Category Archives: in Japan

San-in/Chugoku Day 5 Yamaguchi(Shimonoseki)

Our fifth destination is Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi.

On the morning of our departure, at Higashi Hagi Station, we had a chance to talk again with the man we met at Ensei temple. What a coincidence! He told us that he was visiting places after his retirement. When we asked him about his next stop, he said he was going to the Iwami Ginzan (a silver mine) in Shimane prefecture. Opposite direction from ours. I won’t see him anymore in my life, but  the memory that I met him at Hagi will surely remain in my mind. This is the best part of traveling!

Feeling a little sad after saying good-bye to the man, we continued our trip to Shimonoseki. No express train. We had to take a local train all the way.

The train ran along the sea coast, and the scenery from the windows was extraordinary. The wonderful view of the sea of Japan feasted our eyes.

We saw a number of islands, small and big, in the landscape, and we soon learned we were parting from the San-in region and arriving at the other side of Japan, the San-yo region. It was about a three-hour ride.

——Shimonoseki City——

Shimonoseki is at the western end of the main island. It’s Kyushu  across the Kanmon Straits.

Someday we’ll visit the Kyusu Island, taking that bridge! (Kanmonkyo Bridge)

At the Kanmon Straits there are many boats and ships coming and going. “It looks very busy and very active,” my husband said, who comes from another famous port, Marseille.

Shimonoseki also has a nickname, “Fugu Capital“, a capital of pufferfish or blowfish. The city is number one in the number of catches of fugu in Japan.

Fugu is known to be lethally poisonous, but the fugu cuisine is very popular in Japan. We saw many restaurants specializing in fugu, especially in Shimonoseki City. Although the preparation of fugu at a restaurant is strictly controlled by the law, we see occasionally news that some people get sick or die because they prepare it at home. Only licensed chefs are allowed to cook this poisonous fish.

Shunpanro (photo below) is the first restaurant specializing in fugu in Japan.

History of the fugu cuisine:

The Tokugawa shogunate (1603 – 1868) banned the consumption of fugu in Edo, and even in the Meiji period the government warned the public not to eat fugu. However, in 1888, Ito Hirobumi (1841–1909), who attended Shoin School in his early years and became the first prime minister of Japan, had a fugu dish at Shunpanro, a Japanese-style restaurant hotel, and he admired the taste. Thanks to his promotion of the fugu cuisine in Yamaguchi, eating fugu was allowed.

Soon after we checked in at a hotel and left our baggage, we took a bus to Karato District, where you can expect good shopping! It’s like a small shopping mall, and many restaurants stand side by side. Reasonable, too.

Restaurant Karatoya: We had excellent kaisendon, a seafood bowl, at Karatoya. My husband was really satisfied with this trip, because almost every day it was seafood … he can’t find such a dish in France…

After we looked around the souvenir shops, we, then, headed for Karato Sanbashi (Karato Pier) to take a ferry boat to Ganryu-jima, a small island in the sea located between the main island and the Kyushu Island.

On this island, a famous swordsman duel took place.

In 1612, Miyamoto Musashi, an expert swordsman, fought his duel with Sasaki Kojiro, a celebrated samurai using a large two-handed Japanese sword, Nodachi(1m long).

Musashi arrived late in a small boat, while Kojiro was impatiently waiting. Musashi used, in this duel, a sward made of wood, called Bokken, and soon the fight was over.  Musashi defeated Kojiro.

We say that his victory was due to his late arrival which unnerved Kojiro.

Here is the boat on which Musashi arrived at this island!!!

No, it’s just a decoration.

Why don’t you take a photo with it? The view around this island is also excellent. I recommend visiting Ganryu-jima if you have time.

We stayed on the island about one hour and went back to Karato. Then we walked a few minutes to visit Akama-jingu Shrine.

Akama-jingu Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Antoku, who died at the age of seven when the Battle of Dan-no-Ura occurred nearby in 1185.

