After my last trip to Japan in November 2017, I would have never thought that I’d be back so quickly ^^ Quite unexpectedly, this year too, lovely ladies from Tokyo Luxey offered me an opportunity to visit Tokyo and another destination in Japan. A destination that turned out to be Shimane prefecture located on Honshu.
That’s pretty much how I happened to be landing in Japan for a second year in a row and I couldn’t have been more excited about it as I knew that wonderful experiences were awaiting me. The most delicious foods, crazy city life, charming villages and, what I enjoy the most, lots of photos to be taken.
The first day in Tokyo turned out to be even more frenetic than the last time. The visit started with some of its busiest parts, such as Shibuya and Harajuku with its famous Tekeshita-dori, the cradle of "kawaii" culture.
It was my first time in Harajuku and I really loved it! The shops with quite improbable clothes, multicolored cocktails, countless stands with pancakes and even a gigantic rainbow cotton candy - there is absolutely everything and I could spend hours exploring Takeshita street alone.
At the same time, way too often people tend to focus on Harajuku only, while it is equally interesting to stroll in the narrow streets of the nearby Ura-Harajuku. It’s a pedestrian zone with lots of independent shops and cafes that create an easy-going atmosphere. There are less people, so that you can actually enjoy the walk.
Looking for interesting sights continued in the district of Daikanyama, situated not far from Shibuya. An attentive traveler will find there Kyu Asakura house, a beautifully preserved private residence built in 1919 that gives a glimpse of a traditional Japanese home. With its wooden architecture and the meticulously maintained garden, it truly is a hidden gem of Daikanyama.
After this busy first day, during which I walked through several areas of Tokyo, I was delighted by the dinner at Le Japon. This small restaurant has only a few tables and the atmosphere was very peaceful and relaxing. A perfect place to enjoy raw fish, fresh vegetables and a glass of white wine.
It was hard to believe for me that already next day I was going to be in a totally different place, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here I was, catching an early morning flight to Shimane prefecture.
The discovery of the region began with a visit to the great Izumo Shrine - one of Japan's most important Shinto shrines.
Rainy weather only added mysterious vibe to the religious atmosphere that reigned there. Thanks to the guides that accompanied me, I learned that once a year, the deities meet there to decide, among other things, about human relationships. No wonder that I saw at least several marriages being held within the shrine.
Next on the list was Hinomisaki lighthouse, a great place to have a stroll after a good lunch. The sea, the changing sky and a tall, white lighthouse allowed some rather picturesque shots.
The visit continued to the Hinomisaki Shrine, a beautiful place with a large amount of torii gates.
After a day spent by the seaside, I made it to the village of Yunotsu just in time for tasty dinner at a restaurant situated right next to the ryokan where I would spend the night. I totally loved the whole place - an old wooden house, full of charm, with a modern decor.
However, after dinner the evening was far from being over as I was going to attend the Iwami Kagura show at Ryuonzaki Shrine in Yunotsu. There were two performances. The first represented a battle between Tenjin, the god of studies, and his rival Tokihira.
The next one, sparkling with humor and playfulness, told the story of Ebisu, the god of merchants and prosperity. I spent a truly amazing time admiring the fantastic costumes of the characters and learning more about Japanese mythology, while laughing with the rest of the audience.
Among the next day’s many attractions, I loved the most the little village of Omori. Heavy downpour only added to the incredible atmosphere of this charming village full of old, wooden houses.
There were very few tourists which allowed to fully enjoy a walk in this beautiful place.
It’s not possible to visit Omori without having a look at the Rakan-ji temple. The souls of people working in the nearby Iwami Ginza silver mine are resting there. Numerous small stone bridges lead to Buddhist statues, housed in three caves. It was truly an unforgettable place to visit.
As much as I enjoyed my time in Omori, the time has finally come to visit a place I was probably most eager to discover - Matsue Castle.
Despite coming to Japan several times before, I never had the opportunity to visit a castle. And for sure I was not going to be disappointed with this very first one that I was about to discover.
The Matsue Castle is very imposing and elegant at the same time, thanks to the slightly swooping roofs that its silhouette look so graceful and majestic. It was with great pleasure that I explored the interiors of the castle too and learned more about its history.
Matsue castle is actually one of the very few castles left in Japan, having an authentic donjon. Once on the top floor of the castle, I was dazzled by a breathtaking, panoramic view. A perfect opportunity to take some wide angle shots.
As the weather was getting even worse, the best thing to do after visiting the castle was having a delicious matcha tea and some local wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) at tea pavilion in Meimei-an garden. It was a true moment of relaxation…
In the evening I arrived at Hotel Gyokusen, for a dinner during which I was blown away by the presentation of all dishes, even though I couldn’t wait to get back to my futon.
In the morning of my last day at Shimane prefecture, it was really hard for me to believe how quickly the time passed.
I started the day with the visit in Gessho-ji temple.
I really loved this little morning walk in the middle of lush vegetation and just as rainy as previously.
Next on the list was lunch at Koyokan ryokan that turned out to be quite a surprise. For the first time ever, I had the opportunity to taste 100% vegetarian, Buddhist cuisine.
It was a real taste discovery and I’ve never eaten anything like it. It was a great pleasure to enjoy this outstanding meal in such a quiet place, located just next to the Yasugi Kiyomizu-dera temple that I visited just after the meal.
I spent the last hours of the trip visiting the Miho Shrine and getting lots in little, narrow streets of the charming village of Mihonoseki. This small port village composed of old, wooden houses and where there were hardly any tourists delighted me with an atmosphere like from another time. This was, without a doubt an ideal way to end my getaway in the Shimane prefecture.
This short trip, divided between Tokyo and the Shimane prefecture, was probably one of the best ways to get to know a little more about Japan and what it has to offer. Those who appreciate the extraordinary mix of an ultra modern city, with small villages that will make you travel in time, should definitely consider visiting a Japanese countryside and why not in Shimane!
Stay tuned for another post about the second part of my stay in Japan, that’ll be online very soon ;)