Shimane prefecture is perfect for those who want to learn and experience true traditional Japanese culture, be it art, religion or architecture, without the troubles of having to deal with a large number of tourists and crowded streets. Shimane is second-to-last in terms of population, which gives it its “rural Japan” feel. If all of this sounds interesting, here are a couple spots that may interest you on your first time to Shimane. Izumo Taisha Shrine
The Izumo Taisha Shrine is possibly the oldest Shinto Shrine in existence. The shrine was built to honor Okuninushi, the Shinto god of marriage, and also includes buildings like the Kaguraden, and the Shokokan, both built later in history. The Kaguraden is especially known for its Shimenawa, a large sacred straw rope that weighs 5 tons and hangs across the entrance. Originally, the main hall of the Izumo Taisha Shrine (which is built on high pillars) was higher in the air, but was reconstructed lower at a later time. This was evidenced by a discovery in 2000 of large pillars found under the ruins.
Matsue castle may look smaller than most castles, but still has a rich history. The castle is unique in that it is one of the few castles in Japan that are not concrete reconstructions of the original architecture. Rebuilt after a major medieval war, the Matsue castle is a wooden construction and the castle tower is the original tower made in 1611. It is known as the “black castle” for its black exterior, and was recently registered as a National Treasure of Japan.
Adachi Museum of Art
The Adachi Museum of Art is the most famous Japanese Traditional art museum in Japan. Built in 1980 by Adachi Zenko, a renowned entrepreneur of the early 20th century. He grew up in a family of farmers, and by no means was rich. When he was a child, he began transporting charcoal from the countryside to the nearby port, and through selling extra along the way, began his career as a businessman. Through his love of collecting paintings, he decided to give back to his hometown by creating the Adachi Museum, which houses folding screen paintings, ceramics, and wood carvings.
Lake Shinji is Japan’s 7th largest lake, and is known for its abundance of aquatic life and wetland preservations. Around the lake are various Ryokans and hot springs that offer beautiful sunset views across the lake, as well as boat rides to experience sunsets on the water. If you’re interested in cuisine, locally sourced eel and sea bass are available from the local fisheries and are served in restaurants – and are, of course, delicious.