• Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Locations

Tour Level

Fitness: ★  Skill: ●

 

  • On our Izumo, Iwami Ginzan & Gonokawa River Trail, primarily focusing on Shimane Prefecture, you can immerse yourself in riverside communities and the mythological heartland of Japan.
  • Learn about the history and culture of Izumo, the ‘land of the Gods’.
  • Walk around the UNESCO World Heritage listed village of Iwami Ginzan, famed for its silver mines.
  • Meet local craftsmen and artists, hear their stories and try your hand at traditional pottery and mask painting.
  • Watch a kagura performance, a traditional theatrical art, and even try some simple kagura dances.
  • Hear about the history of the Sanko Rail Line, which was permanently closed in early 2018.
  • Try delicious fresh and local produce, including sake.
  • Walk through some of Shimane’s most breathtaking natural landscapes intertwined with local communities, from coastal ports to small villages hillsides shaped by rice terraces.
  • Canoe in the Gonokawa River.

 

Izumo, Iwami Ginzan & Gonokawa River Trail is a fully guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk for 1 to 3 hours. This is a 6 day, 5 night tour that will take you on a journey through the mythological heartland of Japan in Shimane Prefecture, part of the Chugoku region of western Japan.

Your tour accommodation will be hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns featuring tatami flooring and futon bedding). The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons.

 

The Chugoku region of Japan is most well known for Hiroshima Prefecture but Shimane Prefecture has historically played an important part, shaping Japanese mythological history as well as being a key source of silver during the Edo Period.

Shimane Prefecture is known as being home to ‘the land of the Gods’, the location of which is Izumo, a coastal town in the north of the prefecture. It is thought that the Shinto god of marriage, Okuninushi, lived in Izumo. According to Japan’s two oldest and revered chronicles, Nihon Shoki and Kojiki, which outline myths, legends and oral accounts of the early history of Japan, Okuninushi granted his lands to the grandson of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, and in gratitude, granted him what is now thought to be the oldest Shinto shrine, Izumo Taisha. Although the exact date Izumo Taisha was established is unknown, there is evidence that it was built before the 13th century. A distinctive feature of Izumo Taisha is its shimenawa – a sacred straw rope 13m long and weighing 5 tonnes – the largest in the whole of Japan. Every year, in October, there is a festival welcoming all of the gods of Japan to Izumo, where it is said that they gather to discuss the fate of relationships in the coming year. Thus, while for the rest of Japan, October is known as Kannazuki, ‘the month without Gods’, in Izumo, October is known as Kamiarizuki, ‘the month with Gods’.

Iwami Ginzan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its 400 year old underground silver mine that ran from 1526 through to 1923, the largest silver mine in Japanese history. Reaching its peak in the 17th century, it was the source of one third of the world’s silver, mining 38 tonnes of silver per year. The town is also known for its well-preserved quaint streets, lined with old-style machiya houses, many of which have now been converted into cafes, shops and guesthouses.

Shimane Prefecture, like its neighbouring regions, has a rich history of kagura. Thought to be the oldest form of performance art in Japan, the brightly adorned costumes of the dancers reenacting mythological stories in time to the beat of accompanying musicians is a must-see experience. There are also still a handful of craftsmen who specialise in making the various items required for the performance, on this tour you will have the chance to meet a kagura mask craftsman and the maker of traditional Japanese flutes.

Another key feature of this tour is the Gonokawa river, the biggest river in Chugoku. Before the introduction of rail, the river was the key mode of transport and as such there are many towns and villages along the way, such as Gotsu. As well as this riverside landscape, you will be able to enjoy the Sea of Japan coast in both Izumo and Yunotsuokidomari, as well as beautiful villages shaped by the rice fields that they live by in Kamita and Kaizumi. It is with these locally harvested rice and natural spring waters that two breweries that we visit produce their sake from, Ikezuki Sake Brewery and Tamazakura Sake Brewery, where you will be able to hear about the sake brewing process and taste a variety of products.

