What Makes the Mountainsides of Shimane Prefecture so Special?

Shimane Japan Guide

Shimane Japan Map

The Shimane Prefecture is known for many great things. It is a sure contributor to Japan’s history and culture. It is home to a multitude of historical structures and systems. On top of that, it is a great place to enjoy adventurous activities while getting in touch with nature. Shimane is jam-packed with tourist destinations which is sure to satiate any traveler’s needs. They have something for those who wish to just relax, for those who wish to explore, and even for those who wish to learn about Japan.

This prefecture is located in the Chugoku (or Sanin) region of the main island of Honshu. It has a total land area of 6,700 square kilometers with a population of about 700,000 people. With a population density of only 102 people per square kilometer, the Shimane prefecture is considered the second least populous area in Japan. The least popular area in Japan would be its neighboring prefecture of Tottori in the east.

The geography of the Shimane prefecture consists completely with a waterfront and a mountainside as it is the situation on the Sea of Japan right next to the Chugoku Mountain Range. The prefecture is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the North and the Chugoku Mountain range to the south it is also divided into two divisions namely the Izumo Region on the eastern side of Shimane and the Iwami region to the west.

This makes the Shimane Prefecture a peninsula with jurisdiction over the neighboring Oki Islands. The Shimane Prefecture has a jurisdiction over eight cities namely Masuda, Unnan, Yasugi, Gotsu, Izumo, Hamada, Oda, and Matsue; where Matsue is the largest city and Gotsu is the smallest city. Inside these cities are districts and towns which hold roughly a third of the total population of the prefecture. Among the most popular would be the town of Tsuwano in the Kanoashi district.

Shimane Japan Weather

Since the prefecture is located in the Southern regions of the country, it is only understandable that it experiences a subtropical climate. This means that there is high humidity year round, with precipitation even the dry months of winter. This means that they experience all-year-round rainy weather with an average of about 1800mm of rain every year. The summer months are extremely hot while the winter months are mild with minimal snowfall. The average temperature for summer falls at about 26 degrees Celsius while average winter temperatures are usually about 5 degrees Celsius.

Transportation around Shimane Japan

There are three different airports which could be used to access Shimane. These are namely Izumo airport, Iwami airport, and Oki airport. These are super small terminals that can serve only a handful of arrivals in a day. For those that wish to travel around the prefecture can use the JR West and Ichibata Electrical Railway that has routes going into large cities like Matsue.

The JR West company has four working train lines which include the Sanin Mainline going to Matsue. The Ichibata Railway company has two lines that travel to Taisha and Kita. Major stations of these train line would be the Izumoshi and Matsue stations. There are also roads and highways to be used for those who wish to ride porters, buses, and cars.

The Pride and Glory of Shimane Japan

Shimane Japan Basketball

The most popular basketball team from the Shimane prefecture would be the Shimane Susanoo Magic. This is a professional basketball team which has been established in 2009 and is an official partner in the B.league of Japan. It has taken part in national championship games and has the chance to represent the country in international championship games. This is a group of professional basketball players who have come together to represent their prefecture in the national cup. Although they are yet to win national championship titles, the team truly is promising in their performance.

Shimane Japan Tourism

Matsue Castle

Also known as the “black castle because of its iconic tar-black walls. This is one of the few castles from the feudal era of Japan that remain intact. According to records, some parts of the castle contains its original wood from when it was constructed in the early 1600s. The castle walls are majestically painted black, adding to its mystique and power.

Compared to other castles in Japan, the Matsue Castle is not reconstructed from concrete despite undergoing repairs in the 1950s. One of the factors that lead to this massive conservation of the castle keep is the fact that its construction was completed in the latter part of the feudal area of Japan. The castle did not experience any major battle.

Iwami Ginzan

Since the geologic structure of Shimane prefecture consists of massive mountain ranges, it is only understandable that it had a time in its history when mining was a primary source of economy. In fact, the Shimane prefecture is home to the Iwami Ginzan or Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine which was operational for almost four centuries.

It is said that this mine is the largest silver mine in Japan’s history producing roughly 40 tons of silver every year. It was discovered in the 1500s and it was only in 1926 when massive environment protection efforts finally closed down all mine operations in the area. In 2007, the silver mine officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the cultural landscape and its history is cherished by the world.

In the middle of the mining complex lies the Yamabuki Castle where the powerful feudal lord of the region resided. However, in the early 19th century it seemed that silver ores in the mountains of depleted severely and other metallic ores were mined since then.

Izumo Shrine

Also known as Izumo-Taisha, this is one of the most iconic Shinto shrines in all of Japan due to its age and influence. This particular shrine is so old that scientists and historians cannot find a record that could give the exact date of its establishment. There are records from the 9th century that it was already existing but it was unclear if it has existed prior or the shrine was just newly built at the time.

