouse,” and is a very popular spot for couples. The annual schedule is mentioned below:

What is the nearest train station?

Izumo Taisha-mae Station

When was Hinomisaki Lighthouse built?


2020 Schedule for lighthouse illumination

August 21 -23 18:30~21:00 [ Geo Day Light Up ]
August 28 – 30 18:30~21:00 [ Weekend light up ]
September 4 -6 18:30~21:00 [ Weekend light up ]
September 11-13 18:30~21:00 [ Weekend light up ]
September 18-23 18:00~21:00 [ Respect for the aged day light up ]
September 24-30 18:30~21:00 [ Tuberculosis prevention week light up ]

Sunset at Lake Shinji

Lake Shinji is a brackish water lake in the northeast area of the Shimane Prefecture in Japan. It is the seventh-largest in Japan, with a circumference of around 48 kilometers. The lake is enclosed by the Shimane Peninsula to the north, and the Izumo and Matsue plains to the west and east respectively.

We were staying in the city of Nara. From this western city, we were traveling all the way to Izumo for a short tour of the heritage city. The plan was to stop for a break at Lake Shinji and enjoy the beautiful sunset, which is very popular for.

Getting to Matsue from Nara

In the early morning, I and my wife, Mani, caught the local train from Nara to Osaka. From Shin-Osaka Station, we took the Shinkansen to Okayama and from there we switched to the Yakumo 16 Limited Express bound for Matsue. The total time for the ride was about 4 hours. Since we were carrying our JR Passes, the full ride didn’t cost us anything.

Please note JR Passes are not entertained on Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen trains.

The ride to Matsue of course is something to talk about in itself. The train ride passes through deep forests and countless rivers, nestled in the mountains. In between, we would stop at small stations surrounded by a handful of cute houses.

For many of the Japanese too, this land of untouched beauty remains hidden, its charms, traditions, and secrets only known to the few who make the journey across the mountains, taking one far away, down through the ages to a deep, spiritual world of myth and folklore.

After traveling along the beautiful Shimane countryside for a good part of the day, we reached Matsue Station at around 4 pm. During winter, it gets dark quite soon. It seemed a bit tight but we quickly stored our luggage in a locker at the station and caught a local to the Nogi Station.

From there we literally ran to the edge of the lake. If you love walking, you can also walk to the lake, but we were a little short of time, so we chose to take the train.

By the time we reached the lake, the Sun was just about to set. Hurriedly we walked to the sunset point from where it is the most beautiful to catch the dying rays of the sun over the lake. The view-point is marked on Google Maps, so a quick search will guide you to the exact place.

Lake Shinji

Lake Shinji is connected to the Sea of Japan via Nakaumi Lagoon. This causes the lake to have higher salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. This results in an abundance of aquatic life, such as whitebait, eel, sea bass, and the most famous Lake Shinji delicacy, the Shijimi clam. The Shijini shellfish are caught using a “joren“, a tool unique to Lake Shinji, which is made up of a basket tethered to a rake. The shellfish is often referred to as one of the ‘Shiji-ko Shitchin‘, the “Seven Delicacies of Lake Shinji.”

Origins of Lake Shinji

The lake is assumed to have been formed about 10,000 years ago. The birth of present-day Lake Shinji was a major event in the history of the Izumo region. In the ancient book “Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki,” written around 1200 years back, referred to the western bay as “Kando-no-mizumi” and the eastern part was mentioned as the Shinji Lake.

According to paleontologists, fluvial deposits from the Hii River may have literally cut off the sea from the Shinji Lake. Fed by numerous streams from the surrounding mountains, water from Shinji began to flow eastward to Nakaumi Bay. However, over a period of centuries, the rising water levels in the east, reversed the direction of flow thus transforming it into a brackish-water lake.

Yomegashima Island

The Sun had already set behind the mountains. The beauty of the clouds, sky, and lake together has been a subject of fascination for many literary artists over the years. If you didn’t know already, Lake Shinji was chosen as one of the best 100 sunset points of Japan.

The small island you see in the middle of the lake is known as Yomegashima. Back in the 8th century when the Chronicles of Ancient Izumo was being compiled, it used to be called “Snake Island,” the reasons for which I am not sure of.

Stretching 110 meters east to west and 30 meters across, the island near the southeast bank of the lake and looks like a round slab of land that floats on the surface of the water. If you are able to zoom into the image above, you will be able to see a Torii among the pine trees. Being a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Benten, the sacred Torii gate sits at one extremity of the island.

Myths of Lake Shinji

There is a myth attached to this island in the middle of the lake. It is said that a young bride was married off to a cruel family across the lake, and unable to bear their abuse, she decided to run away and go back home. In her hurry, she took a short cut across the lake that had frozen on the surface, but just as she was close enough to see the lights of her home village, the thin ice broke and she fell in and drowned in the icy waters. The gods took pity on her that they made the island spring forth in her honor. Hence, it is also called “Bride Island.”

The only time you can set foot on this island is in October when local guides can take you there explaining the legendary aspects of the island to visitors. You can take your time to wander about its 240-meter circumference.

If you are in Matsue in October, don’t miss the perfect silhouette of the Yomegashima island against the backdrop of the sunset once it is illuminated at night.

