島根県――神々と世界遺産で知られる地

[From November Issue 2013]

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Shimane Prefecture is located in the Chugoku region of Honshu (Japan’s main island) on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Until recently many Japanese people didn’t know where Shimane Prefecture was, or confused it with neighboring Tottori Prefecture, but now the prefecture is drawing more attention because of the historic Izumo Taisha (Izumo Grand Shrine) and the Iwami Ginzan silver mine, which has been designated as a World Culture Heritage Site. A land with a deep connection to Shinto legends, the surnames of many of its citizens have a connection to Shinto gods.

Izumo Taisha is dedicated to Okuninushi no Okami, a deity associated with matchmaking. The shrine has such a long history that it’s even mentioned in Japan’s oldest historical chronicle, the “Kojiki.” The tenth month of the old lunar calendar is known as kanna-zuki (month without gods) throughout Japan, but in Shimane Prefecture it is known as kamiari-zuki (month the gods are present). This is because all the gods from across Japan gather at Izumo Taisha during this period. To this day the Shinto ritual of kamimukaesai (god welcoming festival) is performed around November.

For the first time in 60 years, a process known as senguu (transfer ritual), involving the temporary removal of the goshintai (objects of worship believed to contain the spirit of the gods) to repair the shrines, was performed recently. In May this year the main deity, Okuninushi no Okami, was successfully transferred back to the honden (main hall). It is believed that this process not only helps to preserve the wooden building, but also helps to purify the resting place of the deity, thereby restoring his energy.

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Lake Shinji

Besides this shrine, there are many other shrines associated with the Shinto gods in the Izumo area, as well as “power spots” (locations thought to be flowing with mystical energy). At Yaegaki Shrine in Matsue City people use coins placed on washi (Japanese paper) to have their fortunes told. Legend has it that Suga Shrine in Unnan City was the first palace that Susanoo no Mikoto built. One of the deities appearing in the Kojiki, Susanoo defeated the Eight-Forked Serpent, Yamata no Orochi – a monster that had been devouring one young woman each year.

Next to Izumo Taisha is Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo. Bronze swords and other artifacts related to ancient Izumo, as well as documents concerning the history of Shimane Prefecture itself can be found on display there. In addition, there are an array of gift shops and food stalls lining Shinmon Dori, the road that leads up to the shrine.

The prefecture capital, Matsue City is also known as the Water City. Built in the 17th century, Matsue Castle is an important cultural property of Japan. English speaking volunteer tour guides are always available here. A popular attraction even in winter is the “Horikawa Meguri Yuransen” (Hori River Sightseeing Cruise). The Hori River surrounds the castle and it takes about 50 minutes to sail along it. Lake Shinji, located within the city itself, is known for shijimi clam fishing. However, the lake is also a popular destination for lovers wanting to catch a beautiful sunset.

Arriving in Japan in the 19th century as a correspondent for an American publishing company, Lafcadio HEARN is a Greek man who introduced Japan to the rest of the world. A collection of Japanese ghost stories that Hearn compiled and simplified is well known to Japanese. In 1896 he acquired Japanese citizenship and changed his name to KOIZUMI Yakumo. His house and a memorial hall dedicated to his memory are located in Matsue.

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Adachi Museum of Art

The Adachi Museum of Art is located in Yasugi City, about 15 kilometers east of Matsue. Known for its beautiful, spacious Japanese garden, the museum contains numerous works of art, including sculptures and Japanese-style paintings by artists such as YOKOYAMA Taikan. An American magazine about Japanese gardens has listed this garden as the best in Japan for ten years in a row.

In terms of world renowned sites, Iwami Ginzan, in Ohda City, is a must see. The remains of an old silver mine that was worked for 400 years, there – except for the year-end and New Year holidays – you can see tool-scored walls, deep pits, and tunnels which are so high as to make you crane your head right back. The mines were registered in 2007 as a World Cultural Heritage Site. To get a better understanding of the site it’s necessary to have a tour guide explain its significance. Portable audio guides, in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, are available for 500 yen. Close to the mines are: the Iwami Ginzan World Cultural Heritage Center and the “Streets of Omori,” which still retains the atmosphere of the Edo period (17th-19th centuries).