What makes the shrine even more impressive is the fact that it stands a height of 48 meters, an ambitious height for ancient structures of the time. It is said that the structure was built as such because Shinto beliefs indicate that the gods are above the human world. In an attempt to bring humans closer to the gods, the shrine was built to tower other structures existing at the time.

Tsuwano samurai district

This particular town is the most popular in the Shimane prefecture because of its historical importance. The architecture is perfectly preserved where ancient samurai mansions are still lining up the streets. There is also an ancient canal system or waterway that passes through the main street. However, this is an epitome of cleanliness and purity as live carp and koi flourish in these canals.

Among the tourist destinations in the town would be the Inari shrine, the Tsuwano castle ruins and an interesting Christian chapel somewhere in the woods. Aside from that, there are a lot of visitors that travel to Tsuwano to enjoy the hills, the trees, the mountainside and all other landscapes that the town can offer.

Lake Shinji

One of the main highlights for nature loving tourists would be the Shijiko lake in Shimane prefecture. This is one of the ten largest lakes in Japan with a circumference of about 47 kilometers. Tourists love visiting this place because of its scenic beauty providing sunsets year round. A lot of people enjoy riding cruises around the lake while stopping by parks and museums in surrounding towns. Fishing is also a very common activity in the area where a variety of fishes and shellfish thrive.

A diverse range of marine animals lives in the area because the lake actually has brackish water coming from the Nakaumi Lagoon. The local favorite would be the famous corbiculae shellfish and eel. Hotspring resorts are also popular in the area where the freshwater from the Shinjiko lake provides a refreshing bath for tourists and guests.

Historic sites of Taisha

Just like the samurai town of Tsuwano, Taisha is also a popular tourist destination for people wishing to immerse themselves in Japan’s culture and history. Taisha is the famous location of the Izumo Taisha shrine. Other than that there are a number of historical architecture in the area which has successfully preserved the period architecture of Japan. It is said that Taisha had been a flourishing civilization for thousands of years and the Izumo Taisha shrine is a good manifestation of the town’s age.

Yuushien Garden

Since Shimane prefecture is bordered by the Chugoku mountain ranges, it is without a doubt that there is a lush greenery in the region. The Yuushien garden is the best place to enjoy the seasonal flowers and trees that grow abundantly in the area.

The garden features walking paths, ponds, and waterfalls which are great for families who are after a relaxing afternoon getaway. What is interesting about the Yuushien garden is that the soil, rocks, stones, and plants that thrive in this garden have been transported from outside the island.

The Yuushien garden is most popular for two million peony blooms every springtime along with azaleas and irises during summer. The garden also becomes a wonderland during winter with the landscape in pure white matching perfectly with the darkness from rock boulders.

Festivals and Celebrations in Shimane

Shimane Japan Food Fair

What better way to experience a culture other than to enjoy the local food. It is at this time when stalls are opened to sell local delicacies from all over Shimane. There is farmer’s market division as well where local produce is sold fresh.

The Shimane food fair is celebrated not only in Japan but also internationally. Popular destinations of the Shimane food fair would be in Seattle and Bellevue where persons of varying nationality come together to celebrate the wonders of Japanese food.

Tamatsukuri Onsen Summer Festival

The mountainside is sure to bring about delicious water from hot springs or onsens which is why these kinds of lodgings are popular in the area. One place in particular where onsens are quite popular would be the Tamatsukuri Onsen area whose long history of inns, onsens, and ryokans can beat any other place in Japan. During nights between July and August, lanterns are lit along the riverside. Together with these are stalls that sell traditional food and other things that guests can truly enjoy. There are also stage events and traditional performances everyday.

Matsue Suigo-sai Festival

The largest firework festival in Japan, this happens every 1st and 2nd of August of every year. More than ten thousand fireworks are set off above the Shinjiko lake. This event is highly visited not only by locals but foreign travelers as well. Traffic is usually bad at this time which is why main streets surrounding the Shinjiko lake are turned into temporary pedestrian roads.

Sagimai Ritual

The Sagimai Ritual, or also known as the Heron Dance, is a traditional dance which is performed by two main dancers dressed as a male and female (can either be performed by a man or a woman) heron. The dance is said to represent their mating ritual where the two ‘herons’ flap their wings harmoniously and rhythmically. Backup dancers twirl batons in the background representing ‘sparks flying’ between the two animals. There are also musicians like drummers, bell ringers, and flute players that play music in the background.

It is said that the Sagimai ritual has been completely forgotten in other parts of Japan although it is recognized as a traditional national dance. It is only in Shimane where this is performed based on the original choreography. Historical records show that this kind of dance originated from Kyoto, at the time when the city was still the capital of the country. This dance is usually performed every July where there are parades, performances, and other events in the streets.