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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
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 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
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare.
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving.
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
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 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

SHIMANE Tsuwano & Masuda An atmospheric castle town known as “Little Kyoto,” a steam locomotive and more

An atmospheric castle town known as “Little Kyoto,” a steam locomotive and more

A small castle town nestled in the mountains of the San-in Region, Tsuwano is a prime destination for savvy travelers seeking the best of Japan's history and culture without Kyoto's crowds.

Downriver on the coast, Masuda, another castle town, is the area's transportation hub. Often overlooked by visitors, it has a variety of attractions for those with time to relax and unwind.

Don't Miss

  • The thrilling horseback archery known as yabusame
  • Zen gardens designed by the famed landscape painter and monk Sesshu
  • Riding on the SL Yamaguchi-go steam locomotive

How to Get There

This area can be accessed by rail and air.

The Tsuwano and Masuda area is in the west of rural Shimane Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast. Served by the coastal San-in Railway Line that runs from Kyoto to the western tip of Honshu, Tsuwano is 30 minutes by express train from Masuda. The Shin-Yamaguchi shinkansen station is one hour from Tsuwano, and connects with Osaka in less than two hours and Tokyo in around four hours. Iwami Airport in Masuda has daily flights to and from Tokyo.

Quick Facts

The carp in Tsuwano were originally kept in the waterways as emergency provisions in case of famine

Yabusame horseback archery is considered a holy ritual

During the four centuries of Masuda clan rule, cultural pursuits flourished under its patronage

Little Kyoto of San-in

Most of Tsuwano's major draws, such as the samurai district of Tonomachi, Taikodani Inari Shrine and the castle ruins, are easily reached on foot or on rented bicycles. The town is home to some unique events and festivals like Sagimai , the elegant Heron Dance, and the thrilling horseback archery known as yabusame . Thatched temples, sake breweries and a small Christian church are some of the reasons Tsuwano earned its nickname.

More than can be seen in a day

Some visitors come just for a day on their way to or from the nearby tourist spots of Hagi or Yamaguchi , but you can easily spend a couple of days here exploring the sights. There is a wide range of museums dedicated to local personalities like the great novelist and poet Mori Ogai whose childhood home is viewable next door, and Mitsumasa Anno, an illustrator and writer of children's books.

The town has a selection of Western-style hotels and numerous traditional inns and minshuku known for serving delicious food.

Hot springs, papermaking workshops and a real steam locomotive

Away from the town center are hot springs, a washi paper-making workshop and Horiteien, 10 kilometers away up a scenic valley but easily accessible by bus, is a large manor house with gardens that are particularly popular in the autumn.

The most romantic way to access Tsuwano is to take the Yamaguchi SL, one of the few working steam locomotives left in Japan. The train arrives in Tsuwano after passing over the mountains from Yamaguchi.

Home of Sesshu, the greatest painter of medieval Japan

Masuda is a small coastal town that serves as the transportation hub for the western Iwami area. Two of the greatest creative figures in Japanese history lived here: Kakinomoto Hitomaru, the 7th-century poet now revered as the “God of Poetry,” and Sesshu Toyo, the famous artist and Zen monk who left behind fantastic Zen gardens at nearby temples. You can learn about his life at the Sesshu Memorial Museum.

Places for art and trekking

Less than a kilometer from the station is a large modern arts center called Gran Toit, French for “big roof” since all the buildings are clad in the local roof tiles. Many events and performances take place here, and the art museum is known for quality exhibitions.

Up in the mountains near the border with Hiroshima is Hikimi Gorge, a popular area for camping and hiking in the summer and one of the region's best places for viewing the autumn colors. Nearby Minoji Yakushi is an impressive restored farmhouse with many displays of rural life from times gone by.

Hot springs and mythical dances

The area has many small hot springs, both in the mountains and near the many beaches in the area, interspersed with cliffs and coves. Like everywhere else in the region, there are dynamic performances of Iwami Kagura , based on myths and full of dance and gorgeous costumes. This is performed at the many scenic shrines that dot the area and at the many small festivals that take place year-round.

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