At that time, two family clans were fighting to get control of Japan: the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan. At the beginning the Taira clan had big power in politics and they promoted Antoku to take the throne at age three, whose mother was the daughter of Taira no Kiyomori.

When the Taira, who had close relation ties with the imperial family, was defeated, Emperor Antoku was taken and plunged into the water in the Shimonoseki Staraits, being nestled in his grandmother’s arms. This was to avoid humiliation of being captured by the opposing forces.

The young emperor died in the belief that even in the deep sea there would be a palace where he could live. This is why this Sea God’s Palace was built to console his spirit.

A little away from the shrine, you’ll find a monument for the Battle of Dan-no-Ura at Mimosumogawa Park.

Minamoto no Yoshitsune (above) and Taira no Tomomori (below)

After this battle, the Minamoto clan prospered at Kamakura (present-day Kamakura City, Kanagawa prefecture), and Minamoto no Yoritomo, Yoshitsune’s brother, became the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate (1192 – 1333), independent of the imperial power.

Near this monument, there are also some replicas of cannons.

Do you remember the story I wrote on the page for Hagi City? Shimonoseki is also known as the place where Takasugi Shinsaku was fighting against the western countries. These canons were used to drive them out.

Joint naval forces from Great Britain, France, the Nehterlands and the United States against the feudal domain of Choshu. How brave Choshu people were!

Last, I’ll introduce a small shrine called Ootoshi-jinja.

Before the Dan-no-Ura Battle, Minamoto no Yoshitsune visited this shrine to pray for victory.

I bought an amulet calling victory! I don’t know what I want to win, but I feel stronger now!!!

Shimonoseki is not so big, but many sites to visit. So much history. I think I need to study more… My husband also found a lot of interest in Japanese history during this trip.

But our trip continues…

Shimonoseki Tourist Information (Japanese)

Day 6 Hiroshima (Miyajima)

San-in/Chugoku Day 4 Yamaguchi (Hagi)

It was still dark when we woke up on that day. Maybe it was around 5 am… We had to leave Izumo City very early in the morning to get to our next destination, Hagi City in Yamaguchi prefecture. We took the 6:00 train and it was almost around noon when we arrived at Higashi Hagi Station. There are not many trains running in this area… Even some local people were shocked to know that we traveled the distance by train. But why not? Take time! I love traveling by train.

We saw several small fishing villages on the way. Calm and tranquil… I love the landscape.

And a beautiful coast line. The train sometimes ran through the mountains, too.

Good news was our hotel was next to the station.  We had a really nice stay at Hagi Royal Intelligent Hotel. The room was spacious and very clean. Good services too! Oh, of course, reasonable. In the room we also found some puzzle rings and darts… To kill time? But we didn’t have any time at all to play with them. Our schedule is always tight!

They accepted our early check in with no problem. We deposited our baggage in the coin locker in the hotel and immediately started exploring the city. But it was quite a walk from the hotel to the center of the city…We took the wrong way, too… Fortunately, we are good walkers! If you are not, you can rent a bicycle at the hotel.

—–Hagi City——

Hagi is a small city developed at the delta, facing the sea of Japan on one side, and surrounded by mountains in the other directions. It is very unique and beautiful.

Hagi is also well-known as the home ground of the Choshu Domain, a feudal domain of Japan during the Edo period. It’s kind of an old name of this prefecture. The Choshu Domain was ruled by the descendants of the great warlord Mori Motonari (1497–1571), who extended his power all over the Chugoku Region.

Oh, I love Japanese history… Here I’ll show how our history went.

After Mori Motonari’s death, his grandson Mori Terumoto became daimyo (feudal lord) and formed an alliance with Toyotomi Hideyoshi (another daimyo warrior expanding his territory all over Japan in the 16th century), who had to later fight a big battle called Sekigahara-no-tatakai (the battle of Sekigahara) with Tokugawa Ieyasu (the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate).

The result was, as is well known, the Hideyoshi side suffered a bitter defeat.

