Izumo is the landing spot for the gods of yore, and is said to be the area where Susano defeated the multi-headed dragon Orochi. Evidence of the myth is everywhere, from souvenirs to sewer plate covers. Besides the Taisha area, it is not as traditional-looking as Matsue, but the city limits stretch all the way from Lake Shinji to the Siosai Road and thus provides many pockets of beautiful nature along the northern coast of Shimane Prefecture. The region is covered in forested mountain ranges and spirited old people. Traveling by car, you can visit a number of cities around the Chugoku region; Matsue City, 1hour, Yonago City, 2hours, Hiroshima City, 3hours, Yamaguchi City, Okayama City, Fukuoka City and Osaka City. It all depends on how long you like to travel or the size of your wallet. In this part of Shimane, you’ll make friends and that will help defray the costs.
Izumo is fairly spread out and it has come to incorporate several areas which includes; Taisha, Taki, Hikawa, Hirata, Sada, and Koryo. Each of these areas have their own unique flavor and although everyone loves being a part of Izumo, they are proud of the things that make their own area unique. Be sure to visit each one and get a taste of the varied towns that make up this very large (by that I mean spacious) city.
Many Japanese may not know where Shimane is located but they all know Izumo… Izumo Taisha that is. The temple complex dates back to the origins of Japanese creation. Shimane means “island root”. Fittingly so, as Izumo is the spot where the Japanese archipelago mythically rose from the sea. Izumo Taisha is considered to be Shinto’s most holy site, after Ise Grand Shrine. Praying at Izumo Taisha will keep your union strong. But don’t come to Izumo just for the spiritual stability; sample the area’s award-winning wines and delicious omiyage from grapes grown in the community.
When you start to feel a little flush under the collar, head to the dozens of hot springs situated around the Izumo area. The Izumo-Matsue rural metropolis is known for its geo-thermal activity. You’ll find all types of minerals and aromatic waters to rest your bones and rejuvenate your skin. If high gear is more your speed, catch the local train to the indoor water park. It may not as big as you are used to but shooting down water slides or relaxing in the steam room something is bound to make you have fun.
There is plenty to eat on-hand with Izumo’s restaurant community, specializing in all kinds of foods. Everything from sushi to yakiniku, tempura and soba. Izumo is blessed with restaurants serving any type of Japanese food you could be craving. Look hard enough and you might find a few Brazilian and Indian restaurants.
Is pachinko your game? Look no further, Izumo City is a hot-bed of activity; not unlike many places in Japan. You can also throw yourself into one of the city’s many video game arcades. Rub shoulders with some of Izumo’s finest video game connoisseurs and boast about your high score. It’s all in good fun.
After you’ve made a friend or two, check out YouMe Town, Izumo’s largest mall. It also has the largest movie theater in Shimane which regularly features English language movies. Shop at some of Shimane’s trendiest stores, you won’t have to look far to look your best. Izumo has plenty of shops and stores that will keep you busy for hours.
Izumo has all this and more, a mix of conservative nostalgia and academic dreams. From scenic vistas and abundant natural beauty to the building blocks of Japan and unexpected urban experiences, Izumo is a town of contradictions and its people are sure to leave their mark on you.
- Izumo Taisha– unfortunately undergoing renovation, it’s one of the most important shrines in Japanese mythology. Tinier surrounding shrines are worth a visit, and the outlying district is dotted with Izumo soba shops and zenzai- many ALTs bring their relatives here when they come visit.
- Izumo Dome: Japan’s largest wooden building. In September, the dome hosts the 2000 member band comprised of elementary, junior high, and high school students.
- Youmetown: Most ALTs (and probably your students) come here to hang out. It has many shops (including a small coffee store that has import foods), restaurants (Indian, Subways, McDonalds, Italian, soba, sushi, etc.), and a movie theater. A lot of English movies play here with subtitles.
- Hamayama Park : There are baseball fields, tennis courts and parks for children. It is located on a hill so if you plan on biking it, be ready for an incline.
- 出雲文化伝承館 – Izumo Bunkadenshoukan
- 古代出雲歴史博物館 Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo– a must-see for lovers of Japanese history, the models are really impressive but the signs are all in Japanese; audio guides may be available in English. They have special exhibits that turn over every few months.
- Izumo Winery Can you say ”kanpai”? They also offer grape juice if you don’t drink alcohol. It’s always a festive atmosphere.
- Hinomisaki Lighthouse– a gorgeous drive brings you to this cape, with the tallest lighthouse in Asia. A small shrine is located nearby, and now that it’s summer the shops and restaurants are bustling. It’s an awesome place to spend some time and relax.
- Tachikuekyo Gorge: It’s tucked away with its picturesque scenery throughout all the seasons. Plus, there is a traditional Japanese Inn that surprisingly attracts many tourists from different regions of Japan.