For those wishing to view nature at its most dynamic, a visit to Oki Islands is highly recommended. This chain of over 180 small and large islands contains geoparks in which are located the Matengai Sea Cliffs – which look as if the earth has been sliced open with a knife – and the Sekiheki Cliffs (Red Cliffs). Also popular is Akao Observatory where you can see cows and horses roaming around eating grass, and Amanbou Seaview Cruise where you can enjoy the feeling of taking a stroll out in the middle of the sea.

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Iwami Ginzan

In 2012, a cosmetic company conducted a dermatological survey and announced that the people of Shimane Prefecture have the fairest skin in Japan. It is thought that this is because the ratio of smokers there is relatively low and that the favorable climate conditions in the prefecture naturally moisturizes the skin. In Shimane Prefecture there are over 60 hot springs, including one named “Bijin no Yu” or Spring of Beauties. Renowned as “nature’s skin lotion,” the waters of Tamatsukuri Hot Spring are especially thought to promote beautiful skin. Tonbara Hot Spring (Ramune Ginsen) is one of only a few naturally carbonated springs in Japan.

Since Shimane faces the ocean, a large amount of fish and shellfish can be caught there. When boiled in a salty-sweet soup, shijimi clams harvested in Lake Shinji are used in a popular dish called kanroni. In Shimane the tobiuo flying fish is known as “ago” and is consumed as kamaboko (a paste of minced and cooked fish). Izumo soba (buckwheat noodles) and Shimane beef are also local specialties.

Items traditionally crafted in the prefecture include stone garden lanterns and Japanese abacuses. Shussai tableware, Hii River washi, and intricate metal candle holders and vases are recommended as souvenirs.

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Kagura

Kagura (traditional song and dance numbers performed in honor of the gods) are popular in the Iwami area – in the western part of the prefecture – and performances depicting the defeat of the Eight-Forked Serpent are particularly colorful. Typically traditional performing arts have suffered from a lack of fresh blood, but here in Shimane Prefecture children become extremely familiar with kagura from an early age, even to the extent that some kindergartners play at putting on performances. Prajna masks are used in kagura plays and are also sold as decorative charms used to ward off evil spirits at the entrance of homes.

The flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Izumo Enmusubi Airport is about 80 minutes. The flight time to Hagi Iwami Airport is 90 minutes and to Yonago Airport about 80 minutes. The overnight limited express sleeper train “Sunrise Izumo” departs from JR Tokyo Station every day and takes roughly 12 hours to arrive at Izumoshi Station. Known as the “traveling business hotel,” passengers can relax in privacy. It is popular with women on their way home from work wishing to enjoy a comfortable trip to Shimane in the company of good friends.

Shimane Prefectural Tourism Federation

[2013年11月号掲載記事]

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島根県は本州中国地方、日本海側に面しています。少し前までは島根がどこにあるのかわからない人やお隣の鳥取県と間違える人がいましたが、長い歴史を持つ出雲大社や世界遺産になった石見銀山があることで最近注目されています。神話にゆかりのある地のため、神に関する名字の人が多い県です。

縁結びの神様として知られる大国主大神をまつる出雲大社。日本で一番古い歴史書とされている「古事記」に登場するほど歴史のある神社です。旧暦の10月を神無月(神のいない月)ともいいますが、島根では神在月(神がいる月)といいます。これは日本国中の神様がこの時期に出雲大社へ集まるからです。今も神様たちを迎える神事「神迎祭」が毎年11月頃に行われます。

ここでは60年ぶりに御神体を一時的に移動させ、神社を修造する「遷宮」が行われました。5月には主祭神の大国主大神が修理を終えた本殿に戻りました。遷宮によって木造建築の建物が維持されるだけでなく、神様のいる場所が清らかに保たれ、神様の力をリフレッシュさせるといわれています。

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宍道湖

この他にも出雲地方には神話ゆかりの神社やパワースポットがたくさんあります。八重垣神社(松江市)は和紙に硬貨を乗せる占いが人気ですし、須我神社(雲南市)はスサノオが初めて建てた宮といわれています。スサノオは古事記に登場する神の一人で、年に一度娘を食べていた怪物、ヤマタノオロチを退治しました。

