San-in, the “shadow of the mountains”, also often finds itself in the shadow of other regions throughout Japan. Located on the western side of Honshu, facing the Sea of Japan on the north side of the Chugoku Mountain range, San-in is made up of the two prefectures of Shimane and Tottori. There are no bullet trains, no large-scale industrial areas, and no major commercial centers. So what exactly is there about the San-in region that would appeal to people to come and visit?
Having avoided much of the rampant, indiscriminate overdevelopment that can be seen in other areas of the country, the San-in region has preserved much of what gives Japan its appeal. The history, culture, lifestyle, and unspoilt natural scenery here all connect to the roots of Japan, and those who are seeking the qualities that give Japan its uniqueness will not be disappointed by what they find here in San-in.
Many of the quintessential parts of Japanese culture find their origins here. Locations throughout the region have strong connections to Japanese mythology. From archaeological sites which shook concepts of ancient Japanese history, to temples and shrines whose architecture have confounded experts, mysteries abound here in San-in. There is even one area here where all of the gods throughout Japan are said to gather once a year. This distinctive nature of the San-in region has created an area unlike any other in Japan, and it all awaits you.
Many wonderful locations and experiences await visitors to the eastern part of San’in. The rolling hills of the Tottori Sand Dunes that stretch to the Sea of Japan. The star-filled skies that hang above Saji Town. The Edo Period post-town atmosphere that has been preserved in the buildings and townscape of Chizu Town. Misasa Town’s magnificent Nageire-do (“Thrown-in Hall”), a temple building built in such a precarious location that its name presumes that the builder just threw it in from the base of the mountain. The sea kayaking at Uradome Coast, which gives you a chance to enjoy the amazing beauty of the San’in Geopark from the ocean. And when you’ve finished a long day of touring around east San’in, you can soak your worries away at any number of the wonderful hot springs here, from the various locations around Lake Togo to the hot springs near Tottori City.
Central San’in is where most of the people in San’in live. Matsue City is home to Matsue Castle, a national treasure and one of only twelve castles throughout the country that still exists in its original form. Visitors both domestic and international flock to Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Izumo City, as do all of the gods from around the country once every year during the tenth month of the old Japanese calendar. Unnan City and Okuizumo Town in Shimane and Hino and Nichinan Towns in Tottori are home to a rich tradition of tatara steelmaking which created the high-quality steel necessary for making samurai swords. Sakaiminato’s fish market is particularly well-known for its succulent hauls of Matsuba crab, but you’ll also find an area of the town dedicated to one of its most famous sons, the late cartoonist Mizuki Shigeru. And the beautiful Oki Islands, with their own unique scenery and culture, are just a short ferry ride away.
A trip to the western part of the San’in Region offers many wonderful sights and experiences. The old castle town of Tsuwano gives glimpses into the past, particularly with its yabusame (archery on horseback) festival held every April. Oda City’s Omori Town is home to the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, a World Heritage Site which once provided nearly one-third of the world’s silver. Hamada City’s bustling fish market provides seafood beyond compare. There are opportunities to see performances of the rich tradition of Iwami Kagura here year-round. Traditional washi papermaking techniques have been preserved here. The natural beauty of the Gonokawa River that flows through west San’in on its way to the Sea of Japan is a perfect companion to a drive or bike ride. Also, no visit to Japan would be complete without a stop by an onsen (hot spring), and there are plenty of places in west San’in where you can soak your cares away.