Despite Shimane’s rural nature, there is a pretty good train system connecting most parts of the coastal regions, and frequent connections to other prefectures. However, the Shinkansen (bullet train) does not pass through Shimane; it must be taken at Okayama (there is a direct connecting train from Izumo/Matsue) or at Hiroshima (there is a connecting bus from most Shimane towns).
The links below will give you information on the quickest/cheapest/most convenient way to get from A to B by train. Hyperdia has more options for filtering the search (e.g. untick shinkansen at the bottom to get local trains only).
Izumo sunrise is an overnight train to/from Tokyo, leaving Izumo at 7pm and arriving around 7am. Costs start from ~12,000yen one-way, depending on room choice.
The Seishun 18 Kippu is a seasonally available railway ticket, which gives you five days of unlimited, nationwide travel on local and rapid JR (Japan Railways) trains for only 11,500 yen (2,300 yen per day).
Japan Rail (JR) Pass – If you have family or friends coming to visit Japan, there are various discount tickets available for the shinkansen and other trains, such as the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. This pass entitles the holder to one, two, or three weeks of unlimited travel on any JR service, and even includes the JR ferry to Miyajima Island! Unfortunately, this pass can only be bought outside Japan, as it is only for foreign tourists. Numerous JETs have abused this over the years by getting a visiting friend to validate their pass for them, and trusting that the platform guards are only interested in the pass date and not the name. Using the pass is the best way to travel around Japan if you are covering large distances, but there are penalties to pay if you are not a tourist, so be warned.
Matsue-Osaka Discount Ticket – For those people wanting to go from Matsue to Osaka, there is a waribiki (discount ticket) for the Yakumo train and shinkansen. It costs ¥ 13,000 for a return ticket. (A one-way option is available but has no discount). Take the Yakumo train to Okayama, and then change to the shinkansen for a convenient route to Osaka for a few days’ holiday. The only limitation is you must complete the return leg of your journey within six days.
Highway buses are the cheapest and usually most common choice of travel for Shimane JETs. The link above offers booking only from Matsue to Tokyo and Hiroshima, and unfortunately it’s the only English website for Shimane buses. All highway buses leaving Matsue and Izumo can be booked through 発車オ～ライネット (Japanese only), although if you don’t speak Japanese it can be much easier to use a travel agent. Usually the fee is small for booking bus tickets.
Buses from Hamada, Izumo and Matsue connect to most places in Japan; overnight buses in Shimane can be a good option, and are often more comfortable than night buses elsewhere.
Toll roads, are not cheap in Japan but can be worth the money if travelling in a group or as a matter of convenience. This website (Japanese only) will calculate the cost of using the toll roads between any two points in Japan. The following website explains how to use the calculator in English.
Electronic Toll Collection Cards (ETC Cards) are commonly used in Japan, and are a cheaper and more convenient way of using toll roads. An ETC card can be obtained in one of two ways: The first and likely the most difficult route is to get a Japanese credit card with ETC built in. These cards have the fee taken directly out of your credit card account. The second way is to get a personal ETC card. These cards can only be used at ETC booths and are linked to your bank account. This requires a 40,000yen deposit that is returned to you when you are finished with the card.
Shimane has three airports: Izumo, Hagi-Iwami (Masuda) and Oki. Domestic flights, unless booked well in advance are usually a lot more expensive than bus or train alternatives, although occasionally can be a good deal with an international connection. From Izumo, there are JAL flights to Oki, Fukuoka, Osaka, Tokyo and the budget airline, Fuji Dream fly to Nagoya. Hagi-Iwami has flights to Tokyo with ANA and seasonal flights to Osaka. From Oki, JAL is the sole operator with flights to Izumo and Osaka (if you book between two to three months in advance, the cost is only 11,000 yen – similar to what you’d pay for the ferry and bus).
Yonago Airport just over the Tottori border is a good option for those living in Eastern Shimane, with a direct bus from Matsue Station and international flights to Korea and Hong Kong too. Hiroshima and Okayama Airports are also good options for those flying domestically and internationally with buses and Spring Japan flights often being one of the quickest and cheapest ways of getting to Tokyo.
Osaka Kansai is the airport of choice for most Shimane JETs travelling internationally with flight connections to all corners of the world. The cheapest way to get there is normally a bus to central Osaka and a train out to the airport.
There are several ferries a day that operate between the mainland and the Oki Islands, departing from Shichirui and Sakaiminato (Tottori). Beware that the ferries are often cancelled during the winter months and typhoon periods due to high waves. The Rainbow (express ferry) is often cancelled on days of high winds. See more travel information here.
Although the most common ferry route to Korea is through Fukuoka-Busan in Kyuushu, there are two ferries that leave near Shimane.
The “Eastern Dream” (DBS Cruise Ferry) leaves once a week from Sakaiminato (in Tottori Prefecture, 30 minutes away from Matsue), to Donghae, Korea, and then on to Vladivostok, Russia. It is probably the cheapest way to travel overseas from Eastern Shimane.
Kampu Ferry departs daily from Shimonoseki (a 3 hour drive from Masuda).
This site (Japanese only) has information on campsites across Japan. Many of them are free and most aren’t marked on Google Maps. They usually have toilets and outdoor cooking facilities. Type in your location and the nearest campsites to you will be listed. There are links to Google Maps and campground website if available, and images of the campsite.
Holidays in Japan – This website has a list of the public holidays along with a description of the holiday. Good to know when you’ll have time off, and when to avoid the crowds!