- Shimane University: There are a few young people (and even other foreigners) around Izumo because of Shimane University. But, they tend to be busy with medical school. Some work at a bar near the station. Most of them can speak English.
- Kirara Taki beach: About 20 minutes from central Izumo, many ALTs hang out here during the summer. There are some shops along the coast (including a delicious bakery).
- Izumo Civic Hall: Many cultural events take place in the civic hall. If you enjoy music, come out to listen to the local school bands perform. It is located very close to Friendship House and the main police station. Next to the civic hall is Welcity.
- Shimane Hana no Sato: Or, “Flower Town.” In the spring and summer you can literally stop to enjoy the roses or lilies or tulips or Venus fly traps (Maybe not the carnivorous plants)! It is located within walking distance of YuPlaza – ゆうプラザ and Nishi Izumo station – 西出雲駅.
- Ichibata Yakushi Buddhist Temple: A Buddhist temple located in Hirata. If you’re up for the challenge, every year in October there is a marathon. An added twist, the course also has 1,000 steps to climb to reach the temple. ALTs in the past have participated in this event.
- 木綿街道 – Cotton Road: A road of traditional Japanese houses and shops located in Hirata. Named for the local cotton trade, the road is like stepping back in time. Depending on when you visit the road you can visit a sake shop (try to the local rice wine) and a sweet shop with the famous local しょうが(Ginger) Candy.
- 鰐淵寺: Gakuenji Shrine in Hirata is famous for its fall foliage. Its located in the mountains near Wanibuchi Elementary School. Visit in the fall and you will have to park by the water and take a bus up the shrine and enjoy the beautiful colors and the shrine. The walk to the shrine is beautiful and the people who run it are very friendly!
- Golf range
- City gym : It is located across from Trial on Route 9. There are often various community based activities such as basketball and soft volleyball leagues.
- Boxing gym in Koryo town: 大池ボクシングジム (right across from the Koryo house).
- Workout facility near Youme Town: Holiday Sports They have a pool, regular classes (such as hip hop, zumba, yoga), many treadmills, and a few free weights. Probably the most equipped gym in Izumo
- Izumo Dome gym– They offer different classes here. Every Tuesday the gym is closed.
- Kami Arena: Hamayama park gym- They offer different classes here. Also, every February there is marathon hosted here. Every Wednesday the gym is closed.
- Martial Arts facility across from Trial and next to City Gym: Judo/Karate/Ju-Jitsu classes are offered in the evenings and on the weekends. The prices are great and the instructors are always welcoming. There are classes for children and for adults. All levels are welcome.
- Shimane University basketball courts: Often times the gym is open. Even if people are playing, the university students welcome new players. There is a basketball league, volleyball league and badminton league.
- Onsen at 市民会館 and next to Izumo Station らんぷの湯 It is conveniently located near the station. There is both an indoor and outdoor onsen which feels surprisingly refreshing in the winter time!
- ゆらり温泉-Onsen in Hirata: Along Route 431 you can see many signs for this onsen, which boasts a very nice outdoor bath. Conveniently located in the heart of Hirata.
- ゆうプラザ – Place for swimming and fun!: This is one of the largest indoor swimming facilities in Shimane. During the summer it becomes very busy with students trying to get away from the summer heat. There are some kiddy pools, a lazy river, lanes for swimming laps, and water slides. You can also use the gym with paid entry. Also there is an onsen (must have a swimsuit) at this plaza.
- 湖遊館公式: Located in Hirata, you can enjoy ice skating and other sports at this facility. They even offer classes for ice skating and various water sports.
- Memory Cake Shop: A delicious little cake shop in Hirata (right by the Hirata apartment). The cakes are visually perfect, and yummy too! They also have cookies and gift bags of assorted sweets.
- Gobius: A Museum/Aquarium in Hirata located near Lake Shinji. It’s a popular sport for local student field trips and features some of the local animals that Lake Shinji is known for.
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
- Culture center: They offer many types of classes, from hip hop dancing, flower arranging, calligraphy, and others. It’s located near the main station
- Hirata Viva: Upstairs hosts a variety of activities, which change depending on the time of the year and interest.
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
Many ALTs in Izumo take trips out of the country and to the city. We’ve done many road trips to Hiroshima. Occasionally we get together for dinner (favorite places include Indian curry and Brazilian) or watch movies at someone’s apartment. On the first of each month, the movie theater at Youme Town offers a discount. Movies only cost 1,000 yen on that day (also for women, ladies day on Wednesday). Sometimes people from all over the Shimane come out on this day.
Religion in Izumo
- Friendship Church: A nondenominational church that holds services in English and Japanese. Every Sunday from 11 AM to noon. Currently it takes place at Fashion Palace Go (near the main police station and the civic hall.)