出雲大社の隣には島根県立古代出雲歴史博物館があります。銅剣など古代出雲に関する展示や島根県全体の歴史について学べる資料が展示されています。また、大社前の神門通りはおみやげ屋や食べ物屋などが並びます。

県庁所在地の松江市は水の都といわれています。17世紀に建てられた松江城は国の重要文化財です。ここには常に英語を話すボランティアガイドがいます。松江城を取り囲む堀川を約50分かけて遊覧する「堀川めぐり遊覧船」は冬でも人気です。市内にある宍道湖はシジミ漁で知られていますが、夕日のきれいなデートスポットでもあります。

19世紀にアメリカの出版社の通信員として来日したラフカディオ・ハーンは日本を世界に紹介したギリシャ人です。ハーンによってわかりやすくまとめられた日本の怪談話は日本人に親しまれています。1896年に日本国籍を取り、小泉八雲と名乗るようになりました。松江には住んでいた家や記念館があります。

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足立美術館

松江から東へ15キロほど行ったところにある安来市には足立美術館があります。横山大観などの日本画や彫刻など多くの美術品を所蔵していますが、広く美しい日本庭園があることでも知られています。アメリカの日本庭園専門誌で10年連続で日本一の評価を受けました。

世界に知られた場所としては約400年にわたって採掘された鉱山遺跡、石見銀山(大田市)は外せません。年末年始を除き、削り跡の残る壁や、深い穴、見上げるほどの高さにある坑道を見学することができます。2007年に世界文化遺産に登録されましたが、その価値をより理解するにはガイドの説明が必要です。音声ガイド機(500円)を借りれば、英語、中国語、韓国語、日本語で説明を聞くことができます。近くには、石見銀山世界遺産センターや江戸時代(17~19世紀)の雰囲気が残る「大森の町並」などがあります。

ダイナミックな自然を見るなら大小180以上の島からなる隠岐諸島へ。ジオパークがあり、大地をナイフで切り取ったような摩天崖や赤壁が見られます。牛や馬がのんびりと草を食べる姿が見られる赤尾展望所や海中散歩気分が楽しめる海中展望船あまんぼうも人気です。

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石見銀山

2012年の化粧品会社による肌調査で「美肌県グランプリ」になったのは島根県です。肌のうるおいによい気象条件がそろっていることや喫煙率が低いためと考えられています。島根には温泉地が60ヵ所以上、なかには美人の湯といわれる温泉もあります。特に玉造温泉の水は美肌効果が期待できる天然の化粧水といわれています。また頓原天然炭酸温泉(ラムネ銀泉)は日本では珍しい炭酸泉です。

島根は海に面しているため、魚介類が多くとれます。宍道湖でとれるシジミを甘辛く煮付けた甘露煮は人気です。また、島根ではトビウオを「あご」と呼び、かまぼこ(すり身にして加熱したもの)にして食べます。出雲そばや島根和牛も名産です。

伝統工芸は、石灯ろう、そろばんなどがあります。おみやげには出西窯の食器や斐伊川和紙、また、ろうそく立てや花器などの鉄細工もおすすめです。

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神楽

県西部、石見地方では神楽(神へ奉納するための歌や舞い)が盛んで、特にヤマタノオロチ退治の演目は華やかです。通常、伝統芸能は後継者不足に悩まされるものですが、ここでは幼稚園児が神楽ごっこをして遊ぶほど子どもの頃から慣れ親しんでいます。神楽に登場する般若の面は玄関に飾る魔除けとしても販売されています。

羽田空港(東京)から出雲縁結び空港までは約80分、萩・石見まで約90分、米子まで約80分です。JR東京駅からは寝台特急列車サンライズ出雲が毎日運行しており、約12時間で出雲市駅に着きます。「走るビジネスホテル」といわれるほどプライバシーが保たれているため、仕事帰りに友達同士で楽しく過ごしながら島根へ行くのが女性に人気です。

島根県観光連盟

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