Lastly, there is one more narrative important to tour, which is that of the Sanko Rail Line. Permanently closed in spring 2018, the Sanko Line had been an important route between Gotsu and Miyoshi (in Hiroshima Prefecture) from 1930, covering a distance of 108km. One station in particular, Uzui, is famous for being one of the tallest station platforms in Japan. At Uzui, we will hear more about the story of the Sanko Line.

 

 

 

Day 1 Hiroshima~Izumo~Iwami Ginzan

The tour will start at 9am at the 2nd floor shinkansen (bullet train) ticket barriers of Hiroshima Station. After a short briefing we will take a chartered coach to the coastal town of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, known as the ‘Land of the Gods’.

After a lunch of locally produced soba noodles in Izumo, we will take a walk from Inasanohama Beach where you can see Bentenjima, a small island in walking distance at low tide, as well as hear about the story of Byobuiwa, a magnificent rock. We will then walk to Izumo Taisha, considered to be one of the oldest and most important shinto shrines in Japan. It is believed that every year, thousands of deities across the country gather here in order to decide the fate of lovers across Japan. Notice how when visitors pray, they clap four times instead of the usual two – twice for themselves and twice for their partner or desired partner.

Following on from Izumo Taisha, we will head to the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo. Here, you will learn about why Izumo is known as the Land of the Gods and how it is home to many of Japan’s mythological legends. After touring the museum we will take the coach to Iwami Ginzan, a town known for its silver mines and a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site. At Iwami Ginzan, we will check into our accommodation for the night – a traditional Japanese inn where you can take a relaxing bath and enjoy a dinner of fresh produce and local cuisine.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn

Meals: Lunch and dinner provided

Total walking: 1.6km

Total elevation gain: 20m

 

Day 2 Iwami Ginzan~Oda

After breakfast, we will spend the day exploring Iwami Ginzan. Our first walk of the day will be of the old samurai quarter, from the former magistrates office to the old style machiya houses, and then onto Gohyakurakan, the site of hundreds of Buddhist statues dating back to the 18th century, before heading to the silver mines and Ryogenjimabu, which marks the mabu, ‘mouth’, of a silver mine open to the public.

After lunch at a local cafe, we will take the coach to a pottery workshop. Here, you can try your hand at either moulding or painting. We will then head out for our second walk of the day, to Yunotsuokidomari, a port used for transporting the mined silver – you can still see remnants of where boats were moored. From here, we will walk to Motoyu Onsen, stopping at a local liquor shop en route before enjoying the onsen hot spring baths. After a relaxing dip, we will head to our accommodation nearby – a Japanese ryokan inn. After a full course dinner, we will take a short stroll to Ryuonzaki Shrine where we will enjoy a kagura performance, a traditional theatrical performance featuring vibrantly adorned dancers depicting mythological tales accompanied by music.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Total walking: 11.5km

Total elevation gain: 392m

 

Day 3 Oda~Gotsu

Early risers are welcome to take a dip in Motoyu Onsen, the baths that we visited yesterday (they are open from 5am!), before breakfast. After breakfast, we will take the coach to the kagura mask workshop of Mr. Kobayashi – here you can try your hand painting a kagura mask. We will then head to Kimura Kawara where we will learn about the history of and techniques used in making the unique red roof tiles found in this region, followed by lunch.

After lunch we will drive to Yamabe Jingu Shrine, touring the grounds and hearing about the history of the region and viewing the scrolls kept there. We will then take a walk along the Gotsuhonmachi Highway, starting at the Former Gotsu Town Post Office and heading along the recently closed Sanko Rail Line. We will drop by a one hundred year old dorayaki pancake bakery and then walk along the Former Sanin Road cobblestones where we will hear more about the history of the Sanko Line.

After our walk, we will take the coach to Asari House, a century old traditional house that has been renovated into a guesthouse and creative space. Hear we will hear about the history of these old style houses and the region, take a tour of the house and rest in the cafe. We will then head to our accommodation for the night, a ryokan with hot spring baths.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Total walking: 3km

Total elevation gain: 20m

 

Day 4 Gotsu~Uzui~Asuna~Onan

After breakfast, we will visit a traditional Japanese flute workshop, the owner, who has been crafting flutes for over 50 years, is over 90 years old. We will then visit the house of a legendary river fisherman, Mr. Amano. Here, you will have the opportunity to hear Mr. Amano’s life story and engage in discussion with him as well as view his many beautifully drawn paintings depicting life as a river fisherman. Depending on the season, we may also be able to see him take his fishing boat out into the river.

