Spend your next vacation in the quaint countryside of Shimane, which offers an equally charming springtime experience minus the crowd!

Izumo City

Steeped in mythology, Izumo Taisha is one of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, which is also home to the world’s largest shimenawa (sacred straw rope, which represents a barrier between mortals and divine beings. 

After a modest yet satisfying meal of Izumo udon at Santa (山太), I enjoyed the quintessential Izumo dessertzenzai (Japanese red bean porridge served with mochi). This means “the gods are here” in local dialect.

The nearby Former Taisha Station (旧大社駅) was one of Japan’s grandest train stations.

Travel back in time with manual ticket machines and old-school waiting rooms. Hop into the retro locomotive that once ferried thousands of pilgrims from around Japan!

Head over to Hinomisaki Lighthouse (日御碕灯台), which has been operating since 1903.

Climbing up the spiral staircase with 163 steps was a challenge. Brace yourself for the unbelievable strong winds!

Beyond the rugged coastline is the sacred island of Fumishima, accessible only to a Shinto priest. Here, thousands of black-tailed gulls come to breed and lay their eggs.

Matsue City

As one of 12 original castles of Japan, Matsue Castle has survived countless battles. Its scarred exterior is a testament to its history.

With adjustable roofs to accommodate the low-lying bridges and a kotatsu (heated table) for chilly days, a Horikawa boat cruise around the castle moat marks your visit to the “City of Water”.

A great snack to sample is agonoyaki (grilled flying fish sausage). Get them assorted flavours such as seaweed or miso.

Take a pleasant walk around the vibrant castle town. Nestled amongst samurai residences is Yakumoan (八雲庵).

Here you can enjoy a variation of Izumo soba, known as wariko soba, served in round, stacked bowls called “wariko”. With lots to explore and eat, it’s time for you to visit this overlooked prefecture too!

(This feature first appeared on WAttention Singapore magazine, Jan/Feb 2018 Vol. 42) 

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