Izumo Trip

About Izumo:
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.

Our 2-Day Trip Through Izumo: 
The first two days of our 6-day journey began here at Izumo. We decided on taking a plane to this area as it was only about 1.5 hours from Haneda airport in Tokyo. However, if you feel so inclined to do so, you can take a combination of bullet and limited express trains from Tokyo as well, which would take around 6.5 hours. 

Transportation
09:55 Haneda airport ---> 11:20 Izumo airport.
Orix car rental for our 2-day-trip in Izumo. 

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.

Day 1 Schedule: 
Our first day in this area was filled with nature, history, beautiful scenery and some delicious food and drinks. The tranquil environment was quite a nice change from the busy Tokyo scene. 

Our first stop was the beautiful Gakuenji Temple dating all the way back to the 6th century making it one of the oldest temples in all of Japan. From the Gakuenji Temple parking lot, it’s a 10-minute hike uphill to the entrance.
The entrance of Gakuenji Temple.
If you visit around mid or late November, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning autumn foliage, so remember to bring and charge your camera beforehand – you don’t want to miss out on capturing the beautiful scenery.

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.
The main hall of Gakuenji Temple.
Awazuinari Shrine
Awazuinari Shrine's 20 torii gates.
After a thirty-minute drive, we finally arrived at Awazuinari shrine. The streets are narrow, and there is no parking around this area, so be aware that someone has to stay in the car. Awazuinari shrine consists of 20 torii gates that stand in the middle of a field, and is located between Takahama and Yokan stations.
The scene when the local train passes the torii gates.
What makes this place such a popular photography spot is the intersection of the local train that passes behind the twenty vermillion torii gates, framed by the rural surroundings – it brings a unique touch to this place. Since this local train passing through doesn’t come as often as trains may in Tokyo, best not to blink an eye in order to capture this breathtaking photo.
After the Awazuinao shrine, our next stop was the Izumo Cultural Heritage Museum. This museum used to be the mansion of a landowner in Izumo; the house was reconstructed with a Japanese style garden which is now open to the public. There is also a Japanese tea ceremony house designed by Senno Rikyu.
Izumo Cultural Heritage Museum.
Japanese tea ceremony house.

Shimane Winery
The entrance of Shimane Winery.
Visitors 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. 

Tachikue Gorge Natural Park
Tachikue Gorge Natural Park.
This gorge is found at Kando River and is listed as a National Scenic Spot because of its natural cliffs, old pine trees and rock formations. The rich landscape and colors that change with the seasons is one of the main reasons why tourists flock here, especially during autumn and winter when the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.
Buddhist statues with caps and bibs.
Across the river there is a bridge connected to the other side where you can see around 1,000 Buddhist statues, some of them cutely adorned with caps and bibs, located from the small caves to the cliff walls. This is another one of the highlights of Tachikue Gorge. 

Day 2 Schedule: 
For our second day in this area, we hit the biggest attraction in this area being the Izumo Grand Shrine but along the way we were able to get some beautiful shots of some awesome views around the area as well. 

A 40-minute drive from Izumo station, Hinomisaki Lighthouse is one of the tallest stone-built lighthouses in Japan reaching a staggering 43 meters in height and one of the world’s top 100 historic lighthouses. From the top you can see the spectacular view of the cliffs and the shore, and there is also a pathway for you to walk around the lighthouse.
Hinomisaki Lighthouse.
Cliffs and shore at Hinomisaki lighthouse.
On the way to the lighthouse there are plenty of local shops that sell grilled squid and other types of seafood, and of course ice cream! The entrance fee for climbing the lighthouse is 200 yen, and note that the lighthouse closes at 16:30 sharp. The pine tree woods surrounding the lighthouse, along with the stone path and the aureate sunlight together create a scene that is truly amazing. 

Inasanohama Beach - Benten Island
Benten Island.
On our way to our next destination, it is definitely worth the time to admire the beautiful “island” known as Benten-jima or Benten Island along the coastline. If you look closely there is a small shrine on top of the rock honoring an ancient sea deity since the Meiji era (1868 - 1912). We stopped by here on our way to the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo to take some beautiful pictures. There is a parking lot directly in front of this spot, so don’t worry, it’s very accessible.
Inasanohama Beach.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo
Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo.
Here, 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.
A model of how ancient Izumo Grand Shrine's main hall and approach may have looked.
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 Shrine
The first torri gate at Izumo Grand Shrine.
The entrance of Izumo Grand Shrine.
Often 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. 

Izumo Grand Shrine is famous for its dedication to the Shinto deity of marriage, Okuninushi-no-Okami. People come here to pray for their loved ones or for good relationships. According to the lunar calendar, the 10th month of the year (usually in November) is known as Kamiarizuki(Kannazuki), the month of Gods.

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. 

*How to pray in Izumo Grand Shrine: 
Bow twice and clap. Although usually the Japanese clap twice when praying, here you have to clap four times - twice for yourself, and twice for your loved one, and end with a final bow, when praying in front of Okuninushi. This different bowing ritual makes the Izumo Grand Shrine unique among the other shrines.
The rabbits statues at Izumo Grand Shrine.
Something that may strike you as surprising while looking around this shrine is the abundance of rabbit statues spread amongst the grounds. There are several versions of why this is through ancient tales of how the deity enshrined here, Okuninushi helped the Rabbit of Inaba. 

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. 

As you walk around Izumo Grand Shrine you’ll see a lot of rabbit statues so make sure to remember this story so that you can impress your friends on your next visit. 

Kamikado Street
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. 

On this street there were three particular soba shops that we couldn't wait to try. They sell out of soba by the afternoon since it is very popular so make sure to visit them before 12 pm in order to assure you some delicious noodles! Here’s a list of the restaurants that we strongly suggest visiting.

1. Sobadokoro Tanakaya そば処「田中屋」
Sobadokoro Tanakaya.
2. Enishi Soba 手打ちそば「えにし」
Enishi Soba.
3. Sunaya Soba 十割そば「砂屋」
Sunaya soba.

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!  

Follow our 6-day footstep (Itinerary) : Izumo (Now) ---> Sakaiminato ---> Oki Island

Continue follow our journey from the links below:
Click here for our Sakaiminato trip and Oki Island trip.

Debby Kuo