Random Facts about Shimane

Through my job, I have come across many interesting things about Shimane Prefecture I might not have otherwise known and I’ve shared most of them below. I intend to add more as I learn more about this corner of the world, and I hope that some of you are able to share some interesting facts and stories to include in the future too!

-Approximately 1/3 of the myths compiled in the Kojiki (古事記), Japan’s oldest mythological chronicle, are said to take place in the Izumo Region of Shimane Prefecture.

-Many people say either ‘he’ or ‘she’, but Shimanekko (しまねっこ), Shimane’s Tourism Mascot, does not have an official gender.

-Films set in Shimane include ‘Un, Nan?‘, ‘Railways‘, ‘Shiroi Fune‘,  ‘Sand Chronicle‘, and the recently released ‘Kon-Shin‘.

-On October 1st 2011, Shimane Prefecture had the second highest percentage of senior citizens in the country at 29.1% of the population being 65 years or older (210,631 people). The national average at the time was 23.3%. Akita Prefecture has the highest percentage at 29.7%.

Tamatsukuri Hot Springs (玉造温泉), Matsue City, is said to have been opened in the 8th Century and is referred to in the Izumo-no-kuni Fudoki (出雲国風土記), completed in 733CE.

-On that note, of the 48 Fudokis written for regions around Japan, only the Izumo document remains largely complete.

-Iron Town in Princess Mononoke (Studio Ghibli, 1997) is said to be based on Okuizumo Town.

-The Seven Delicacies of Lake Shinji (宍道湖七珍), Matsue City, are the Japanese Sea Perch (スズキ), Icefish/Whitebait (シラウオ), Carp (コイ), Eel (ウナギ), Greasyback Prawn (モロゲエビ), Cuttle Egret (アマサギ), and Shijimi Basket Clams (シジミ). The lake is made up of brackish water thanks to its connection to the sea via the Nakaumi Lagoon.

-The sunset over Lake Shinji (宍道湖) has been voted one of the most beautiful in Japan. If you can’t make it up to Matsue to see it for yourself, you can watch the view 24 hours (including the sunset!) on the Shimane Museum of Art’s website.

-The computer programming language Ruby was invented by Yukihiro Matsumoto, from Matsue.

-The Karakoro Area in Matsue, home to the infamous Red Umbrella, derives its name from the sound the wooden geta sandals made on the nearby, originally wooden Oohashi Bridge. ‘Karan koron’ (カランコロン)is Japanese onomatopoeia for this sound.

-According to myth, Mount Sanbe, Oda City, and  Mount Daisen, Tottori Prefecture, are the stakes to which the deity Okuninushi attached the rope that dragged the Shimane Peninsula to the mainland.

-One version of the myth, ‘Hare of Inaba‘ from the Kojiki features a  Japanese hare, a type of hare that lives on the Oki Islands, being helped by Okuninushi, the deity enshrined at Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. This might go some to in explaining the amount of rabbit statues seen in and around Matsue and Izumo Cities.

-On an unrelated note, the Shin Megami Tensei (Atlus) video game franchise (and its sub-franchises ‘Persona‘ and ‘Devil Summoner‘) feature Okuninushi as a summon-able spirit.

-The eight-headed, eight-tailed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi (ヤマタノオロチ) is said in some myths to have lived in the Hikawa River in Izumo City. The Pokemon Hydreigon is said to be inspired by Orochi.

Zenzai, a type of Japanese sweet made with azuki beans, is said to have been invented in Izumo.

-There is a long-standing theory that the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine (出雲大社) once stood 48 meters tall, twice that of the current structure. However, there was little to support this idea until the discovery of 3m in diameter ‘uzubashira‘ pillars at the Shrine site in the year 2000. The pillars are on display at the Shimane Museum of Anicent Izumo (島根県率古代出雲歴史博物館).

Lafcadio Hearn‘s book of Japanese ghost tales ‘Kwaidan‘ is not an error , but a result of his wife’s pronunciation of the word ‘kaidan’ (怪談, scary story), which comes from the Izumo dialect.

The Adachi Museum of Art (足立美術館) has now been selected as the best Japanese Garden in Japan for 10 years straight (2003 – 2012)by the American magazine, The Journal of Japanese Gardening.

-The 2006 video game Ōkami (PS2, Capcom), which stars the goddess Amaterasu, also features characters that have connections with the Izumo Region, including Susano, his wife Kushinodahime, and the serpent Orochi.

-‘Doutaku‘ or bronze bells, ‘Douken‘ or bronze swords,  and ‘Douhoko‘ or bronze lances from the Yayoi Period, that were dug up at the Kojindani Site was the largest single discovery of such items in one place. They have been designated national treasures and are on display at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo. Doutaku bronze bells form the basis for the appearance of the Pokemon ‘Bronzong‘.

The Oki Islands have been home to no less than 2 banished emperors. Emperor Go-Toba (1180-1239) was exiled there in 1221 and remained on the islands until his death after a rebellion. Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339) was exiled to Nishinoshima between 1331 and 1333, when he escaped.

Oki Classic Sumo (隠岐古典相撲), which features in the above-mentioned film ‘Kon-Shin’ is special because when it is held, it runs all night with up to three-hundred matches held and also each pair of players versus each other twice. The winner of the first match is required by the rules to concede the second match to their opponent to create a draw between the two players. As a result, the Oki Classic Sumo is often referred to as ‘Humanitarian Sumo’.

-The Oki Islands were under the control of Tottori Prefecture between 1872 and 1876.

This SoftBank Commercial about an eclectic family features the beluga whales from the Aquas Aqarium in Hamada as ‘Grandpa Dolphin’.

-While trains that run between Yasugi City and Izumo City are powered by electricity, the remainder of the train lines in the Prefecture use trains that run on diesel fuel.

-The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (石見銀山), Oda City is listed on some European maps of Japan from the middle ages and was the first mining site to be registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in Asia.

Rato-chan, the Silver Mine’s mascot, wears a Ratou lamp on it’s head. Ratou lamps were used by miners at Iwami GInzan and made by filling turban shells (サザエ) with oil.

-The Sekishu clay roof-tiles were first developed in Gotsu City and are now produced in Hamada, Gotsu, Oda, and Masuda Cities. Unlike many Japanese roof tiles, which are black, these tiles are brown and their prevalent use in the region gives it a distinct feel.

If you have anything to share, or notice an error, please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail at shimanedamien@gmail.com.

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