We will then take the coach to the small village of Uzui where we will enjoy a lunch feast lovingly made by locals using local seasonal produce. Uzui is famous for its station, the tallest station in Japan and part of the closed Sanko Line. We will hear about the history of Uzui Station following lunch. Following Uzui, we will head to the Ikezuki Sake Brewery in Asuna by coach. You will have the chance to tour the brewery, learn more about the sake making process and taste a range of their products, with the opportunity to buy if you wish. We will then head to Kandani, a beautiful village with picturesque rice terraces sculpting the landscape. We will walk from Kamita to Kaizumi, Hasumi – said to be the town ‘closest to heaven’. Here, we will hear about the social problems surrounding depopulation, and on a lighter note, about the famous peach blossom.

We will then head to our accommodation for the night where we will have an early dinner before heading to a kagura practice session. Here, you will be able to see performers practice their routines as well take part in a short dance class.

 

Accommodation: Japanese inn

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Total walking: 3.8km

Total elevation gain: 80m

 

Day 5 Onan~Miyoshi

On our final full day, we will head to Hirasa Ueda in Onan where we will take a walk from Hirasa Ueda to Gonokawa River Sakugi Canoe Park, enjoying the riverside scenery and natural sites. At Gonokawa River Sakugi Canoe Park, we will work up an appetite with a canoe along the river, followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch, we will visit the Tamazakura Sake Brewery in Mizuho where you will be able to try and buy this sake made from locally produced rice varieties and locally sourced natural spring water. We will then head to a kid’s club in Onan where you will be able to enjoy a cultural exchange with local children, taking part in various activities with them. From here, we will take the coach to Miyoshi, a town in Hiroshima Prefecture where a last night’s accommodation will be.

 

Accommodation: Japanese hotel

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Total walking: 8.4km

Total elevation gain: 176m

 

Day 6 Miyoshi~Hiroshima

After breakfast, we will head to Miyoshi town centre where we will watch a short show and hear a talk about traditional Japanese dolls at the Tsujimura Jusaburo Doll Museum. Following this, we will take a walk around Miyoshi starting at Ozekiyama Station where we will hear the last part of the Sanko Line story. After our walk, we will take the coach back to Hiroshima Station where the tour will disband.

 

Meals: Breakfast provided

Total walking: 2km

Total elevation gain: 20m

 

Izumo – Izumo, on the northern coast of Shimane Prefecture, is known as the ‘land of the gods’ and is the origin of many of Japan’s mythological tales. It is particularly famous for being the location of Japan’s oldest shinto shrine, Izumo Taisha. It is also well known for its soba noodles, which we will enjoy for lunch on the first day.

 

Iwami Ginzan – Iwami Ginzan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed for the remnants, locations and artefacts relating to the underground silver mines that were used for 400 years until 1923.

 

Oda – Oda is home to Motoyu Onsen, a hot spring bath loved by locals. We will enjoy a bathing experience here as well as spend the night at a traditional Japanese ryokan in. In the evening we will take a stroll to the local shrine where we will enjoy watching a kagura performance.

 

Gotsu – Gotsu is a city on the Gonokawa River as well as a stop on the Sanko Line. It is the smallest and least populated city in Shimane but it is also home to a wonderful one hundred year old dorayaki pancake pancake, a perfect snack on our walk along the Gotsuhonmachi Highway.

 

Uzui – Uzui is a small village in a picturesque valley on the Sanko Line. Here, you can enjoy a locally produced freshly cooked feast at a popular guesthouse.

 

Onan – Onan is a town home to the Ikezuki Sake Brewery as well as a village on the outskirts known as the closest town to heaven, Hasumi, where you can appreciate the beauty of rice terraces expanding out into the distance.

 

Miyoshi – Miyoshi is a town in Hiroshima Prefecture and the last stop on our tour. Here, we will learn about traditional Japanese dolls as well as the final chapter of the Sanko Line story.