Yurahime Shrine

Yurahime Shrine Nishinoshima 由良比女神社

Jake Davies

One of the top four shrines of the Oki Islands, and possibly the highest ranked in ancient times, is Yurahime Shrine on the island of Nishinoshima.

There is something quite curious to be seen as you approach Yurahime Shrine. Located at the head of a narrow, curving inlet, the torii, stone entrance gate, is actually in the shallow water in front of the shrine.

In itself, not all that curious, as many shrines on shorelines have such "floating torii",  the curious thing are the half dozen or so human figures in the water around the torii.

Squid catching figures near Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Squid-catching figurines, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands
Squid cutouts, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Colored squid cutouts, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands

Yurahime no mikoto

Two dimensional cut outs, the cartoon-like male and female figures seem to be smiling and collecting something from the water. A clue can be found along the entry path to the shrine itself, where up in the trees around the shrine are giant 2D silhouettes of squid in green, blue, and orange. For the explanation we must turn to the ancient myth associated with the shrine, the story of Yurahime no mikoto, the kami enshrined here.

One day, long, long ago, she was out on the water in a vessel of some sort. Trailing her hand in the water a squid bit her finger, and as an act of atonement for this misbehavior shoals of squid started to come all the way into the narrow bay right up to the shrine and would allow themselves to be caught by the waiting people.

It is said that sometimes they even jumped out of the water onto the beach. 100 years ago it was a more regular occurrence, and it still happens nowadays, though less often. Maybe the squid have figured they have paid their dues, or maybe it is just a natural cycle or connected to global warming or some other ecological factor, but nevertheless squid continue to be important here.

The island's symbol, appearing on the manhole covers and at other places all over the island is a squid, and the name of the inlet where the shrine is located is Ikayosenohama (Squid Bay).

Entrance, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Entrance to Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands
Torii gate,, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Torii arch in the harbor, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands

Cherry Blossom

The approach to the shrine is lined with cherry trees, and every April it is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of the month the shrine and blossoms are illuminated and each Saturday night in April there is a night-time performance of kagura at the shrine.

Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Night Kagura, Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands

Festival

Yurahime Shrine's main festival is held on the last weekend in July on odd numbered years, so the next one will be 2019. In this, the island's biggest festival, the goddess is carried in a portable shrine, mikoshi, to a special boat which then circles the bay. It is possible to ride along on the boat. There is a waterfront fireworks display, sumo wrestling, and kagura is once again performed at the shrine.

Yurahime Shrine is located in Urago, about 6km from the main town and ferry port at Beppu. There is one bus almost every hour to Urago Village and Yurahime Shrine from Beppu (200 yen one way).

Yurahime Shrine
922 Urago, Nishinoshima
Oki District, Shimane Prefecture 684-0211
Tel: 08514 7 8888

Main building of Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane.
Yurahime Shrine, Nishinoshima, Oki Islands

Getting Between the Oki Islands

A fairly frequent and fast ferry service connects the three islands of Dozen, but between Dozen and Dogo you need to use the car ferry or fast ferry.
Read more about access to the Oki Islands and getting around the islands.

Useful Oki Island Resources

Map of the Oki Islands


Travel Books on Japan


Goods From Japan to your home or business.