Enjoy travelling like a pilgrim along paths less travelled as you explore the coastlines, forests and towns of Shimane – a Prefecture commonly referred to as the ‘Land of the Gods’ thanks to the important role it has played inspiring Japanese mythology and folklore for more than a thousand years.
- Trip Outline
Shimane Prefecture – much loved by Heartland JAPAN staff and guests alike – is situated within Japan’s Chugoku Region and straddles the coast of the Sea of Japan. Here you can find the Shimane Peninsula, boasting both coastal and mountainous landscapes and home to some of Japan’s most captivating history and mysteries. Shimane Peninsula was once upon a time a well-known destination for its pilgrimage of the Forty-Two bays: pilgrims would stop to each one of these seashores and worship the Gods at the nearby shrines, often famous for hosting spirits.
Nowadays the Peninsula still hosts some events dedicated to this Pilgrimage, and it is also the perfect escape for anyone who wishes to truly experience the wonders of Japan while immersed in its natural beauty and inspiring legends. As you make your way across the area, you’ll soon come to understand why Shimane was supposedly chosen by the Japanese Gods as the best location in the country to host their yearly conference.
But there’s more to discover, as Shimane Peninsula is not what you would expect from a classic spiritual destination: Ghosts and Gods, beaches and breweries – our specially-crafted Heartland JAPAN tour has it all. What’s even more, you’ll have ample opportunities to meet and build genuine relationships with the people who live and work within the prefecture; from livelihoods to legends, the enthusiastic locals are eager to share their knowledge, experiences and passions with you not as a guest, but as a friend.
An unforgettable adventure awaits.
- Treat your tastebuds to a traditional ‘Shojin Ryori’ dinner – a truly special dining experience inspired by the eating habits of vegetarian Buddhist monks
- Take a dip in the rejuvenating and healing waters of the “Onsen of Gods”, believed to be the oldest in Japan
- Learn about the works and ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn, who wrote the internationally-appreciated “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things” inspired by Japan’s ancient legends
- View the stunning coastal landscape of Kaka Bay from a new perspective on a special boat tour
- Visit Hinomisaki Lighthouse – the tallest in Japan – and explore the local shops that surround it
- Pay your respects at Izumo Taisha, one of the most ancient and important shrines in the country
- Travel around the prefecture by bicycle for a truly immersive adventure ‘off the beaten track’
- Sample local produce on a tour of a soy sauce factory and sake brewery
You’ll meet your guide in Osaka Umeda for introductions and a quick tour briefing before travelling to Daisen via bus with a short stop for lunch on the way. Upon arriving in Daisen, the group will then check in to the night’s accommodation and drop off any luggage before walking to the nearby Daisen Tourism Information Centre. Starting from the information centre you will then enjoy a guided walking tour of the Daisen Beech Forest, surrounded by the beauty of the natural landscape, before returning to your accommodation for some free time (as well as an opportunity to sign up for some zazen meditation) before a special ‘Shojin Ryori’ style dinner consisting of delicious dishes containing no animal products and served following the traditions of Buddhist Monks.
After breakfast on day two, you’ll board a private bus on your way to the Adachi Museum to explore its remarkable gardens and take in the collections of modern Japanese art. At the nearby Yasugibushi Engeikan for lunch and a special performance of Yasugibushi, a famous folk song that originated from the area. In the afternoon you’ll travel to Tamazukuri Onsen, considered to be Japan’s oldest onsen and commonly referred to the “Onsen of God”. Mentioned in Sei Shonagon’s “Pillow Book” (dating back to around 1000AD), it is believed that the waters of Tamazukuri can restore youth and heal you entirely from illness and ailments. You’ll have plenty of time to relax at your accommodation in the evening, with the option to enjoy some ‘onsen hopping’ before dinner after a busy yet highly enjoyable day.
Day three will begin with a wonderful and relaxing cruise along the scenic Matsue river, followed by a visit to the feudal Matsue Castle which dates back to 1611. The final stop of the morning will be the nearby Matsue Horikawa Local Beer Hall for lunch. In the afternoon you’ll enjoy a few hours of free time to explore the city by rental bike, with maps provided to help guide you. Afterwards, the group will rejoin for a visit to the Lafcadio Hearn Museum to learn more about the influential and world-renowned writer whose ghost stories and works are still bought and read today. After returning the rental bicycles and travelling back to your accommodation via private bus for dinner, the group will enjoy one more activity: a walking tour inspired by Kwaidan, the ghost stories and works of Lafcadio Hearn.
On day four you’ll travel by private bus to Mihonoseki for a guided walking tour guided by a “jinja girl” - the nickname given to a girl who has a passion for shrines and knows more than most about them - that will take you to sites such as the charming Miho Jinja shrine. After lunch the group will move on to Kakaura to enjoy a boat cruise along the Kaka Bay. This will be followed by a visit to Inomeura to explore the impressive Inome Cave before finally travelling to the night’s accommodation for dinner and some free time for relaxing. Both Kaka Bay and Inome Bay are stops along the Forty-Two Bay Pilgrimage route.
You’ll start day five peacefully with a visit to the nearby Hinomisaki Shrine in the Hinomisaki Bay (second stop of the Forty-Two Bay route), followed by a trip to Hinomisaki Lighthouse (the tallest in Japan) and some time to explore its surrounding shops. Travelling by private bus to Sagi Bay, another stop of the Pilgrimage, there will be a walking tour of the fishing village to enjoy before lunch. Make sure to eat as much as you can - you’ll need plenty of energy when you climb into a kayak for your next activity exploring Sagiura Bay. In the afternoon, you’ll have plenty of free time to rest after a busy day and to make use of your accommodation’s facilities both before and after dinner.
On day six you’ll make a visit to another power-spot of the Pilgrimage and one of Japan’s most ancient and significant shrines: Izumo Taisha. No one truly knows how old this amazing site is, but we do know that it was referenced in records dating back to 700AD. It’s believed that the powerful deity known as Okuninushi no Okami, the creator of Japan, is enshrined at Izumo Taisha and that the eight million deities and gods associated with Shinto descend upon the shrine each year for a special meeting to determine the fate of lovers. At the nearby Inasanohama Beach, your guide will then explain the local ‘welcoming of the gods’ ceremony which takes place to mark the beginning of the yearly deity meeting and welcome participants to the human realm. Lunch will be followed by a short drive to Hirata, where the group will enjoy a walking tour that will stop at a local soy sauce factory and a sake brewery for tours and tasting as well as several significant historical sites. This will be the final activity of the day - afterwards, the group will head to your nightly accommodation for free time and dinner.
On the final day, you will travel to Yonago Station by bus, where you will have a small break to pick up a boxed lunch to take with you on the remainder of your journey. From Yonago Station you’ll then travel to Osaka Umeda, where your tour once began and where it will now come to an end.
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