第一章History of Izumo, Chapter 1

Japanese Mythology

The origin of Japan - ancient japan izumo travel guide

Why is Izumo being called the origin of Japan?

Within the city grounds of Izumo there are many places mentioned in "Japanese myths" about the story of Japan's origin. As for Japanese myths, they are stories, such as "Kojiki" and "The Chronicles of Japan”, and it is believed that one third of the story content of "Kojiki" to be involved with Izumo.

Japanese myths: Through the Acts of the Gods, the myth incorporates Japan's “spirit” and “Sense of values”

What is Kojiki?

It's Japan's oldest history book, which was presented to the Emperor of Japan in year 712. O no Yasumaro holding the title of Asomi (second highest of the eight hereditary titles), which was a government official of the Imperial court and together with others, he has compiled it based on Folklore. The original copy doesn't exist, so it has been passed down through several manuscripts. The events from the beginning of the world up to the era of Japan's first empress (beginning of 7th Century), Empress Suiko (including Myths and legends) are being recorded.

Wikipedia

What is Nihon Shoki?

It's the oldest Official history passed down through generations in Japan, which was established in the Nara Era (8th Century). It was compiled by Prince Toneri of the Imperial family and others, being completed in the year of 720. It writes about Japanese myths up to the Era of the Emperor Jito (end of 7th Century).

Wikipedia

The "Kojiki" and "Nihon Shoki" piled up together are generally known as "the Kojiki and Nihonshoki(Kiki)”.

Is it Myth or a real story?

There have been found some ruins that are connected to the Izumo Myths. In Kojindani ruins, there have been found some of valuable Bronzeware, which allow us to feel the world of Myths closer.

Besides, you can know more of the Yayoi period by visiting “Izumo Yayoinomori Museum", and you can find out more about Izumo in ancient times by visiting “Museum of Ancient Izumo” which is close to the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine.

Museum of Ancient IzumoThe Museum near the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine lets you experience firsthand the world of Myths.

Museum of Ancient Izumo - ancient japan izumo travel guide

It mainly displays the things related to ancient Izumo, with the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine as its focus. You can see national treasures excavated from Kojindani Ruins which include 358 bronze swords, 16 bronze spearheads, 6 Dotaku (bronze bells), and the 39 Dotaku (national treasures) excavated from Kamo Iwakura Ruins. Nationals treasures as well as theme-based expositions and such are open to the public.

There are also expositions on Iwami Ginzan (Iwami Silver Mine) and other exhibits that involve the whole history of Shimane Prefecture. At the center lobby, you can find a pillar called Uzubashira, which was excavated from Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine area in 2000. You can also see a 1:10 recreation scale replica of the main temple of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine in Heian period.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo - ancient japan izumo travel guide

It's the oldest Official history passed down through generations in Japan, which was established in the Nara Era (8th Century). It was compiled by Prince Toneri of the Imperial family and others, being completed in the year of 720. It writes about Japanese myths up to the Era of the Emperor Jito (end of 7th Century).

Website

Kojindani RuinA ruin where as many as 358 bronze made swords, which were a symbol of authority, were discovered

Kojindani Ruin - ancient japan izumo travel guide

As a Sue ware of the Kofun period was found in 1983, the excavations investigation was started. During the investigation between 1984 and 1985, 358 bronze swords, 6 Dotaku and 16 bronze spearheads were excavated. The bronze swords, Dotaku and bronze spearhead were all declared national treasures as part of the “Shimane Kojindani Ruin artifacts” in 1998.

The ruin was declared as a national historic spot in 1987, and "Koujindani Historical Park" was opened around the ruin in 1995. Then in 2005, the "Koujindani Museum" was opened. It presents temporary artifact exhibitions and such.

The number of excavated bronze swords in one place is the best in Japan, which gave a big shock to the world of ancient Japanese History and Archeology. Thus, the image of Japan being a country with no substance for its Myths was swiped away.
Presently, the artifacts are put on a regular exhibit at the "Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo", which was opened in March 2007 at Taishacho Kizukihigashi, Izumo-shi, Shimane.