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: A Christian Church, with the services in Japanese. The Church meets every Sunday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. It is located close to the Joyfull near the Bypass. Click here to see a map.
Festivals and Town Events
- August: Many summer festivals happen during this month. Kandogawa has a festival which is located near Kandogawa Bridge aka the Red Bridge of Izumo.
- October: In Japan, October is known as “the month without the gods.” In Izumo, it is known as “the month with the gods.” All the gods of Japan congregate at Izumo Taisha. Different events happen during this time. Normally there is a big parade from city hall to the train station. Some ALTs in the past have participated in this.
- July: There is a lantern festival on the street that connects Izumo City Hall with Izumo Station. It’s a great atmosphere and it feels a little magical with all of the candles flickering through the different kinds of lanterns. Izumo students from high school students all the way to elementary school students participate by creating and displaying lanterns at this festival. Hirata Town also has a festival during July, usually in the last two weekends of the month. You can enjoy good food and performances.
- Green Green: A bar in Izumo that sometimes hosts different events. If you need, you can book this venue for a party. Recently we had a large dance party here and many ALTs from all over the prefecture came out to attend.
- Daikancho代官町: The bar district of Izumo. Close to the station, there are a variety of shops. This area gets busy during enkai (drinking party) season. Popular for nijikais (after party).
- Tanbee: Some of the bartenders here also attend Shimane University. Nice atmosphere.
- Area Due: A small bar near the station. Sometimes Japanese and foreigners meet here to enjoy conversations in Japanese and English.
- Ban Ban: The karaoke place has many English songs, so it’s popular among ALTs. It is also right under an apartment complex where some ALTs live. It’s best to make a reservation before coming with a large group.
- Salsa: Salsa is also another popular karaoke place. If you don’t make a reservation, it is hard to get a room here. They also have a large selection of songs. This place is near the main post office.
- Banana Voice: This is probably the cheapest karaoke place in Izumo. They also have English songs. An added bonus, there is an English button on the machine so you can search for songs by artist or title (instead of just hitting buttons and hoping for the best). They recently put a fountain drink machine so you can enjoy unlimited drinks of soda and coffee. All the karaoke places in Izumo offer this.
Biking in Izumo
Despite the four distinct seasons of Shimane, if you only use a bicycle while in Izumo, it is totally doable and recommended! However it might take an hour or more to reach the outlying areas of the city, as Izumo is quite large and spread out. While you might face the elements like rain, wind, hail or the blazing summer heat, you get to take your time and see things at a slower pace. On your bicycle in Izumo, you can slow down to enjoy the view of a passing local train or simply stop at a corner shop to talk with the grocer who sells you local fruits and vegetables.
There are bike routes and most main roads have sidewalks in Izumo. However there are many smaller roads that do not have sidewalks. Plus, there are many roads that are narrow to navigate. Other than the main national and prefectural roads like Route 9, most streets do not have street signs. For the most part, Izumo is fairly flat so it is easy to bike around; but Izumo is also spread out.
Often, we take trips out to Hiroshima to enjoy the sights (and Starbucks) that the big city has to offer. You can get there without the toll roads, but it’s not recommended if you have a car with a small engine. Also, it’s a little difficult to drive in the winter due to snow and ice. It’s about 3 ½ hours.
If you don’t want to drive there is always the train or bus. Izumo has buses to many of the major places you would want to go, and the buses to Osaka/Kyoto and Hiroshima run around 6 times a day, so it can be very convenient. If you take the bus to Osaka or further, these buses generally stop at the Hikawa and Shinji Interchanges, and you can park your car there if you are riding.
Others have also taken road trips to Kobe, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, and many other places. It’s best to go with a group of people since the tolls can cost a lot. If you have an ETC card, the toll is discounted. This site can help you calculate the costs of the tolls. Japanese car navigation systems also sometimes can give you estimates of the cost.
- Hiroshima: About 3 1/2 hours by car. 6 express buses and 2 limited express buses leave from Izumo Station.
- Osaka: About 5 hours by car. 8 buses leave a day from Izumo Station. There are also about 6 flights a day from Izumo airport to Osaka Itami airport
- Tokyo: 1 night bus from Izumo Station. There is also a private company that leaves near Izumo Station (hint: it’s the pink bus parked across the street). 5 flights a day from Izumo airport to Haneda airport
- Kyoto: 4 buses leave a day from Izumo Station.
- Nagoya: 1 night bus from Izumo Station
- Kobe: 4 buses a day from Izumo Station
- Okayama: 7 buses a day from Izumo Station
- Fukuoka: 1 night bus from Izumo Station 2 flights a day from Izumo airport
- Oki island: 1 flight a day from Izumo airport