Shimane Prefecture Overview



  • Facing north onto the Sea of Japan in the western corner of Japan, Shimane Prefecture is known as one of the least populated prefectures of the country. In spite of its small population, Shimane has had a significant influence on Japan over the last millennium and is bursting with ancient stories and historical features that can be uncovered across the region.

    One of Shimane’s main features is its scenic stretch of coastline that follows the Sea of Japan along the northern side of the west of Honshu. The majority of the prefecture’s cities sit along the coast with the inland area mostly dominated by the Chugoku Mountain which also offers ample hiking opportunities in summer and snow sports in winter. Much of the nation’s folklore highlights the fact that Shimane played an important role in the creation of the Japanese race, as well as archaeological finds which have suggested that Shimane may have been one of the first places to be settled by humans in the country as far back as 120,000 years ago.

    The main areas of Shimane include the western region of Iwami and Tsuwano, Izumo and Matsue to the east, and the Oki islands which are found directly north of the capital of the prefecture, Matsue. Izumo Taisha Shrine is one of the country’s largest shrines and is said to be the country’s first Shinto shrine. The rural town of Iwami was put on the map over 500 years ago when silver was discovered in the region. At one point Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was contributing so much silver that Japan was to thank for the production of one-third of the world’s silver. Shimane is also believed by many to be the birthplace of sake. Visitors to Saka Shrine in Izumo come to worship the sake god and show their appreciation by downing a glass of the sake brewed on the grounds.

    Visitors to the castle town of Matsue can jump on a ferry 40 minutes north to the Oki islands, an archipelago of 180 islands only four of which are permanently inhabited. Dogo (also known as Okinoshima), Nishinoshima, Nakanoshima, and Chiburijima boast beautiful coastlines, unique rock formations, and unrivaled views back towards mainland Japan. Few people travel out of their way to this rural location so most visitors can enjoy discovering them in peace at their own pace.

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