After a day of walking around Matsue we hopped into Andrew’s car and ventured towards Izumo. Izumo Taisha is famous throughout Japan as one of the oldest Shinto shrines. In fact, the records of its founding were lost eons ago so many believe it to be the oldest shrine in all of Japan.
Japan’s Oldest Shrine
Dedicated to the goddess of marriage the Izumo Shrine draws many Japanese couples through its gates. As 4 guys traveling around we were just interested in viewing the beautiful scenery that this mountain shrine offers.
Walking past a large Shinto shrine we found 2 rows of trees devoid of visitors. This area is for the gods to walk. Mortals like us walk on either side through this forest. After a few moments you’ll come to a purifying fountain for the Harae ritual before you enter the main compound of the Izumo Shrine.
How to purify before entering a Shinto Shrine
Patiently wait in line before taking one of the large wooden cups.
First pour water over left hand
Second pour water over your right hand
Splash a little water into your left hand and sip it before spitting it out
Dump out the water and replace the cup.
Izumo Taisha Shrine
Izumo shrine is situated beautifully at the base of a wooded mountain. You’ll find lots of ancient architecture with beautiful decorations throughout. The main building has massive shimenawa, rope made of straw, hanging in front. Rumor has it its the largest in Japan and main building is also the tallest shrine in Japan!
We wandered around the shrine for the better part of the morning before walking around the nearby town. Most of Izumo is residential but the street leading up to the shrine is lined with little cafes, restaurants and omiyage, aka souvenir, shops.
Piling back into Andrew’s car we drove northwest towards Hinomisaki. The coastal village has an ornate shrine decorated in vibrant orange and white. Hinomisaki shrine is dedicated to the gods Amaterasu and Susano. Situated on a western peninsula its a great place to watch the sunset and many believe that this shrine provides protection throughout the night.
If you have the time a much better sunset can be found by the Hinomisaki lighthouse and its just a few minutes down the road. We swung by thinking it would be a quick stop but enjoyed a pleasant stroll along the coast.
Rock formations line the cliffs as waves crash below. You might even spot local fisherman hoping to catch tonight’s dinner.
Climb the lighthouse for just 200 yen but if its windy like when we visited you won’t be able to go outside at the top. There is a window to look out of and the climb itself is interesting but the best part of being here is the sunset.
The sun falls beautifully over the ocean in front of you as giant flocks of seabirds dart to and fro. Nesting on nearby rocks and feasting in the waves they dance a beautiful ballet as the orange glow silhouettes them against the sky.
Sadly a rain cloud swarmed in before the sun fully set blocking the rest of the gorgeous shades so we piled back into our car excited to try some new food and relax in a hot onsen. Andrew had heard that the region was famous for soba, buckwheat noodles, and a quick google search put us at a delicious hole in the wall with some of the best noodles I’ve ever eaten!
Stay tuned for next week’s post about our journey out of Matsue to UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Iwami Ginza Silver Mine!