Izumo, a birthplace of myths and legends. As the legend goes, every November the Gods gather around Izumo from across the nation to celebrate this sacred area. Izumo is a city in Japan’s Shimane prefecture famous for the Izumo Grand Shrine and its handmade soba noodles, but there are many other amazing little-known places here that are worth discovering.
We headed straight ahead to the car rental from Izumo Airport. Although we could have navigated Izumo by train or bus, the most convenient way is perhaps by car – it not only saved us time, but enabled us to explore more places that were otherwise hard to reach.
Although there are other temples around this area, Gakuenji Temple is usually less crowded with touristy tourists, and actually more crowded with tourists on a pilgrimage. In case you are interested in the famous pilgrimage routes of Japan, Gakuenji Temple is actually temple #3 on the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, #25 on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, and now part of the Izumonokuni Shinbutsu Reijyo, a newly formed route that connects 20 ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines. Finally, legend has it that the all famous warrior-monk, Benkei trained here in the 12th century adding to the temples already rich history.
Shimane WineryVisitors to Izumo Grand Shrine usually also stop by Shimane Winery since they’re quite close to each other. Shimane Winery offers free tours of the wine-making museum as well as the winery itself. For us, though, the most appealing part is the free wine-tasting!
Unfortunately, if you’re the designated driver, you won’t be able to taste the delicious wine for safety reasons, but don’t worry - they also have a non-alcohol section. It’s not bad at all, in fact, it’s quite refreshing! Outside the winery there are some shops that sell snacks and soft-serve ice cream. For alcohol lovers, don’t miss out on the wine-flavored soft serve, which contains 2% alcohol.
Shimane Museum of Ancient IzumoHere, history buffs can learn about the history and archaeology of the Izumo Grand Shrine and the Izumo area. This museum is close to the Izumo Grand Shrine, and its exhibits feature the evolution, construction and mythology of the grand shrine. One of the most unique features about this museum is shown in the above picture. This is a replica of what is thought to be how the main hall and approach of the Izumo Grand Shrine may have looked 1,000 of years ago. Speculation has it that many buildings within the shrine sat atop lots of pillars, some reaching over 40 meters in height.
The museum also provides audio guides for visitors in both English and Japanese – it’s a great way to understand the information in greater depth.
Izumo Grand ShrineOften considered to be the oldest shrine in Japan, with no records showing the exact dates of construction, Izumo Grand Shrine is a definite must for all tourists. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous with several torii gates leading to the main hall.
According to ancient mythology, since Okuninushi is also the god of nation-building, farming, business, and medicine, he teaches people how to farm and fish. Moreover, Okuninushi is said to be compassionate, with a heart to save people. Even though Okuninushi is the god of relationships, he connects not only the relationships between men and women, but also the ties between people, so that everyone can live in peace, happiness and harmony.
According to the most popular story, Okuninushi had lived in Izumo while a beautiful goddess named, Yagami-Hime resided in an area called Inaba. Okuninushi and his siblings ventured off to take her hand in marriage but were stopped by an injured rabbit that ran into a mishap with some unfriendly sea creatures after a trick that the rabbit laid on them turned against it. Okuninushi’s brothers had given the rabbit some advice on how to heal its wounds but instead had actually worsened the rabbit’s condition. Feeling sorry for the rabbit, Okuninushi knew how to heal the rabbit’s wounds and helped save the rabbits life. In return, the rabbit had predicted that Okuninushi would be the lucky man to take Yagami-Hime’s hand in marriage.
This street is famous for its handmade soba and zenzai red bean paste soup with mochi. Izumo soba is famous for its freshness – it’s made in the early morning using whole grain buckwheat, which has a darker color with a stronger fragrance and flavor.
And with that, our first stop at Izumo was a wrap! Come with us next to Sakaiminato for an amazing seafood adventure, and to explore the famous Japanese cartoon GeGeGe no Kitaro area and much more!