Izumo Yayoinomori MuseumYou can meet Izumoo of Yayoi period and valuable artifacts

Izumo Yayoinomori Museum - ancient japan izumo travel guide

Himiko, an ancient queen of Yamataikoku, who lived in Yayoi period, and a giant burial chamber of a king was in Izumo. Glass Magatama, bracelets, grave goods painted in vivid red pigment, and a huge diorama that boldly restored the king of Izumo model and funeral situation, inviting everyone looking to go to the world of the Izumoo, in Yayoi period.

This museum holds the two functions of introducing every ruin within the city as a "guidance facility" such as the nearby nationally designated historic site "Nishidani Tombs”, and "Archaeological Center” as a center for excavation investigations within the city.

The grave of Izumo no Okuni, the originator of kabuki theater

The grave of Izumo no Okuni, - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The originator of the Japan’s unique mass theater Kabuki is told to be Izumo no Okuni, who was a shrine maiden in the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine.

You can find the grave of Izumo no Okuni along the way from Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine to Inasa no Hama Beach.

Izumo, the land where ancient and modern times meet

Izumo, the land where ancient and modern times meet - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, which seems to be the symbol of Izumo, the land of the gods. It is a silent place maintaining an air of dignity, with Yakumoyama at its rear, and a wonderful temple stands sternly. There are signs of huge things and solemn tension in this place.

From the grandiose atmosphere of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, you can feel both of the existence of "Great King of the Land” (Okuninushi no Okami) and the generosity of the gods of the luck and wealth.

Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine is full of big things, The big roof of the main temple with its big Chigi (Shrine wood) and the bronze statues of Okuninushi no Okami and Ooshimenawa (a big enclosing rope) and such. Even now, it still proudly takes first place in Japanese shrine architecture, not to add the fact that it is believed to have had twice the height as it now has, in the Heian period, measuring up to as tall as 48 meters.

“You would believe it to have been possible for the skills of the people of that time period to have built it?” It has been seen as a legend for a long time like this. However, in the year of 2000, around the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, the Uzu pillar (Uzubashira) was found, which is said to be the one of that period.

It was a big discovery which would turn to be the key to solve the erecting of “the Giant Shrine of Ancient times”, and it attracted a lot of attention as it proved the former giant size of the Main Shrine.

The discovered “Shin-no-mibashira” pillar is exhibited as part of the treasure palace inside the shrine grounds, and “Uzu Pillar” is put on display at Museum of Ancient Izumo.

Uzu pillar (Uzubashira)

Uzu pillar - ancient japan izumo travel guide

Between 2000 and 2001, there found pillars and three giant cedar trees as a set, at three different places within grounds of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine ruin, with the diameter of about as tall as 3 meters.

This is a pillar supporting the ridge of the roof, in other words, a ridge supporting pillar (Munamochibashira) which has been called a Uzu Pillar (Uzubashira) since long ago. Inside the hole whose radius can reach at best about 6 meters, there are packed stones in the size of a human head or bigger, making it clear that the underground structure is unknown to other countries. The location of the pillar and its structure resembled the founded alleged blueprint of the giant main shrine "Kanawa no Gozouei Sashizu”.

After that, doing scientifically analysis and investigations of archaeological documents, it made the possibility stronger that the pillar could have supported the main Shrine built in 1248 during the first half of the Kamakura period

Main shrine of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine

Main shrine of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The main Shrine of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine was called Unta in the 10th Century, and it is told to have been the highest temple in Japan, measuring 48 meters. Shin-no-mibashira, the central pillar, had a diameter of around 3. 6 meters, and it was believed that the length of the stair leading to the main Shrine to have been around 109 meters.

Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine Narabi-ni-Shingozu

The illustration depicting Kizuki Grand Shrine in the Kamakura period (the actual Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine) and their surroundings. According to one theory, it is the picture for a partitioning screen offered to the Main Shrine when it was built in 1248.

The scope of the drawing mainly focuses on the Grand Shrine area and generally the ancient Kizuki area and its surroundings, and especially the particulars of the west part of the Shimane Peninsula has been well illustrated.

Model of the main building of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine - ancient japan izumo travel guide

In the upper side of the Japan sea on the illustration, you can see a sailing ship carrying goods, and close to the Inasa no Hama Beach, you can see a fishing boat. The bright red die of the Grand Shrine around the center of the illustration is told to be that of the Main Shrine erected in 1248, towering much higher than the other buildings.

