With just over 700,000 inhabitants, the population of Shimane Prefecture is one of the smallest in Japan. The interior is mountainous and rugged while the coast and beaches hug the Japan Sea. Most of Shimane’s residents live along the coast with Matsue and Izumo being the largest cities.
Matsue is the capital of Shimane Prefecture and is well-known for its lovely promenade along Lake Shinji. Indeed, many of Shimane’s points of interest, such as the prefectural museum and the bird sanctuary, are in the vicinity of the lake.
Izumo is just west of Matsue, as the two cities geographically bump fists at Lake Shinji, and is home to the nationally renowned Izumo Taisha Shrine where thousands come to pray for good fortune. The great shrine is full of marvelous statues to gods that would be quite familiar to people throughout Japan.
For history buffs, the Izumo area is said to be related to the origins of the ancient Yayoi culture and there are monuments throughout the city commemorating this distinction.
The Oki Islands is a small archipelago roughly forty kilometers off the coast of Shimane and are administered by the prefecture. Only four of the approximately 180 islands are inhabited, with a total population of about 24,000. The islands are a popular getaway for regional and national tourists thanks to the preservation of their natural beauty and breathtaking views.
Shimane could be called the prefecture of traditional crafts. Sword, paper, abacus, jewelry-making and woodcraft have all endured. Magatama or crescent-shaped talisman made of semi-precious stone have been used in Japan since 1000 BCE and are a popular keepsake made by local craftspeople.
There are many ways to experience the wonders of Shimane that suit any itinerary. Take a bus or train, stay at a bed & breakfast, hotel or free campsite. Whatever your choice, Shimane welcomes you.