Three hours from Osaka, and four hours from Kyoto by bus is Shimane Prefecture, a beautiful rural prefecture in the southwest of Japan, and one of the first places in people inhabited in Japan, is a rather underrated tourist destination.
It is full of beautiful rural and historic places to visit, and bordered by the crystal clear Japan Sea. These are just five of my favorite places in it (and neighboring Tottori Prefecture)!
5. The Tottori Sand Dunes
Sand dunes? Camels? In Japan?!
Yup, but only in Tottori Prefecture. At the Sand Dunes you can take a ride on a camel, see some truly amazing sculptures at the sand museum and visit the Japan Sea all at one place.
Also, as Tottori is famous for their pickles, the gift shop has tons of pickles for sale along with many, many other foods and nicknacks.
4. Vogel Park
Exotic birds, owls, bird shows
Penguins in Santa suits
and flowers, flowers and more flowers!!!
3. Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine
A National Treasure in the Land of the Gods.
Arguably the oldest shrine in Japan (only in competition with Kumano Taisha (also in Shimane!! About 30 minutes from Lake Shinji!) It is believed that the gods from all over Japan gather at Izumo Taisha in October – which is why, according to folklore, the reason that there are so few earthquakes in this area of Japan.
Fun fact: the shimenawa (sacred straw rope hanging over the entrance), weighs five tons.
And the soba, which Izumo is famous for, is fantastic!
2. Matsue Castle
Matsue Castle, another National Treasure, is sixth oldest of the twelve remaining original castles in Japan. The inside has been left to look as it did when people were living in it. There are displays of armor, weapons and messages along with plenty of pictures and a 3D map of Matsue on the inside.
Built in 1611, it is older than the United States.
1. Lake Shinji
Famous for its shijimi (small clams) and sunsets, Lake Shinji, the seventh largest lake in Japan, is the most magical place in Matsue.
Fun fact: Shijimi are supposed to be great for helping with a hangover.
It is also the site of the annual “Suigosai” Festival and Firework display.