The big building to the left side of the Grand Shrine is the house of Izumo-no-kuni-no-miyatsuko, and besides this, there are a variety of buildings such as buildings of digging pillar or buildings surrounding fences drawn which are well distinguished in illustrating. To the south side of the temple, you can see a rice field extending in the east-west, where rice is cut, and to the right appears 2 or 3 things like small puddles.

This is a pond called Hishineike, and it disappeared about 400 years ago, due to the development of new rice fields. On the southern side dunes, you can see deer with antlers The deer still lives in Kitayama behind the Grand Shrine.

Moreover, the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine is also well known for the Gods of wealth and binding fate. In "Kojiki", which is believed to be the Japan's oldest history book, you can even find the information about the foundation of the old shrine, and up to the Meiji Era, it was called Kizuki Grand Shrine.

The mainly worshiped God is mainly Okuninushi no Okami who is also popular as Daikoku-sama. In “the Myth of handing over the country Myth” written in "Kojiki", the Okuninushi no Okami gives over his country to Amaterasu Oomikami in Takama-ga-hara, and the Amanohisuminomiya which was built at that time is told to be the beginning of the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine.

Takama-ga-hara

The world in Heaven of Japanese myths. It is a place written in Kojiki Myths, where there are 8 million gods and Amatsukami (heavenly gods) whose supervisor was Amaterasu Oomikami. It states that the world where the people lived is called Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, while the realm of the dead which was believed to exist inside the Earth is called Yomi no Kuni.

Inasa no Hama Beach

Inasa no Hama Beach - ancient japan izumo travel guide

A shoreline mentioned in Japanese myths. It is said that the messengers of Takama-ga-hara stuck their swords on this beach and negotiated with Okuninushi no Okami in the Myth of handing over the country. It is written in “Izumo Fudoki” that Sono no Nagahama stretching from this place to the South became the rope described in the Country Pull Myth. Bentenjima emerges on the beach and complements the coastal landscape.

The "Kamiarizuki” Tenth month of the lunar calendar when all the Gods from thought Japan gather at Izumo. The one week of the festival is cerebrated quietly

In October of the old lunar calendar, 8 million gods (Yayorozuzu) from all over Japan gather in Izumo. In Japan, the month when all the Gods are away it is called, "Kannazuki", but on the other side the Gods gather up in Izumo, so only in this land, the month is called " Kamiarizuki".

Every year, there is a festival celebrating the Gods on October 10th of the lunar calendar. It is a ritual that welcomes the fiery fire to the coast of the Sea of Japan near the Grand Shrine "Inasa no Hama Beach” and welcomes the dragons and snakes (sea snake) as part of a messenger of the gods.

Inasa no Hama Beach - ancient japan izumo travel guide

When they finish welcoming Gods, a march to the Grand Shrine starts to the sound of flute and drum with two tree branches called Himorogi at the head, where there are dragon, snake and Gods. After the celebration at Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, it is said that the eight million gods will house nineteen shrines in the east and west on both sides of the main shrine, at Izumo for a week, and hold a debate called Kamuhakari on things related to human’s life.

It is also told that during this debate the gods decide the fate of man and women to be bound together. By the way, the debate takes place at "Ue no Miya", located on the way to Inasa no Hama Beach. The people living here keep the practice of making no noise that would disturb the debate, restraining themselves to live quietly.

Lake Shinji

Lake Shinji - ancient japan izumo travel guide

Located in the northeastern part of Shimane Prefecture, it is a long rectangle of about 17 km in east-west, about 6 km in north-south and 47 km in circumference, the area is the seventh largest in Japan. It flows through the Izumo plains, and the main influx river is Hiikawa River. Lake Shinji is famous for "The legend of Yamata no Orochi (Big serpent)”, and is connected to 20 rivers of north, south, west, east and west.

In 2005, it was registered to the International Wetland Convention "Ramsar Convention" aimed at conserving wetlands. It's one of one hundred scenic spots representing Japan. It is said to have been formed 10,000 years ago, and it is a beautiful lake deeply close to the land of Izumo.

