Izumo Japan – Our Travel Tips To Visit This Historical And Spiritual City!
Izumo Japan – Izumo is synonymous with ancient Japanese myths and history, at least according to the locals. Although this small seaside city along the Sanin Coast of the Sea of Japan may not be on the tip of your tongue when asked about grand landscapes, unique food experiences, and significant historic structures, it is in fact full of these wonderful and unique experiences.
To the local Japanese people, Izumo is where the origins of this wonderful country actually developed. Kyoto may be known as the tourist hotspot for quick cultural exposures, but if you’re really looking for the roots, Izumo’s history dates all the way to what some say the beginning of Japan. Some of Japan’s oldest records mention Izumo, and you can bet that the shrines, temples, and historical artefacts here are amongst the most treasured and revered. In fact, the oldest Shinto shrine in all of Japan just so happens to sit right in Izumo!
Whilst this city does not glitter with thousands of lights at night, and nor does it boast multiple alleys of food stalls that operate dead into the night, it offers experiences you don’t quite come across every day in Japan, so when you’re visiting this wonderful country, make like a local and visit Izumo, right in the region that was historically known as the Country of the Gods.
How To Get To Izumo, Japan?
From Tokyo, it will take you roughly 5.5 hours one way if you take a Shinkansen train to Okayama followed by a limited express train from Okayama to Izumo. If you have a JR Pass, we recommend taking the Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo as the ride is fully covered. If you don’t have a Shinkansen, you can take the faster Nozomi Shinkansen (30 minutes quicker), and it will cost around 20,000 yen one-way.
If you’re looking for a more budget option, there are night highway buses that depart Tokyo for Izumo, operated by Willer Express, Ichibata Bus and JR Chugoku Bus. The ride will take roughly 12 hours and cost between 6,000 yen to 11,800-yen one way.
Lastly, if you’re in for a bit of an experience, we recommend looking into ‘The Sunrise Izumo’ overnight train. It’s actually one of the luxury Seven Stars night trains in all of Japan! If you want to find out more about this unique train experience, find out more in our Matsue article.
Where To Stay In Izumo,Japan?
Guesthouse in Izumo, Japan – Izumo guesthouse itoan
If you’re after convenience but on a budget, then the Izumo guesthouse itoan, located close to the Izumoshi Station, is your safest bet. At only a fraction of the price of a regularly ryokan, this guesthouse-style ryokan accommodation allows you to experience what a traditional inn looks and feels like, without the regular price tag attached.
It offers all the basic amenities required for a comfortable stay, including Wi-Fi, a well-equipped kitchen, and all necessary bathroom amenities. If you’re after some additional creature comforts such as a towel, toothbrush, and dinner, they come at a small (tiny!) additional fee. However, due to its convenient location, you can always head out for dinner at a local spot!
Book It Now: Izumo guesthouse itoan
Hotel in Izumo, Japan – Green Rich Hotel Izumo
The Green Rich Hotel, which is located right in the city centre, is super modern and super classy. From spacious guest rooms with multiple bedding configurations available (all of which are super comfy and huge!), to private bathrooms (a luxury in Japan!), free bathroom amenities and Wi-Fi throughout, this place is the epitome of comfort and class. There is an onsite onsen that is available to all guests as well, and with a 24-hour front desk, you will have everything you need at your fingertips. Best of all? It’s quite a budget hotel!
Guest Tips: Don’t forget to spend some time (a few hours!) on the massage chair! If you’re heading from another region and are passing through to head to Izumo Taisha, we recommend unwinding here for a night before setting out early the next morning. This place is actually located near a famous soba noodle restaurant (5-minute walk away!). It’s also located near the bar district of Izumo for those after a midnight cap.
Book It Now: Green Rich Hotel Izumo
Ryokan in Izumo, Japan – Takenoya Ryokan
Takenoya Ryokan is considered one of the bestsellers in Izumo, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s an absolutely grand traditional inn that cuts no corners when it comes to paying the utmost respect to the quality and ambience expect of a Japanese ryokan. Here, the rooms are supremely spacious (not just the guest rooms, but the dining rooms and the lounging areas too), and the tatami floor and washi-paper shoji sliding doors just feel and look high-class.
