#shimane #garden #sakura #spring #theatre #nightbus #japanesegarden #vegan #tottori
How to get to Shimane
I arrived to Shimane by night bus from Tokyo. It’s a trip I’d been wanting to do for a long time but bus tickets usually go up to 10,000¥ one way, so I’d waited until I finally found a good deal. You can find bus tickets from Willer Express, but there’s also the possibility of taking the overnight train, Sunrise Izumo, which is recommended if you have the JR Pass (not available to those living in Japan).
Where to sleep
For the budget travellers, there are at least two cheap guest house options in the area. The first is Izumo Guest House, in Izumo. It’s a small modern house just across the river so anyone staying there can easily visit the shrine at night.
I also slept at Yonago’s Kaiho Guest House Katsuzo. It’s a curious place because there is a tree passing through the wall, and one must duck under it to get to the dormitory. The owner of the guest house told me he was a manga author and he drew me a monkey!
Both places are very comfortable and homely.
DAY 1: Iya, Yasugi
The bus dropped me off at Yonago station very early in the morning. We’d stopped at a rest area with some views of Mt.Daisen (the so-called “Fuji of the west”) a short while before, so I was already fed and washed and ready to start sightseeing. However, at those hours in the morning nothing much was open, so I took one of the first trains of the day to Iya instead.
Iya is technically part of Matsue city, but it’s very close to the Tottori border. The reason I had come to Shimane in the first place was to visit the grand Izumo Shrine, the first shrine ever built in Japan, and see the land of myths surrounding it. Shimane is the place to go for anyone interested in prehistoric Japanese culture, yokai and legends.
Iya never appears on any map, but for real aficionados of the myths, in this small town we can find the entrance to the Underworld that Izanagi used when he went to see Izanami when she had died (Izanagi and Izanami are the primordial gods of Shintoism, the creators of the Japanese islands). There isn’t much of anything to see, just a rock and a shrine, but the winds were howling, the trees were creaking ominously, the paint of the torii gates leading into the dark forest was rusted and peeling. A mirror in the hall, the respresentation of the kami god enshrined there, gleamed as it stared back at me. And as I hid from the cold beneath a giant tree, a rope tied around it to mark it as sacred, I felt like I had arrived to the Land of Legends.
Alas, today I would spend the day in Yasugi though. Unlike Iya, Yasugi does appear on many maps, as well as tourism pamphlets, posters, blogs, TV and in the Michelin Green Guide Japan where it was awarded three stars. The garden of the Adachi Museum of Art is famed and takes the prize for being absolutely immaculate and designed down to the last leaf. Unfortunately walking around is not possible, so it has to be admired from a distance. Of course, Adachi is a museum of art, so besides the garden it also has paitings, especially ink paintings and traditional scrolls. Photos are not allowed inside the museum but the artists are well-known in Japan, writing down their names will allow you to do a google search later on if you’d like to have an image of their work.
In Yasugi I also stopped by Engeikan, a small performance hall (600¥ entry) where they do shows of Yasugi-bushi, a local folk song and dance.
Both these sites in Yasugi are near each other and can be reached via the Kanko Loop Bus from Yasugi station.