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Slow travels in Japan: Visiting the land of Gods on the JR San'in Line

Slow travels in Japan: Visiting the land of Gods on the JR San'in Line

After heading to Mount Daisen in Tottori Prefecture, I continued my journey onto Izumo City (出雲市), Shimane Prefecture (島根県) on the JR San’in Main Line (山陰本線) using the last 2 stamps on my Seishun-18 kippu, rounding up my early summer travels in Japan. 


The JR San’in Line is the major railway line of the San'in Region, traversing through the prefectures of Kyoto and Hyōgo in the Kansai Region (関西地方) as well as Tottori, Shimane, and Yamaguchi in the Chūgoku Region (中国地方).


Izumo: The Land of the Gods

In ancient times, Izumo was considered the sacred place of the setting sun due to its location in the northwest of the Yamato Kingdom (250–710), where the Japanese Imperial Court ruled from present-day Nara Prefecture. 


Thus, it is believed that the people of Izumo lived in awe and respect of the sunset. It’s also where the Gods descended for a gathering.


Heavenly mist hovering above Izumo Grand Shrine. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


I saw the magic for myself on a rainy morning at Izumo Grand Shrine (出雲大社 Izumo Taisha), deeply poignant and scenic on a rainy day—after the rain cleared up a little and the mist hovered above. 


Although I was admittedly disappointed when it poured, the rain was a timely reminder that every cloud has a silver lining—and life is about learning to dance in the rain.


Out and about on the shrine grounds. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


Upon passing through the giant torii gate towards the main shrine, what captured my attention was how massive the straw rope pattern (しめ縄 shimenawa) hanging on its front was. Being the largest one in Japan, it is 13.5m in length, 8m thick, and weighs an insane 5,000kg!


Ema tablets filled with wishes. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


The main deity enshrined at Izumo Grand Shrine is Okuninushi-no-Mikoto. It is believed that Okuninushi (大国主) was the creator of the land of Japan and the ruler of Izumo. 


He is revered as the God of good relationships and marriage (縁結び en-musubi), so many visitors who come to the shrine would pray for good connections with their family, friends, loved ones, and acquaintances.


Prayers and wishes. (Image credit: Qiu Ting)


Instead of clapping their hands twice before making their prayers, visitors would clap their hands four times in total: twice for themselves and twice for their actual or desired partners.


A rainy day sketch of Izumo Taisha. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


I took the time to wind down and do some sketching of the shrine while listening to the therapeutic pitter-patter and seeing people shuffling about with their umbrellas and raincoats! 


Izumo Grand Shrine (出雲大社)
Address: 195 Taisha-cho Kizukihigashi, Izumo, Shimane, 699-0701
Access: (1) Approximately 10-minute walk from Izumo Taisha-mae Station (出雲大社前) on the Ichibata Railways (電鉄一畑) or (2) From JR Izumoshi Station (出雲市駅), take the Ichibata Bus (一畑バス) bound for Izumo-taisha or Hinomisaki. Alight at Izumo-taisha bus stop, then walk for about 1 minute.
Opening hours: 06:00–19:00 (Open daily)
TEL: +81 853-53-3100


Wariko soba: An experimental delight

On most days, I would prefer a bowl of warm udon noodles over cold soba, but I couldn’t pass on the delight of having izumo soba (出雲そば) when I passed by soba shop Yakumo. A local delight, izumo soba is typically served in a three-tiered, vermillion-lacquered round bowls known as wariko (割子). 


Slurping up my wariko soba! (Image credit: Qiu Ting)


What I loved most about the soba dish is the dashi stock (出汁) and the accompanying variety of toppings that we can add to the noodles to our hearts’ desire—seaweed (のり nori), grated radish (大根おろし daikon oroshi), dried bonito flakes (かつおぶし katsuobushi), chilli flakes (七味 shichimi), and green onion (ねぎ negi).


I was greeted with a set of handwritten DIY instructions at Yakumo for diners to create their own gastronomic experiences. 


First, select your favourite toppings, then add the dashi stock to the soba noodles and mix them all together. You decide on the texture of the ingredients and adjust accordingly to your liking. 


Next, slurp up those noodles in the first tier then pour the remaining contents to the next tier before adding more sauce or toppings to enhance the flavours. 


Repeat until you reach the final tier, or in some cases, another 3-tiered serving!


