Japan City Guides: Izumo 出雲市
Izumo Shimane Prefecture 出雲
Situated just 34km west of Matsue, the provincial capital of Shimane Prefecture, Izumo is a pleasant and relaxing city with much to see in and around town.
Izumo's big attraction is the impressive Izumo Taisha, second only in importance to the Grand Shrine in Ise. Izumo Taisha, also known as Izumo Oyashiro, is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan having existed on its present site for 1500 years. Legend has it the shrine was built by Amaterasu and that the million of Shinto gods return here every October.
The current buildings date from 1744 and the main building (honden) is also the largest shrine structure in Japan. One of the shrine's presiding gods is Okuninushi, the deity of marriage and visitors here often come to pray for luck in finding a partner.
Outside the main hall of worship are massive straw ropes - shimenawa - good luck falls on those visitors who can toss a coin that lodges in the cut ends of the ropes.
Izumo Taisha is 8km outside Izumo city and can be reached by train to Izumo Taishamae on the Ichibata Line. A tourist office (Tel: 0853 2100) is just outside the main torii gate to the shrine on your left.
Izumo Taisha Shrine buildings, Shimane
Holy ropes, Izumo Taisha Shrine buildings, Shimane
The modern Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo (Tel: 0853 53 8600) is a short walk from Izumo Taisha and definitely worth a visit. This excellent museum showcases some of the major finds in the Izumo area of recent years - a area key to the historical development of Japan due to its close cultural and trading ties with Korea. The several sections of the musem include exhibits on Izumo Taisha, Lafcadio Hearn, and the superb 358 bronze swords that were excavated at nearby Kojindani.
Also in the Izumo Taisha area is Old Taisha Station converted to a museum in 1990. Opened in 1924 the wooden station building is modeled on Izumo Taisha Shrine.
Hinomisaki Shrine, north west of Izumo on Cape Hinomisake has a superb location. The shrine was built by in its present form by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1664. The shrine has been recently renovated and repainted. A short walk from here is the Meiji Period Hinomisaki Lighthouse, built in 1903 and supposedly the highest stone lighthouse in Asia at 44m. Just off the cape is Fumishima, a small islet and a breeding site for thousands of gulls. Buses take around 20 minutes out to the lighthouse.
Continuing east on the coast road would bring you Ichibata Yakushi Temple, dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine and healing, and a place of pilgrimage for those with any kind of eye complaint.
The view from the top of Mount Sanbe towards Izumo and Lake Shinji
Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo
Hotels cluster around JR Izumo Station and just by the south exit is the recommended Ranpu no Yu Ekimae Hot Springs (Tel: 0853 20 2626; 10am-10pm; closed Wednesday), where you can have a hot soak before catching a train or bus from the station. In the same building is a good Japanese restaurant serving local food.
Also south of the JR tracks are the Imaoka Art Museum (Tel: 0853 25 2239) to the west and Izumo Science Museum (Tel: 0853 25 1500) just south of the Izumo Kagakukan Park Town Station on the Ichibata Railway Kitamatsue Line.
Hinomisaki Shrine & Ichibata Yakushi Temple, Shimane
Two important festivals at Izumo Taisha are the Imperial Grand Festival from May 14-16 each year and the Kamiari-sai in late November which celebrates the annual coming of the Shinto gods.
There is a Tourist Information office located in Izumo JR station and one at Izumotaisha-mae Station (Tel: 0853 53 2298).
Izumo Airport is the nearest airport. Izumo Airport has flights to Tokyo Haneda Airport (1 hour, 20 mins), Sapporo Chitose (2 hours), Fukuoka (1 hour, 15 mins), Osaka Itami Airport (60 mins) and the Oki Islands (30 mins) off the northern coast of Shimane towards Korea.
Izumo is a main station on the JR San-in Line, which connects Izumo to Matsue along the southern shore of Lake Shinji. The slower Ichibata Railway Kitamatsue Line runs to the north of the lake between the two cities. The nearest Shinkansen is to the south in Okayama, from where local trains reach Izumo in about 3 hours.
Izumo Shi Station, Izumo, Shimane
Izumo is located on Route 9. From Okayama follow the Okayama and Yonago Expressways, then Route 9. There are overnight Highway buses from Fukuoka, Nagoya and Tokyo and daily buses to Osaka and Hiroshima.
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