The Lake Shinji in the late afternoon was also chosen as "one of best 100 sunsets of Japan" and its beauty that clouds, sky and the lake create attracts many literary guests such as Koizumi Yakumo.

Hiikawa River

Hiikawa River - ancient japan izumo travel guide

It originates at Mt. Sentsu of the Chugoku mountains, flowing to the north, it surges into Lake Shinji, making it a first-class river with a basin area of about 2,550 sq. km and a length of 153 km. The upper part is famous as the stage of Yamata no Orochi (Big serpent) extermination of Susanoo no Mikoto, described as "Hinokawa" in Kojiki, and as "Izumo Okawa" in Izumo Fudoki. At the time It flew west of the Izumo plain, but the land along the river changed in the Edo period so that it could flow to the east as it is now.

Tachikuekyo Valley

Tachikuekyo Valley - ancient japan izumo travel guide

A rocky wall of 100 to 200 m tall stands for about 2 km along the clear stream of the Kobe River. It was made by erosion and weathering caused by the river, and on the left bank there is a stunning rocky formation such as "Candle Rock".

The weathering of rocks is intense, rust cracks are added with erosion of rainwater, and many small valleys are developed, making the terrain complicated. It was designated as a scenic spot or natural monument of the country in 1927 and became a prefectural natural park in 1964.

There are plenty of places to see such as a promenade, a nature observation model course, an observation deck and Gohyakurakan. The spectacular scenery and the changing sights every season make it possible for the visitors to have a good time.

Tachikuesan Reikoji Temple

Tachikuesan Reikoji Temple - ancient japan izumo travel guide

About 1,200 years ago from now a monk listened to a voice crying out of the river. As he went nearer, a big blue turtle was giving a Nyorai a ride and grew on top of its back and it then emerged. The monk placed this Nyorai inside the rock hole of a Tenchuuhourock and a temple was erected.

There is Okunoin near the top of Tenchuuhourock. People do not live, but it is said that the sound of hitting wood fish in the middle of the night could be heard. It is said the local people of the land believed from long ago that it is the work of a Tengu living in the area.

Gohyakurakan

Gohyakurakan - ancient japan izumo travel guide

There is a lively image of stone Buddha on the rocks which climb slightly from under the pilgrim path to Reikoji. It has been exposed to weather conditions for a long time, with more than 1000 bodies including mid-decayed objects.

Old ones are wooden, stone statues are from about 100 years ago, all being paid as tribute by the people who founded the temple.

Inome Beach

Inome Beach - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The hole of Yomi mentioned in “Izumo Fudoki” is told to be in the caverns of the Inome Beach. In this cave there have been discovered countless artifacts telling the story of the life and burial of the people from the Jomon period to the Kofun period.

Gakuenji Temple

Gakuenji Temple - ancient japan izumo travel guide

According to a folklore, in 594 the Saint Chishun of Shinano Province went to Izumo City 's Mt. Tabushi in order to pray for the cure to the emperor’s eye sickness, and because he was cured, the temple was built. It is said that, Musashibo Benkei practiced there for three years from the age of 18 at the end of Heian period and then he met Minamoto no Yoshitsune at Mt. Hiei in Kyoto.

Saka Shrine

Saka Shrine - ancient japan izumo travel guide

According to "Izumo Fudoki", Japanese sake brewery began here. Even now, brewing 180 liters of Sake is permitted per year, and at the autumn season festival on 13th October, freshly made sake is treated to visitors.

Kitajima Kokusoukan

Kitajima Kokusoukan - ancient japan izumo travel guide

In 1882, Kitajima Naganori, the 76th Izumo Kuninomiyatsuko, established Shinto organization of the main temple of Izumo-kyo).

Izumo-kyo is about mainly worshiping the god Okuninushi no Okami. There is a Yotsuashimon gate which is the oldest building of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine at the main gate of the Kitajima Kokusoukan.

Usagi District

Usagi District - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The Usagi area is a district facing the Sea of Japan beyond the pass from Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. It consists of "Udo" and "Sagiura ", and in "Izumo Fudoki", it is named as Utahohama and Sagihama. It is a small port town of Shimane Peninsula, surrounded by the sea and the mountains, you will surely feel at ease.