Shimane Prefecture (島根県 Shimane-ken) is in the western Chugoku region of the main Japanese island Honshu. It is the 2nd least populous prefecture in Japan.
Shimane prefecture, together with Tottori prefecture is known as the Sanin region, meaning "the shady side of the mountains". There is a mountain range separating these two prefectures from Hiroshima and Okayama, which means that the weather here is drastically wetter than further to the south.
- 1 Matsue — The prefectural capital, Matsue has an original (not reconstructed) castle.
- 2 Izumo — Site of Izumo Taisha, one of Japan's most famous shrines.
- 3 Hamada — Fishing port and recreation area.
- 4 Tsuwano — Referred to as "Little Kyoto," home to a steam train and the birthplace of Mori Ogai.
- 5 Masuda — The westernmost city in Shimane and long-time home of Sesshu, a famous historical Japanese artist.
- 6 Gotsu — A small industrial city between Hamada and Ōda.
- 7 Ōda — A midsize city close to Iwami Ginzan and Mt. Sanbe.
- 8 Yasugi — Site of the Adachi Art Museum, Yasugi borders Yonago in Tottori Prefecture. On a clear day you can spot the snow-capped Mt. Daisen to the north.
- 1 Iwami Ginzan — silver mines that became a World Heritage Site
- 2 Yunotsu — old onsen town perfectly preserved in the 1920s
- 3 Oki Islands
- 4 Okuizumo
- 5 Unnan
The airports in Shimane are 1 Izumo Airport (IZO IATA), 2 Iwami Airport (IWJ IATA), and 3 Oki Airport (OKI IATA). When travelling to Matsue then nearby 4 Miho-Yonago Airport (YGJ IATA) is also an option.
Shimane is on the Japan Rail San'in Main Line, which runs along western Honshu's sea coast between Kyoto and Shimonoseki.
Japan Rail's Sunrise Izumo night train runs between Tokyo, Matsue and Izumo. Prices vary depending on the accommodation booked, which range from simple berths to private cabins.
The Super Yakumo express train connects Matsue and Izumo to Okayama.
The Super Okii JR train line originating in Shin-Yamaguchi stops at a number of cities and town in Shimane prefecture.
- 6 DBS Ferry Terminal, Sakaiminato (Take the train from Matsue Station to Sakaiminato Station, transferring in Yonago. There are free shuttle buses to the terminal on Friday and Saturday.), ☏ +81 859-30-2332. Overnight ferries depart twice a week from Sakaiminato to Donghae, Korea and then onwards to Vladivostok, Russia a day later.
The best way to get around Shimane is to drive. Most towns and cities, especially those on the coast, can also reached by train. Buses go pretty much everywhere, but some places may only have a few buses a day.
- Izumo Shrine, Izumo. The second-holiest Shinto shrine in Japan.
- Matsue Castle, Matsue. A beautiful black castle; one of Japan's few remaining original castles.
There are many ski resorts in the prefecture. Most will blow snow when it hasn't fallen, giving a reliable season from late November until late March.
Mizuho Highland is the biggest (10 slopes, 5km longest run) and probably best (the only half-pipe in the region) resort.
The Yabusame (horse-back archery) festivals of Shimane are quite famous, especially that of Tsuwano, which holds the oldest Yabusame range in all of Japan (some 1000+ years old). They usually are held in early April. If one is particularly lucky, the festival will coincide with the cherry blossoms blooming, for the consummate Japanese cultural experience.
During the year there are numerous festivals. Many towns and cities have a fireworks show in August.
To get a taste of Matsue and the area around Lake Shinji, you should try to sample the famous Seven Delicacies of Lake Shinji: Shijimi clams, icefish, eel, sea bass, among others. For the most authentic soba in Izumo, make sure to try Warigo Soba. Hamada serves a specialty fish product called Akaten, "red heaven".
- For cheap accommodations, the prefecture has a number of youth hostels.