For your entertainment, there is a flatscreen in every room and a private bathroom. The entire ryokan is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden, making the views quite peaceful and relaxing.
Guest Tips: The portion of food here is huge, so don’t go making plans to eat again afterwards! It’s very close to Izumo Taisha. It’s also surrounded by many small restaurants so if you’re not dining at the ryokan, you can easily pop into one of the locals (be aware that most restaurants close by 6pm though!)
Book It Now: Takenoya Ryokan
The Best Things To Do in Izumo, Japan
Discover below our list of the best things to do in Izumo:
- Pay a Visit to Izumo Taisha
- Experience Some Izumo Tradition at the Izumo Cultural Traditional Hall
- Inasa Beach and Bentenjima Shrine
- Try Warigo Soba, a Unique Local Dish
- Wind Your Own Rope at the Goen Shimenawa Workshop
- Take a Picture with the Beautiful Hinomisaki Shrine and Lighthouse
Pay a Visit to Izumo Taisha
Izumo Taisha is the oldest recorded and most revered Shinto temple in all of Japan, and thus draws crowds day in and day out for its historical significance, to admire its customary structure, and offer prayers to the Gods. The shrine is actually dedicated to Okuninushi, who is the God of love and marriage, and it is for this reason that this shrine is particularly popular with couples and those seeking partners.
During October (from the 10th to 17th), all the Gods (in the tens of thousands) are said to congregate at this Shrine to discuss and determine the destinies of all the people. This festival is called the Kamihakari. During this period, hundreds of worshippers travel to Izumo Taisha to pray for the gods for good fortune and luck in the love department. Unlike most other Japanese festivals, there is hardly any singing and dancing to preserve the silence so as to not disturb the Gods. Because of the cultural significance of these ceremonies, some parts are not open to the public.
Aside from its religious aspects, the shrine itself is very picturesque. Serenely surrounded by tall pine trees, housing a few torii gates and boasting many structural buildings, you can capture many traditional pictures here.
If you want to visit Izumo Taisha wearing a beautiful Japanese kimono, you can book this tour!
- Address: 195 Taishacho Kizukihigashi, Izumo, Shimane 699-0701, Japan
- Access: From Izumoshi Station, head to bus stop number 1 and catch a bus to the shrine. Buses leave every 30-minutes, taking 25-minutes to get to the destination and cost 520 yen.
Experience Some Izumo Tradition at the Izumo Cultural Traditional Hall
The Izumo Cultural Traditional Hall is a hub for experiencing many aspects of the lives of Izumo people. For example, there are well-kept traditional gardens on the grounds for you to witness how intricate the art of gardening is for the Izumo community, and there’s also a dedicated exhibition for the heritage and arts that showcase the culture of Izumo.
At the cultural workshop, you can try your hand at many of the fun and simple activities, including participating in a traditional tea ceremony or even making traditional Japanese sweets, wagashi! For those who just want a relaxing experience, explore all you want, and when you’re famished, head to the traditional Izumo soba noodle restaurant on site and try authenticity at its best.
- Address: 520 Hamacho, Izumo, Shimane 693-0054, Japan
- Access: From Hamayamakoen-Kitaguchi Station (Ichibata Railway), it is a 15-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Inasa Beach and Bentenjima Shrine
This gorgeous beach has been hailed by the Japanese as a sacred place full of exciting history and many legends. On top of that, it’s celebrated as being one of the top 100 beaches across the entirety of Japan, and religious and cultural festivals are held here year on year.
Whilst visiting this place, you must pay a visit to and take some sunset photos of Bentenjima, a tiny but mighty shrine built on top of an enormous rock which sits right on the coastline. It is believed that a female deity resides there, watching over people embarking on a journey into the sea and keeping them safe.
- Address: Taishacho Kizukikita, Izumo, Shimane 699-0702, Japan
- Access: The beach is less than 1-kilometre from Izumo Taisha Shrine. It is just over a 10-minute walk.