Yakumo Soba (そば処 八雲本店)
Address: 276-1 Taisha-cho Kizukihigashi, Izumo, Shimane, 699-0701
Opening hours: 10:00–15:30 (Open daily, available for reservations)
Access: 5-minute walk from Izumo Grand Shrine
TEL:  +81 853-53-0257


Hinomisaki: Japan’s tallest stone construction lighthouse

The rain showed no signs of letting up so when the clouds cleared and the sun reappeared just before I hopped onto the bus bound for Cape Hinomisaki and Hinomisaki shrine, my heart leapt in excitement. The gods of Izumo must have heard our prayers.


Hinomisaki Lighthouse boasts views of the Sea of Japan and its surrounding coastlines. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


Completed in 1903, Hinomisaki Lighthouse (日御碕灯台) has been designated as a cultural property of Japan. Standing at 44m, it is also the tallest stone construction lighthouse in Japan.


From here, I walked to the nearby cliffs and enjoyed the breeze along the coast, like many other day-trippers. It was 10 minutes on foot to Hinomisaki shrine. 


But what intrigued me was a small uninhabited island, Fumishima (経島) about 100 metres off the coast. 


I learnt that this island is designated as a Natural Monument for its role as a breeding ground for black-tailed gulls, as well as a site for worship. I was in disbelief to know that nobody is allowed to land on it except for a Shinto priest—and thousands of black-tailed gulls in Spring!


5000 black-tailed gulls (ウミネコ umineko) come to nest each Spring here in Fumishima. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


As I was there in late July, I can only imagine how the nesting ground would look from April to May. The gulls would breed here, hatch and raise their chicks before departing north around July. It was unfortunate that I had missed it by a few weeks!


In fact, this place bears close resemblance to Kabushima Shrine (蕪島) in Hachinohe (八戸), Aomori Prefecture 青森県, which is also a breeding site for the black-tailed gulls. Unlike Fumishima, Kabushima Shrine is the only place in Japan where black-tailed gulls can be seen breeding from up close.


Hinomisaki Shrine. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


Located on the southern tip of the scenic Hinomisaki Peninsula, Hinomisaki Shrine 日御碕神社 is a National Important Cultural Property, also dedicated to the deity Ōkuninushi-no-Mikoto.


As the shrine overlooks the Sea of Japan, I can see why the shrine is a popular destination for travellers seeking both spiritual solace and natural beauty. 


I spent some time walking around the shrine, admiring the vermillion lacquer making up its architecture and the grove of pine trees being its lovely companions. 


Hinomisaki Lighthouse (日御碕灯台)
Address: 1478 Taisha-cho Hinomisaki, Izumo, Shimane, 699-0763
Opening hours: 09:00–16:10 (Open daily)
Access: 25 minutes by Ichibata Bus / 15 minutes by car from Izumo Grand Shrine
TEL: +81 853-54-5341


Hinomisaki Shrine (日御碕神社)
Address: 455 Taisha-cho Hinomisaki, Izumo, Shimane, 699-0763
Opening hours: 24 hours
Access: 25 minutes by Ichibata Bus / 15 minutes by car from Izumo Grand Shrine or 15-minute walk from Hinomisaki Lighthouse
TEL: +81 8-5354-5400 (Hinomisaki Tourist Information Center, Izumo Kankou Association)


Inasa Beach: The perfect sunset power spot

A couple who prays together, stays together. (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


Returning from Hinomisaki Shrine with some time to spare, I made my final stop at Inasa Beach (稲佐の浜). 


In Japan, power spots (パワースポット pawa-supotto) are often known as sacred places where gods come to walk the Earth, so places like shrines and temples are considered power spots where people can connect more deeply with spiritual forces and experience healing, generate good luck, or rejuvenate their tired bodies and souls.


Inasa Beach is also one such place, being a leisurely 15-minute walk away from Izumo Grand Shrine. 


Oh, what a splendid sight! (Image credit: Qiu Ting) 


From far, one can easily see a round giant boulder that has seemingly stood the test of time. Known as Bentenjima (弁天島), it enshrines the God of the Ocean, Toyotamahiko-no-Mikoto, associated with the sea and maritime protection.


I sat by the shore for an hour or so just watching people—mostly families and children engaging with the usual beach activities in summer while reading.


Inasa Beach (稲佐の浜)
Address: 2711 Taisha-cho Kizukikita, Izumo, Shimane, 699-0702
Opening hours: 24 hours
Access: 10 to 15-minute walk from Izumo Grand Shrine 


The clouds were stubbornly refusing to part ways for quite some time, but when the sun momentarily peeked out from the clouds and glowed in its radiance, it hit me all of a sudden.


It’s no wonder why they call Izumo the Land of the Gods, and a power spot where the sun sets. 


Header image credit: Qiu Ting


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