Mori Terumoto was trusted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (*Hideyoshi was already dead because of sickness, and his son was going to take his place), but one of his family betrayed during the battle. Terumoto’s  cousin, Kikkawa Hiroie, made a deal in secret with Tokugawa Ieyasu. And what is worse, Hideyoshi’s adopted cousin, Kobayakawa Hideaki, also joined the Tokugawa side. They knew the Tokugawa side had more power.

And Mori Terumoto himself left Osaka Castle, where he was serving as a commander, without fighting.

After the battle, the Mori clan was expecting to keep their status because they made a deal with Tokugawa Ieyasu. However, to their disappointment, their power was reduced.

At this point, their hatred toward the Tokugawa shogunate was born, and this anti-Tokugawa feeling was carried on until Bakumatsu (the final years of the Edo period). Every year the clan’s New Year’s meeting was held, and instead of saying “Happy New Year,” the senior vassals would ask, “when shall we start a battle (to overthrow the shogunate)? ” And the daimyo lord would reply, “Not yet. It’s still early.”

And they would sleep with their feet toward the east where the shogunate was (to express their feeling of indignation).

Their long-desired wish was eventually realized at Bakumatsu, when they established an ally with the Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) to gather forces (the Satcho Alliance). With their increased military power, they combatted the Tokugawa Shogunate and succeeded in making a new epoch.

Both Satsuma and Choshu produced a number of reputable samurais. Here I introduce famous Choshu samurais.

Yoshida Shoin (1830–1859)

1, Yoshida Shoin was a great educator in the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He attended Meirinkan school (one of the three major educational institutions in Japan) at age eight and gave a lecture there at age nine! The Mori daimyo was so impressed by his intelligence. Shoin devoted almost all his life to developing and training the young called “Ishin Shishi,” political activists who were later going to lead Japan to the Meiji Restoration.

Shoin was also keen to learn about the West. When Matthew Perry, commander of the United States Navy, came to Japan, Shoin attempted to get access to Perry’s ’black ships,’ which was at anchor in Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay). But unfortunately he ended up in a jail after captured by the Tokugawa troops. He was, then, sent back to Hagi, and there he had no liberty of traveling. Despite his misadventure, he kept a strong will to teach military arts and politics to young people in Hagi.

One of his pupils was Takasugi Shinsaku.

Takasugi Shinsaku (1839–1867)

2, Takasugi Shinsaku was one of the members at Shoka Sonjuku (Shoin’s private school) and contributed a lot to the Meiji Restoration.

At first, he opposed to opening the ports in Japan to the world, but he started to change his mind when he visited China, where he saw the Qing Dynasty being colonized by the Western countries. He was shocked at the sight of Chinese people lowering their bodies when they walked past the westerners. He strongly thought that Japan shouldn’t become like China, and he came to believe that his country should gain more knowledge from Europe and America so that it would be modernized and could avoid becoming their colony.

Then, back in Japan, the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, America, and the Netherlands) were starting to attack Shimonoseki Fort in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Japan was soon defeated, and the Allied Powers thrust several claims, one of which Shinsaku stubbornly refused, “fixed-term lease of territory”. He knew Japan would be colonized like China if he accepted it.

You see how complicating the situation  in Japan was at that time: opening the country or keeping an isolation policy…

Takasugi Shinsaku is considered to be one of the greatest persons in history, who saved Japan. He died from tuberculosis in 1867 at the age of 29,  without seeing the day when the Shogunate officially came to an end.

I like the poem he left at the moment of death.

Omoshiroki kotomonakiyoni omoshiroku”:
Whether you find this world interesting or not, it all depends on how you perceive it.

And he drew his last breath, telling, “oh, it’s interesting.”His life was short, but really meaningful.

3, Kido Takayoshi (1833–1877) was also born in Hagi. His name was Katsura Kogoro until 1865. He also learned at the school of Yoshida Shoin.