Try Warigo Soba, a Unique Local Dish
Did you know that Izumo soba is considered one of the three major soba dishes in all of Japan? It sits alongside heavyweights such as Wanko soba from Iwate and Togakushi soba from Nagano.
Warigo soba is an Izumo speciality that’s uniquely served in a three-tier, round-shaped dish. It is usually served with a variety of toppings that could include nori (seaweed), shredded radish, green onion, and tobiko (fish eggs). First, you add your preferred toppings onto the top layer of soba noodles and then add some sauce. Once you’re done eating that particular layer of noodles, pour whatever is left over onto the second layer and add more toppings or sauce if needed. This goes on until you’re done. For those who love soba noodles or have a big appetite, you can order additional layers to add to your dish as well. It’s quite an experience!
There are plenty of restaurants in Izumo which serve up warigo soba, however, a suggestion would be Izumosoba Arakiya
- Address: 409-2 Izumo, Shimane 699-0701, Japan
- Access: From Izumotaisha-Mae Station, it is a 10-minute walk.
- Hours: 11:00am – 5:00pm (Closed Wednesdays)
- Price: roughly 1,490 yen
Wind Your Own Rope at the Goen Shimenawa Workshop
When you visit Izumo Taisha, you will definitely come across the huge ‘shimenawa’ rope that hangs at the shrine. It is, in fact, the biggest one of its kind in Japan! And at the Goen Shimenawa workshop, you can actually craft your very own!
A traditional ‘shimenawa’ rope is made up of rice straw, and Japanese people tend to display smaller versions of it in and around homes and other places to ward off evil spirits and alike.
This adorable crafts workshop run by some knowledgeable locals allows visitors to learn a bit about the craftsmanship that goes into weaving a quality ‘shimenawa’ rope, and allows you some time to weave your own. Talk about a unique experience! Aside from that, you will get the chance to make your own pins and earrings if you’d like.
- Address: 840-1 Taishacho Kizukiminami, Izumo, Shimane 699-0711, Japan
- Access: From Izumotaisha-Mae Station, it is a 4-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Price: from 1,500 yen to 2,000 yen (no reservations necessary)
Take a Picture with the Beautiful Hinomisaki Shrine and Lighthouse
If you’re looking for something that screams “INSTAGRAM-WORTHY”, then the Hinomisaki Shrine, situated along the coast, is the picture-perfect opportunity. It’s a gorgeous vermillion-red shrine that’s engulfed by the ocean, vast g/reen mountains, and a forest of pine trees. Doesn’t that sound almost too good to be true
This shrine is said to be dedicated to the sun goddess, Amaterasu no Mikami, and her younger brother, Susano, the god of storms and the sea, and is said to protect Japan during the hours of darkness due to its west-facing frontage.
To get the shot that you need, you should arrive before sunset and set up. As you visit and explore the place, don’t forget to pick up a momento: a small daruma omujuki wooden doll which holds a fortune-telling paper inside.
Only a 10-minute walk from this shrine is the Hinomisaki Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in all of Asia. It’s very traditional looking, all slim and pure white, and it stands at an impressive 43.65m! If you’d like to truly experience it, pay the small 200-yen fee and make your way to the top – be warned, there are no elevators so you must hike it up on foot!
The view at the top is spectacular, though, so it’s well worth the climb.
- Address: 455 Taishacho Hinomisaki, Izumo, Shimane 699-0763, Japan
- Access: From Izumo Taisha, it is a 20-minute bus ride. From Izumotaisha-Mae Station, take the Ichibata bus for Hinomisaki.
- Address: Japan, 〒699-0763 Shimane, Izumo, Taishacho Hinomisaki, 1478
- Access: From Hinomisaki Shrine, it is a 10-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm
- Price: 200 yen
Being located so close to the culturally-rich Matsue is a double-edged sword: people may overlook Izumo for its more diverse neighbour, but on the plus side, there are almost virtually no crowds at any given time of the year, and access from Matsue is very simple and easy. Really, it doesn’t make sense to visit one without the other, so if you’re planning to visit the northern coast of Shimane, make sure you give both the attention they deserve!