Izumo Taisha and the Land of the Gods

If you tell a Japanese person you live in Izumo City, they might cross their arms, lean back, and ask themselves where in Japan that is. But if you ask them if they know Izumo Taisha, they’ll immediately shoot up and say, “Of course!” That’s because this historic Shinto shrine’s reputation precedes not only the city in which it’s located, but even the entire Shimane prefecture.

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This historic temple is such a valued landmark, that you’ll see some of its architectural elements copied and utilized on the exterior entrances of various restaurants, bars, and shops in the city. The large “Shimenawa”(or straw rope) acts as a familiar symbol of Izumo’s community as well as the area’s pride for its self-proclaimed title as “Land of the Gods.” You’ll also find the traditional taisha-zukuri style roof of Izumo Taisha’s neighboring Shinto shrines located on Shimaneko, Shimane prefecture’s official mascot. The smiling yellow cat with its awkwardly heavy, wooden, criss-crossing chapeau appears slightly strange to some, yet endearing to any and all of the prefecture’s residents. Needless to say, there are a few reasons why so much importance is placed on this shrine; to the point where Izumo City Hall has currently mandated that no modern building constructed in the city be allowed to surpass the Grand Shrine’s height.

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The most important is that Izumo Taisha has been helping Japanese newlyweds find happiness for over 500 years. Although it’s unclear exactly when the temple was built, some of the earliest records of renovation and reconstruction date back to the year 1200. According to mythology, the sun god Amaterasu declared the shrine to be a holy place for Okuninushi no Okami, the deity of marriage, to reside. Since then, couples and sweethearts both young and old have made the pilgrimage together to pray at the temple for good fortune and long lasting commitment. Often times, they’ll take the night train from other cities as far as Sapporo and arrive to Izumo bright and early the next morning, their faces beaming at the prospect of securing a healthy and happy future with their new hubby or waifu.

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So if you find yourself in Shimane, it’s recommended that you take the opportunity to witness this infamous landmark firsthand. But if you’re traveling with a Japanese friend, they’ll more than likely insist that you both check it out before you’ve even said a word. And once you go, you’ll be able to see exactly what makes the expedition so worthwhile. It’s recommended that the best time to visit is in the month of October, when a large festival takes place to commemorate the meeting of Japan’s deities within the city of Izumo. Also, don’t feel weird if you’re not accompanied with a loved one; maybe the gods will grace you with a fated encounter with your future nookie once you reach the gates.

On a side note, if you have time afterwards, take a short walk towards the nearby beach of Inasa. Here, you’ll also be able to see a small Bentenjima, or power spot, situated on a large rock overlooking the ocean.

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