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CHUGOKU Shimane Beautiful countryside and serene islands

Shimane and its natural beauty are steeped in mythology. It is home to pristine island beaches, an important former silver mine and one of Japan's holiest shrines

Shimane Prefecture stretches along the northern coast of the Chugoku region. Sparsely populated, the prefecture has stayed relatively unchanged over the years. Framed by mountains, Shimane's main draws include Izumo Taisha Shrine—one of the oldest and holiest Shinto shrines—Matsue Castle and its original keep, the World Heritage Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, Iwami Kagura folk dancing and the castle towns of Tsuwano and Matsuda. Just off the coast lie the Oki Islands, a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. The clear water is perfect for snorkeling, scuba, fishing and kayaking, while Mt. Daimanji and Mt. Takuhi challenge hikers.

How to Get There

Access Shimane by limited express train, highway bus and car from major cities around Japan. You can also fly into one of its three airports.

Okayama Station, on the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line, is the main transport hub for access to Shimane. From there, express trains operate and stop at Yasugi, Matsue and Izumo-shi stations in the north. For Tsuwano Station in the south of Shimane, take the express train from Shin-Yamaguchi Station. Highway buses offer an inexpensive alternative to rail. From Tokyo, expect the journey to take between 11 and 13 hours. Domestic flights are available to Shimane Prefecture's three airports. Izumo Airport serves the center of the prefecture and Iwami Airport is in the west, while Oki Airport is the gateway to the Oki Islands. Yonago Airport in Tottori prefecture is also convenient for accessing eastern Shimane.

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Don’t Miss

  • Visit Izumo Taisha Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines
  • Explore Iwami Ginzan, which used to produce up to one-third of the world's silver
  • Swim and snorkel in the clear waters off of the Oki Islands
  • Watch kagura, a local dance ritual based on ancient myths

Local Specialties

  • Shimenawa Decorative Rope

    Associated with the Shinto religion, shimenawa are ropes made of rice straw typically strung across torii gates at shrines to denote a sacred object or space. They're most often seen in Japanese homes during the New Year’s period. A shimenawa makes a singular and striking gift.

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  • Matcha Confections

    Shimane, and in particular Matsue, are renowned tea-growing areas with a reputation for making delicious confections. Many of these incorporate matcha, a fine powder of ground green tea leaves. When combined with sugar, matcha is a key ingredient in Japanese confections. Its rich, deep flavor gives any sweet a uniquely Japanese taste.

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  • Shimane Shijimi

    Shimane shijimi are freshwater clams loaded with minerals, and they reportedly also cleanse your liver, all while tasting delicious. They are often used in shijimi miso soup, a traditional hangover remedy.

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  • Yakumo Lacquerware

    Only time and handling can reveal the hidden charm of Yakumo nuri. Finished in a polished semi-transparent topcoat, with use the decorative patterns of this lacquerware grow more vivid.

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  • Uzume-Meshi

    To make uzume-meshi, piping hot broth is poured over a bowl of white rice topped with carrot, shiitake mushroom and wasabi. This hearty rice soup is a quintessentially Japanese comfort food guaranteed to warm you up.

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  • Izumo Soba

    Long, chewy noodles made from fresh buckwheat flour and covered or dipped in a soy sauce and fish stock broth. Izumo soba is often served "warigo" style in three stacked lacquerware boxes.

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  • Sekishu Handmade Paper

    Sekishu washi is the product of a 1,300-year-old papermaking tradition as noted in Japan’s oldest poetry anthology, the Manyoshu. Made from natural fibers, this handmade paper is lustrous, rip-resistant and durable.

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Seasonal Highlights

  • Spring

    Enjoy festivals with horseback archery rituals and parades featuring locals in elaborate samurai garb. The explosion of cherry blossoms makes its anticipated appearance from the end of March.

    Matsue Castle
  • Summer

    Spend Shimane summers swimming and snorkeling in the cool waters of the Oki Islands or night-fishing and observing grand fireworks displays on the mainland coast.

    Iwami Area
  • Autumn

    Celebrate autumn with festivals in Izumo and a drum parade and ritual in Matsue. The cooler climate and fiery red leaves make visits to the area's many temples and shrines or hikes in the mountains a special experience.

    Gakuenji
  • Winter

    Grab your ski gear and take on the area's slopes. Spend time by the sea with freshly-caught snow crab and keep out the cold with a warming dip in bubbling onsen waters.

    Yurahime-jinja Shrine

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