Places to Eat and Local Cultural Shops along the Ichibata Train Line and Bus Route
I took the Ichibata train line and bus system around Izumo to visit local shops in the area. Afterwards, I ate and sang karaoke in the city. One of the most convenient aspects of the city of Izumo is the Ichibata electric train line and bus system. The first stop you should make is to Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. You can get there by bus from JR Izumo Station, which takes about 30 minutes.
After you take in the amazing sights there you should visit Shimane Winery. It is about 10 minutes from the shrine by bus. One quick tip: although the train and bus system in Izumo is very convenient, buses and trains do not run very frequently, so it would be a good idea to check the bus and train schedules before you arrive and plan your day accordingly.
Shimane Winery has a unique European-inspired architecture. At the reception desk you will find friendly and helpful staff.
The winery is popular among tourists. It has a large wine-tasting area featuring about 10 different wines to try as much as you like. A majority of the wines have a largely sweet and juicy flavor. I really enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Blanc as they were more dry and balanced.
Also inside the winery is a barbecue restaurant “Chateau Misen” featuring the finest Shimane wagyu beef. I had the pleasure of trying the sirloin, which was absolutely some of the best beef I’ve ever had in my life. It was so juicy that it simply melted in my mouth. The total time I spent there was about 2 hours, taking my time to enjoy everything.
Open : 9:00a.m. ～ 5:00p.m. (April-September 6:00p.m.)
After that, I decided to hop on the train and continue my day with a stop at the historic Momen Kaido (Hirata Area)、also known in English as “Cotton Road”.
Oka Moichiro Shoten
The first place I visited was a famous soy sauce shop called Oka Moichiro Shoten, which makes a “Saishikomi Shoyu” blend that is refermented and highly concentrated, meaning it is rich in flavor and aroma. It is also noteworthy that this is the type of soy sauce used in preparing soba noodles.
To learn more about soy sauce, I did some soy sauce tasting. In addition to refermented soy sauce, I had the chance to taste a variety of soy sauces such as “Koi kuchi” (strong flavor) or “Usu kuchi” (mild flavor). There is a wide selection of soy sauces to choose from and they all vary in sweetness, bitterness, fragrance and color. I can highly recommend this kind of experience, so you should really try it when you come here.
Returning to my walk along the street, I visited a sake brewery named Sake Mochida Honten. Shimane is actually said to be the birthplace of Japanese sake, dating all the way back to the Yayoi period (300 B.C).
The brewery I visited was built around 1877. Due to its history and social value, the building is a Registered Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. The roof tiles are shaped as a symbol of the store “Yama-san”.
It’s quite rare to find this unique kind of roof in Japan so don’t forget to look up at the building before you enter.
I had the chance to participate in a really interesting brewery tour at Sake Mochida, where they explained how sake is made in a simple, easy-to-understand way. Thanks to the detailed explanation, I learned a lot about Japanese sake that day.
After the brewery tour, I did some sake tasting. Through the explanation and information from the brewery you get to learn more about the various kinds of sake while enjoying it at the same time. Once you have finished sake tasting you can, of course, buy some sake to take home with you. I ended up getting the “Yamasan Masamune Junmai ginjo”, which I can recommend to anyone who likes fruity flavored sake. (Drinking alcohol and driving is strictly prohibited).
As I left the sake brewery I then visited Kurumaya Shougato Honpo. This is one of Japan's oldest candy stores, featuring sugared ginger candies. Since it was founded, this long established store has been selling ginger-flavored sweets using age-old recipes passed down from father to only one son. Their candy-making process also hasn’t changed at all.
Using only shussai ginger with its low fiber content and unique sweetness and aroma, the old-fashioned ginger sweets, made by melting the juice and sugar together over a charcoal fire, produce a delicately fresh aroma and refreshing sweetness with a hint of ginger spice. The store also sells sugar with powdered green tea, ginger tea and seasonal ginger sweets. Surprised by the refreshing flavor, I ended up buying some ginger sugar for myself and my family as a souvenir.
Also, make sure to stop by the visitor center, where you can find plenty of information about Momen Kaido, its history and how people used to live here. I was fascinated to learn about the history of the Cotton Road and that of its people who used the river for the transport of cotton.
My next stop was the historic, prestigious Umi Shrine, famous for the practice of enkiri (separation or cutting ties). You might wonder why there is a shrine for cutting ties with other people or things. There are bound to be messy or toxic relationships with certain people and things in your life such as illnesses, bad habits, etc. which you would love to remove from your life. This is where the enkiri shrines can help, as you can pray to be cut off from these people and things.
You can write the things you want to be cut off from on a so-called enkiri fuda (a small tablet on which requests or words of religious significance are written). After you have finished writing all you have to do is put your enkiri fuda in the designated box. All in all, I spent about 2 hours in the Momen Kaido area, taking in all the sights.
After all that I was quite hungry so I decided to head back to the city center. About a 10-minute walk from Momen Kaido you will find the Unshuhirata Train Station, from which I took a train back to Izumo-shi Station.
I decided to go to an izakaya (Japanese-style pub) called “Izumono SAKABA”. This is a locally-owned izakaya with the best selected ingredients from the area. Menus are available on iPads with pictures. I recommend the tebasaki (chicken wings). Their combination of sesame seeds with a sweet sauce give them a unique, tangy taste. Also, you may want to wash down your meal with a cold glass of Shimane Craft Beer. The Heffenwisen stands out for having some of the best crisp fruitiness.
Open : 5:30p.m. ～ midnight Closed : Sundays (when a 3-day weekend falls on Saturday through Monday, it will be open that Sunday and closed the following Monday)
After your meal, how about experiencing a bit of modern Japanese culture to complement your traditional Japanese experience? I recommend going for karaoke at “Ari Cafe” just a short walk down the street. They have private rooms there with touch tablets for selecting songs in English and other European languages. What’s interesting about this place compared to others is the use of floor lighting, giving it the aspect of a disco stage. They also have maracas and other noise makers/instruments to play along with while your friends sing. It costs 480 yen for 1 hour per person on weekdays.
And that was my day in Izumo. I left feeling full of great sights, food, drinks and fun. I recommend bringing an extra empty bag or leaving extra space in your suitcase for all the items you might end up buying along the way.
Advice and summary
I also recommend that you try to do everything in the order mentioned above and that you take your time to speak to the friendly locals in the area as they will be more than happy to guide you on your adventure.
If you have a valid driver’s license, it would also be a good idea to get a rental car and travel by car.