Shimane Prefecture is situated in the northern region of Western Japan, facing the Sea of Japan. It stretches widely from east to west, with the Oki islands located north of its shores. The land is blessed with riches both from the Sea of Japan and from the Chugoku mountain range.
Shimane's history is so vast and deep that the earliest time it first appeared was in the time of the Japanese mythology. There are various legends and folklores found everywhere in Shimane, and the culture and traditions related to those legends are still alive in people's daily life. Shimane is also famous as the place where myriads of Japanese gods gather to hold annual meetings. Thus, Shimane is known as "The land of the gods" or "The land of myths".
The exact place where the myriads of Japanese gods gather is Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, located in eastern Shimane. In the 10th month of the lunar calendar, all of the gods gather there. In addition to the gathering of the gods, many people around Japan visit there to pray as well. In eastern Shimane, there are more tourist destinations, such as Matsue, which is the capital and a former castle town, and the Adachi Museum of Art, a Michelin Guide 3 stars winner.
Central Shimane is home to the World Heritage Site, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. The mine came to its peak early in the 17th century. At that time, Japan produced one third of the world’s silver and the majority of that silver was from this mine. The part of mining town is kept in good condition and is good for a walk to take in the unique atmosphere. A guided tour of the tunnels is especially recommended.
In western Shimane, you will find breathtaking scenic beauty, such as a beach of singing sand and varied mountain landscape. In addition, the town of Tsuwano is famous for its white walls lining the main street, giving a glimpse of good old Japan.
The Oki islands area consists of about 180 large and small islands with a mesmerizing and dynamic landscape which goes far beyond your expectations. Oki is home to a unique history, culture and ecosystem, and because of its unique geography, Oki has been a member of the Global Geoparks Network since September, 2013.
Shimane's traditions and cultures were developed long ago and are still present in people's daily life. Kagura, a ritual performance, was originally performed at shrines to appreciate the blessings of the gods and nature. Today it has gained popularity with audiences of all ages and is performed not only in Japan but also outside Japan. Sada Shin Noh, a sacred dance performed at Sada Shrine in Matsue is said to be the origin of Izumo style Kagura and is a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. Another UNESCO intangible heritage is Sekishu Banshi which is one of the Japanese papermaking technologies that have been handed down from generation to generation. Such traditions with a deep and long history can be found all around Shimane, and tourists can even participate and experience these traditions for themselves. Furthermore, Shimane is the only place where the traditional iron making technology called “Tatara” has been alive since long ago. Shimane is still the center of the production of high quality metal, known as tamahagane, for Japanese swords.
One can't help but appreciate the passion and great respect that the people have for Shimane's natural landscape, cultures, and traditions.