"No one knows exactly when this shrine was built, but many believe it to be the oldest shrine in Japan."
Izumo City is in Shimane Prefecture over on the west coast of Japan, on the Japanese sea. It’s one of Japan’s lesser visited prefectures and scarcely populated in comparison to other areas of Japan. However, visitors from all over Japan flock here to see the Izumo Grand Shrine – A National Treasure of Japan and the location of our first 2 videos!
No one knows exactly when this shrine was built, but many believe it to be the oldest shrine in Japan. It also happens to be in the Daisen Oki National Park, which John and I were trying to get a taste for in just 2 days at various sites around the area.
We would start our journey at Inasa Beach, just 1km from the Izumo Grand Shrine, and a place full of history and legends. From the beach we would head to the Grand Shrine, passing into the Daisen Oki National Park as we neared the main complex. Interestingly the Daisen Oki National Park is made up of 6 areas (depending how you count them) which are all very different in nature and all separated from one another. One of those areas happens to be the Izumo Grand Shrine.
The Izumo Grand Shrine is a huge complex. It brings visitors from around Japan. John and I first explored the shopping street that leads up to the shrine, making sure to try the famous Izumo Soba, which is very often served ‘Warigo’ style, in a three-tiered lacquerware bowl set.
"After refueling on soba and other treats it was time for the main event."
We slowly made our way into Izumo Grand Shrine, being sure to bow as we passed through Torii gates and being careful to walk on either side of the path and not straight down the middle. Did you know that the center of the path at shrines is meant to be walked on only by the Gods? In Izumo Grand Shrine this rule is made more obvious, as some areas have a special walkway cordoned off especially for the Gods to use. They come via the Japan Sea and Inasa Beach by the way!
There are a few interesting things about Izumo Taisha. Firstly, it’s decorated with rabbits, due to a local tale of mythology. Also, when we pray here, we clap our hands 4 times instead of the usual 2 times. Lastly, the main hall building stands 24m, making it the tallest shrine building in Japan. We explain all these things in detail in our 2nd video on the Only in Japan YouTube channel (below), so be sure to check it out and learn more about this fascinating shrine.
"When we pray here, we clap our hands four times instead of the usual twice."
Day 1 was a great success. We rested up at our hotel to prepare for the second day of this fast-paced trip. We headed north-west for just 30-minutes to reach the Hinomisaki Lighthouse. The drive here takes you along the coast which is all part of the Daisen Oki National Park and connected with the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. The views are wild and beautiful, and are more spectacular from the lighthouse here, which rises 40 meters up 163 steps into the salty air. In good weather conditions, you can see far across the Japan Sea - and on a clear day you will see the distant Oki Island (incidentally, also part of the Daisen Oki National Park, but separated by 40km!).
We walked from the Hinomisaki Lighthouse to Hinomisaki Shrine, around a gorgeous part of the coastline. It only takes about 20 minutes and there is a lot to see along the way. We can save you the energy with a sneak preview with our video here…
"The views are wild and beautiful, and are more spectacular from the lighthouse here, which rises 40 meters up 163 steps into the salty air."
If we could do only one last thing in Hinomisaki, or in fact, in all Shimane Prefecture or in the Daisen Oki National Park, what would that be?! Eat the seafood of course! The Japan Sea is famous for delicacies such as sea urchin, squid, pufferfish and octopus. We found ourselves in a very local restaurant a stone's throw from the sea, serving up mixed seafood bowls with turban shellfish, sea bream, bonito, yellowtail king fish, and other seasonal delicacies.
See John and I eat our way through these mouthwatering bowls here…
"The Japan Sea is famous for delicacies such as sea urchin, squid, pufferfish and octopus."
And just like that, our trip to Izumo was over. It was great to have explored a new area of the Daisen Oki National Park, but as long as there is still more mountains and windswept coastlines waiting to be explored, it will only be a matter of time until we are back! Happy travels guys!