The scenic San-in coastal region is made up of northern Yamaguchi
Prefecture and Shimane and Tottori Prefectures. Cut off by the
Chugoku Mountains in the south, it has long been one of Japan's more remote areas.
It has several national parks including Daisen-Oki National Park and San-in Coast
National Park. There are lots of onsen (hot springs) and several places famous for their pottery. It
has lots of beautiful coastline and the country's oldest Shinto
Hagi | Matsue |Tottori || Chugoku Area: San-yo
A hagi-yaki chawan (tea cup)
During the Edo Period (1600~1868), this castle town
was the home of the powerful Mori family and many buildings connected to the family remain today.
The main ones of interest are the remains of Hagi Castle in Shizuki Park,
the samurai district and Shoka-sonjuku school. The town is famous for its
hagi-yaki pottery, which is also made in the town of Nagato to the west.
Hagi-yaki has been made in the area since the late-16th century.
It became known mainly for its use in the tea ceremony. Many people
don't realize that the early Hagi potters were actually Koreans
brought to Japan after their country was invaded by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
About 20km to the southwet of Hagi is the desolate Akiyoshidai plateau,
the largest limestone tableland in Japan. Akiyoshido, with a depth of almost 10km, is one of the largest limestone
caves in the world and a popular tourist attraction. Full of stalagmites,
stalactites, waterfalls, rivers and pools, it is a natural wonder.
One interesting formation is known as hyakumaizara (100 saucers), which is a group of (actually over 500) pools
formed by the flow of limestone-rich water down a shallow slope.
At the western end of Honshu, Shimonoseki is the land link to the southern island of Kyushu. It was the
scene of one of Japan's most famous battles in 1185. In the naval
Battle of Dannoura, the Minamoto clan finally destroyed the Taira clan to bring
to an end their 5-year war. During the battle, the 7-year old
emperor Antoku, a member of the Taira family, was drowned. Victory allowed
Minamoto no Yoritomo to establish his leadership as shogun of the
military government during the Kamakura Period (1185~1333). An unusual souvenir from the city would be a lantern
made from a fugu (blowfish), also a local delicacy.
The capital of Shimane Prefecture, Matsue was a prosperous castle
town during the Edo Period. Located between Lake Shinji and the Nakanoumi
lagoon, it is known as the City of Water. Its castle is one of
the few remaining original structures from feudal times. Built
in 1611 on a hill, it has an excellent view from its 5-story donjon (keep) of
the surrounding Shiroyama Park and beyond. The park is famed for its cherry
trees. Yakumo Kinenkan is a museum built in 1933 in honor of the writer
Koizumi Yakumo, better known abroad as Lafcadio Hearn, who lived and taught
English briefly in the city. He married the daughter of a samurai
and the museum is next to the old samurai house where they lived.
Also of interest are the Kanden-an teahouse and Gesshoji and
Kokubunji temples. Kokubunji means 'provincial temple' and one was built
in each province in the 8th century under orders from the emperor.
Todaiji in Nara was built as the head kokubunji.
Near the southern shore of Lake Shinji is Tamatsukuri Onsen, one of the
most famous in the region. The resort retains much
of the atmosphere of an old onsen town. Beyond the lake, on the
outskirts of the city of Izumo, Izumo Taisha is the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan and one of the most sacred.
It is built in the taisha-zukkuri style, believed to be oldest style of shrine architecture. The
origin of the shrine is steeped in mythology but the present honden (main building) is the 25th building since the original and was
built in 1744. The shrine is dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto, the god of marriage, good fortune and agriculture. The shrine
has festivals in mid-May, mid-October and late November. During
the Kamiari Matsuri festival in October, the gods from all over Japan are said to
meet at the shrine for a 'conference'.
To the east of Matsue, the seafront Kaike Onsen has been popular since the 1920's.
From here the nearby Mt. Daisen, an extinct volcano, resembles Mt. Fuji. At the
center of Daisen-Oki National Park, the scenic mountain is a popular destination for skiers in winter
and also has Daisenji temple, a training center for mountain ascetics.
The capital city of Tottori Prefecture has been badly damaged
twice this century, by an earthquake in 1943 and by fire in 1952
so little remains of its castle-town past. It has an airport,
making it a good entry point for the region. It is just over an
hour from Tokyo. The 16km stretch of beach known as the Tottori Sand Dunes has
been designated as a National Monument. The dunes reach a
maximum height of over 90m. The area around Tottori has a lot
of onsen resorts. Misasa Onsen, about an hour's drive west, is the largest radium spa in Japan.
On the outskirts of the town, Ningyo Pass and Oshikakei gorge are both places of scenic beauty.