In the old times, the locals were a bit worried that the island might be lost to the waves of the lake and so the island has been protected by rows of Jodei-ishi, designed by Kobayashi Jodei (1753-1813), a famous craftsman of the Matsue domain in the Edo period when Matsue was actively ruled by the Lord Matsudaira Fumai. Kimachi stone was used in creating theses Jodei-ishi, which is still taken today from the Kimachi area of southern Matsue to carve into lanterns are other such decorative items.

Kimachi stone is a special sandstone that is made up of volcanic ash and sand that had hardened over time. It is specifically found in the Matsue city’s Kimachi district near Shinji lake. The stone has a certain softness that helps in carving it more easily to create intricate details from the stone. Since the Meiji era, the stone works made from kimachi stone have been regarded as a necessity in landscape gardening, interior decoration, and other stone works throughout Japan.

Jizo Statues at Lake Shinji

After capturing a few shots of the Yomegashima Island, we walked further north towards a place where a couple of Jizo statues have been installed beside the lakefront promenade. The Sun was already down and it had begun to get cold very quickly.

As we neared our next destination, we could see some of the locals were gathered at its side basking in the beautiful evening. The larger Jizo statue on the left is made of Kimachi stone and is called “Sodeshi Jizo“, and the smaller one is made of Mikage stone and is called “Sekkai Jizo“. If you look closely, you can immediately notice the difference in detailing between the two different stone types. This pair of Jizo statues by the shore of the lake is almost as iconic as Yomegashima itself in Matsue’s famous sunset scenery.

The Jizo is a deity fondly loved by Japanese people. You will find Jizo statues mostly in Buddhist temples and graveyards. Sometimes you can also spot them standing at the side of the road in the countryside or at the corner of some streets in the cities. The statues in alignment with the Yomegashima island make for a wonderful composition.

It is believed that Jizo protects the souls of unborn babies and children who have passed away. In Japanese beliefs, it is thought that the soul of children who die before their parents, consequently bring suffering to their parents and cannot cross the river to the afterlife.

The Jodei-ishi that surrounds and protects Yomegashima were also placed around the Sodeshi Jizo to protect the base of the statue from the waves of the lake. As the natural lights dimmed out, the lights from the castle town of Matsue started to shine. By this time it was really cold. Some of the locals who had come to view the sunset were starting to disperse,

Within a few minutes, the daylight was totally gone. I got one last shot of the island in the middle of the lake before we started to walk to Matsue Station. I recall it was quite difficult to manage the buttons of the camera with the gloves on. I sure was glad we had bought a pack of kairo (hand warmers) from a local Daiso store in Nara just a day before we set off for Matsue.

The roadside lights had come on throwing a gentle yellow light over the promenade. Almost everyone had left by that time. The waves on the lake had also picked up some energy riding on the windy breeze. I zipped up my jacket and packed up my camera gear, all set for the walk to Matsue Station.

On the way, we passed the Matsue Art Museum which was obviously closed by then, but the illuminations were still on. There is lots to explore at the museum as well, but maybe some other time. On the way back to the Station, I guess I made a wrong turn and got us lost for a few minutes. With a little help from Maps, we were back on track in no time.

Once we reached Matsue Station, we caught the next express train to Izumoshi Station. The express train only takes about half an hour to reach Izumoshi Station compared to the local, which might cost you around an hour. I was a bit tired from the long travel and looking forward to a hot bath once I reached the Hotel.

What makes Lake Shinji particularly famous is its sunset view. There are many viewing spots around the lake, including the grounds of the Shimane Art Museum, or along the lakefront promenade. You can also enjoy the view from the lake on a pleasure boat, Hakucho for a sunset cruise.

Thanks for reading! From tomorrow we begin our exploration of Izumo, once considered to be the realm of the Gods, with a visit to the Izumo Taisha Shrine. Please leave a comment if you liked my story or need any information regarding traveling to Shimane. If you would like to connect, you can also follow me on Instagram.

How big is Lake Shinji?

Lake Shinji is the seventh largest lake in Japan with a circumference of 48 kilometres

What is the best time to visit Lake Shinji

Lake Shinji is most popular for its sunset views. If you visit in October you will have the extra advantage of seeing the island in the center of the lake as its illuminated towards the evening.

The heavenly Adachi Gardens

The Adachi gardens feels like part of a painting. Too bad visitors cannot touch or walk among the heavenly garden. The garden is the brain-child of Adachi Zenko who created it in 1980 as a way of combining his passions for Japanese art and garden design.

Journey into Shimane

Shimane countryside

Getting down at Yasugi

Exhibits inside Yasugi Station

Bus to Adachi Museum of Art

Yasugi countryside

Entrance to Adachi Museum of Art

Adachi Garden

Zenko Adachi

Kokeniwa Garden

White Gravel and Pine Garden

Midori Tea House

Exhibits in Douga Exhibition Room

more exhibits

White Gravel and Pine Garden

Cafe entrance

Stone lantern

Ikeniwa Garden

narrow gravel path

White Gravel and Pine Garden

White Gravel and Pine Garden


Karesan Water Garden

Souvenirs shops outside

Back at yasugi station

Shimane countryside on ride back to Osaka

Thanks for reading!