DAY 3: Izumo
I swear I’m good at planning trips. For some reason, it seems like I only write about the trips with accidents or mistakes on Itinsy… Well, the particular mistake on this day, I would like to mention, was not entirely my fault. I had picked up a bus timetable that assured me the bus departed from Oda. It’s true it departs from Oda, but there are two stations with that same name, the first called Oda and the next Oda-shi. You must get off at the second station! If you get off at the first Oda, like I did, you will find yourself in a quasi-abandoned station, with little else around but the sea, wind, a long road and a few houses. Trains stop by every couple of hours or so, and you’ll be stranded until then.
Thankfully, a girl from Aomori had been visiting family there and arrived an hour into my wait, we talked and she showed me some photos of her participating in the Aomori Nebuta festival. By the time the next train came, it was too late for me to go to Iwami Ginzan and back in the same day, it’s a day trip but the buses and trains are infrequent enough that it’s better to reserve a full day for it. So I headed up to Izumo for sightseeing instead and decided to do that same trip, sans mistake, the next day.
I started my visit to Izumo at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo. The museum has many models of how the shrine would've looked: stairs leading up to the main hall supported by giant pillars, 38m into the air.
In full honesty, Izumo Shrine isn’t particularly interesting as a building, it is quite crowded, but it is the history and importance behind it that makes it worth a visit. Izanagi and Izanami created the Japanese islands, then landed on Earth in Izumo. This area is the stage of many mythological stories in Japan, as well as being the birthplace of Shinto religion and home to one of the first civilizations of Japan. Izumo Shrine was the first ever shrine to be built in the country!
The best time to visit Izumo is November. In the old lunar calendar, the 11th month used to be known as “the month of no Gods” in Japan. This was because all the kami from around the country had packed their bags and headed off to Izumo for a large gathering. In Shimane, the 11th month is called “the month of Gods”.
They would descend from the skies by landing on Benten Island, like lightning stricking a tree, and then parade down the street until reaching Izumo Shrine. Today the large rock that is Benten Island remains in place, a tiny shrine at its peak marking the point where the Gods land, and Izumo Shrine has the central entrance road just beyond the torii gate cut off from human trespassing (only Gods allowed).
I went to find some Izumo soba for lunch, the local speciality (it can be made vegan if mentioned to the cooks to keep out the dashi side dish and the soy sauce) and had Izumo zenzai, red bean soup, for dessert.
And then, after visiting the tomb of Izumo no Okuni (maiden of Izumo shrine and creator of kabuki), the Former Taisha Station and seeing the sunset at Inasa beach, I saw the lights of a ryokan lighting up the dark, similar to Spirited Away, and went to my guest house to tuck in for the night. I was the only guest so the owner of the guest house and I shared some tea while we talked, both huddled under the kotatsu in his living room.
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