Delve into the myths and legends of Japan as you immerse yourself in the local culture.
Fitness: ★ Skill: ●
- Visit Izumo Taisha, the oldest shrine in Japan.
- Watch a martial arts sword display and try your hand at beating iron for blade making.
- Enjoy a hands-on pottery making experience at Yakimono no Sato.
- Take in a performance of Kagura, the oldest performing art in Japan.
- Paint and decorate your very own Kagura mask.
This fully guided trip, suitable for anyone who can walk for 1 to 5 hours, is a 3 day, 2 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, guesthouses and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns featuring tatami flooring and futon bedding). The minimum group size for this tour is six persons, and maximum is twelve 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, gave him what is now thought to be the oldest Shinto shrine, Izumo Taisha. Although the exact date that 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 five tonnes – the largest in the whole of Japan. Every year, in the tenth month of the lunar calendar (in October or November), 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, this month is known as Kannazuki, ‘the month without Gods’, in Izumo, this month 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, producing 38 tonnes 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.
As you explore this region on our short walking tour, you will have the opportunity to gain an insight into the captivating and fascinating myths and legends of Japan, while also receiving the chance to meet locals and immerse yourself in local culture and crafts.
Day 1 – Hiroshima, Izumo and Iwami Ginzan
Today the group will meet on the 2nd floor of the Shinkansen Ticket Barriers at Hiroshima Station at 8am. From the station we will take a chartered bus to the ancient town of Izumo, on the sea of the Japan Coast.
After enjoying a lunch of the local speciality, soba, we will then walk from Inasanohama Beach to Izumo Taisha, the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan.
Next, it’s time to head to Okuizomo’s Tatara Tokenkan – an iron and Katana (traditional Japanese sword) museum where you can enjoy watching a martial arts sword display, have a go at beating iron into a blade, and hear about why this region is famous for its iron.
Accommodation: Japanese guesthouse
Meals: Lunch and dinner provided
Day 2 – Iwami Ginzan and Oda
On the second day, we will focus on Iwami Ginzan, which was home to Japan’s longest-running silver mine from the 17th century to the 1920s. The town itself is very well preserved with old style machiya houses lining the quaint streets, and some of these houses have been renovated into charming cafes and shops.
Following a stroll around the town and mines, we will then have a simple yet tasty lunch at a local cafe before heading to Yakimono no Sato for a hands-on pottery experience. After the experience, there will be a short walking tour before heading to Yunotsu Onsen.
Having checked into our ryokan and enjoying a delicious dinner, we will then take a short walk to the local shrine for a performance of Kagura, the oldest performing art in Japan. Lose yourself in mythological legends as you are immersed in the beat of the drum, the vibrant costumes and lively dances.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided
Day 3 – Oda and Gotsu
Our final day begins at Mr Kobayashi’s Kagura Mask Workshop. Here, you can try your hand at painting a Kagura mask and hear from Mr Kobayashi himself about the art and fascinating history of Kagura.
For lunch we will make our way to the riverside town of Gotsu, where we will enjoy a walking tour of the area while hearing about the history and closure of the Sanko Train Line and stopping by a one hundred year old dorayaki sweet bakery!
From Gotsu we will return to Hiroshima by bus, where the tour will end at 18:30.
Meals: Breakfast and lunch provided
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.
Yunotsu Onsen – Yunotsu Onsen is home to many hot spring baths and ryokans. In the evening we will take a stroll to the local shrine where we will enjoy watching an intimate 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 shop, a perfect snack on our walk along the Gotsuhonmachi Highway.
Misato – Misato is a small town close to the Ginzan Highway – a route linking Iwami Ginzan with Hiroshima – and is home to a fantastic lodging that serves seasonal meals, which we will enjoy for lunch. It is also the location of Canoe No Sato, where we will enjoy an afternoon of kayaking on the Gonokawa River.
Kawamoto – Kawamoto is a small town in the heart of Shimane where we will enjoy a traditional drumming workshop with a local drumming group, as well as the Zen Buddhist temple of Choko-ji, where we will enjoy a morning meditation session.
Uzui – Uzui is a small village in a picturesque valley on the Sanko Line. Here, you can enjoy a locally produced, freshly cooked feast for lunch.
Oda – Oda is a town home to 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.
Onan – Onan is home to the beautiful rice terrace villages of Ueda and Hirasa, steeped in the history of iron production. It is also the locations of Tamazakura Sake Brewery, one of three sake breweries in the region.
Miyoshi – Miyoshi is a town in Hiroshima Prefecture and the last stop on our tour. Here, we will watch cormorant fishing in the summer, and learn about Japan’s historic love of ghosts and ghouls.