Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Before there was a Kyoto, there was Izumo—home of the gods

Izumo’s quiet rural nature belies a history that stretches back to Japan’s very beginnings. Long before there was a Kyoto or Nara, this region was the center of what was known as Shinkoku, the Country of the Gods. Japan’s oldest records mention this area, and the shrines and historical treasures unearthed here are clear evidence that the roots of the Japan story are in Izumo.

Don't Miss

  • Izumo Taisha, the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan
  • Gakuenji Temple, one of the oldest temples in Japan
  • Hiking the Chugoku Nature Trail, which leads to Izumo Taisha and Tachikuekyo Gorge

How to Get There

You can reach Izumo by plane, rail and bus. Okayama is the transport hub for most rail journeys.

The Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line connects Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities with Okayama. From Okayama, JR express trains depart for Izumo and take around three hours.

For flights to Izumo, JAL operates a route between Haneda and Izumo Airport. ANA flghts from Haneda serve nearby Yonago Airport. Flights to Izumo Airport are also available from Fukuoka and certain other major airports.

Highway buses, including overnight buses, connect the area with Tokyo and Osaka. For a more comfortable overnight option consider the Sunrise Izumo, the last sleeper train still operating in Japan. It leaves Tokyo at 10 p.m. and arrives in Izumo 12 hours later.

Quick Facts

Izumo Taisha is dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto, a deity closely associated with love and marriage

Bronze objects excavated from ruins at Kojindani and Kamo Iwakura, point to Izumo’s role in ancient Japanese history

Land of gods and myths

In the ancient chronicles of Japan, the 8th-century Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the beginning sections relate stories of the first deities and the creation of the universe. The first cycle of myths is set here in Izumo, not in the area around Nara and Kyoto.

Explore the most ancient shrine in Japan

Many of the shrines in the Izumo area figure prominently in these ancient myths and the beginnings of Japanese culture. None is more famous than Izumo Taisha. All of Japan's Shinto deities come here during the tenth month of the old lunar calendar. The shrine is dedicated to Okuninushi, now known as the god of love and marriage, and people travel here from all over Japan to pray for success in finding a marriage partner.

Alongside the tallest lighthouse in East Asia

Another shrine that features in the ancient chronicles is nearby Hinomisaki-jinja, a few kilometers up the coastline from Izumo Taisha near the tallest lighthouse in East Asia.

This highly pictureseque shrine very close to the sea, is the twin to Ise-jingu Shrine, and dedicated to the same sun goddess, Amaterasunomikami. Where Ise protects Japan during the daytime, Hinomisaki protects Japan during the hours of darkness.

From legend to history

Many dramatic archeological discoveries suggest that the essence of the Izumo myths is based on reality. At Kojindani, a small valley near Shinjiko, a staggering 358 bronze swords were unearthed, and the largest ever cache of ritual bronze bells was found at Kamo-Iwakura, testifying to the importance and power of the ancient people of Izumo. These may be seen in the museum next to the Izumo Taisha.

Find out more in the Shimane Museum

The Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, a huge, modern museum next door to Izumo Taisha, has many exhibits on the history of Izumo Taisha, including models of how the shrine may have looked when it was a towering 48 meters high. In the hills just behind Izumo City are a cluster of burial mounds of the 3rd-century rulers of the region. At the Yayoinomori Museum next door you can learn all about this period.

Temple hidden behind a waterfall

It's not all shrines in Izumo. Gakuenji Temple, deep in the mountains behind Izumo Taisha, was once the largest monastery and temple in all of Izumo, and though few of its buildings remain, one particular structure you should visit is built into a cliff behind a waterfall. Getting few visitors for most of the year, in November when the maple trees turn red the place is packed with photographers.

Nature on the way

Not far away, Ichibataji is a temple that draws pilgrims from all over Japan, and is renowned as a place for healing people with eye problems. From its mountaintop location, you can look down on the Sea of Japan in one direction and Shinjiko, Japan's seventh-largest lake, in the other.

If you like walking, hike the Chugoku Nature Trail, which connects both temples and leads to Izumo Taisha before heading into the mountains through the dramatic Tachikuekyo Gorge, a nationally recognized scenic spot home to 150-meter-high cliffs and spires of rock, and filled with thousands of Buddhist statues.

Explore the region

Izumo is convenient as a base to explore the surrounding area. Inland, the area known as Okuizumo is the origin of the Japanese sword, and home to the fantastic Orochi myth about a giant eight-headed, eight-bodied serpent slain by a hero to win the hand of a princess.

Less than an hour away is Matsue, with one of the few surviving castles in Japan, some world-class gardens, and the former home of famed writer Lafcadio Hearn. Just over an hour away in the opposite direction is the World Heritage Site of Iwami Ginzan silver mines.