In the period of Bakumatsu, more and more foreign ships were arriving in Japan, and  Japan had a lot of pressure from them. The Shogunate was powerless against the foreign powers, and Yoshida Shoin and anti-Tokugawa leaders were starting to think that the Shogunate must be replaced by a new government.

Kido Takayoshi was the central figure of this ideology. In 1864, the rebellion at the Hamaguri Gate of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto broke out, in which the leading Choshu clan was fighting against the Shogunate. Kido Takayoshi (or Katsura Kogoro at that time) survived this battle, but he had to leave Kyoto because the Aizu clan (on the side of the Shogunate) was hunting down the remnants of the Choshu clan.

And where did he go? He came to my hometown!

A stone monument at Yoshimura soba shop in Izushi, Toyo-oka City (my hometown)

Kogoro met two brothers, who were visiting Kyoto from Izushi in the Tajima Province (present-day Toyo-oka City). They helped him to escape from Kyoto and took him to their hometown. And in Izushi, Kogoro was living as a small businessman. He was once in Kinosaki, too. (See page for Toyo-oka)

After his hiding out in the Tajima Province, he went back to Choshu and joined the Satcho Alliance. Then, he played an important role in the new Meiji government.

Now take a look at the preserved castle town in Hagi, where these great people were living.

First, you’ll find Enseiji (Ensei temple). The chief priest kindly showed us around this temple.

Tengu, a long-nosed goblin

When Shinsaku was small he would often play around here. It is said that he was scared of this Tengu mask.

And the biggest stone lantern in Japan.

The entrance fee is 200 yen, and you’ll get a nice Hagi castle town map.

My husband put the map in the frame, and it is on the wall of his office room now! It is worth more than 200 yen!

*** When you visit a temple, a shrine, or other private houses on exhibition, remember to keep good manners.

Let’s get back to the street and continue to walk. Everywhere you can find the old times of Japan.

Look at the street, and the house gate… The priest of Enseiji also explained how difficult it is to repair or renovate houses here. There are many rules and restrictions in order not to change the way the town looks. We should appreciate the residents taking care of these houses.

After a while, we found a nice café and decided to take a rest.

Kimono Style Café : This stylish café, which utilizes an old traditional Japanese house, stands across from Kido Takayoshi’s residence. They serve a variety of things. My husband had matcha (green tea) cake and matcha jelly. For him, it was a paradise! It was all his favorite! Inside the shop they also sell Hagi-yaki cups and plates. Hagi ware is a type of Japanese pottery that originated in the early 17th century, when some Korean potters reached Japan. They also rent out kimonos. Why don’t you take a walk in calm and graceful Hagi castle town with a nice kimono on! The shop staff will help you to dress up.

Kimono Style Café HP (Japanese)

We had a good rest with friendly staff at the café.

Let’s restart our exploration. Still many things to see.

Here, it is the main street, where the Hagi daimyo would walk with his retainers.

We also visited Kyu-Kubota-ke (former residence of Kubota). The entrance fee is only 100 yen, and you’ll be impressed when you see how elaborate this house is. If you can understand Japanese, a kind madam will show you around in the house. There are many things hidden and interesting in this residence. Worth visiting.

Take a bus to Shoin jinja (shoin shrine). Circulating bus services are operated by the city, and you can go around the city in this bus! This shrine is dedicated to Yosida Shoin, and behind the shrine you’ll find his school where he was teaching the youth including Takasugi Shinsaku.

I was really impressed when I stood in front of this school (photo on the left).  I was like, “I wish I could have studied here!” And we also visited his birthplace and took some photos like the one on the right. He might have been looking down the city like this. It’s just beautiful. Hagi City is really picturesque.

After a lot of walks and a lot of bus ride, we were very tired and extremely hungry! To fill our stomachs, we went to Isuzu. It’s a small restaurant run by a famous madam. Look at this Uni-don (a rice bowl dish with sea urchin)! She explained that her brother is a fisherman, and that the seafood is, thus, super fresh.

It was a really nice stay. We have a lot of memories now. A good place, and good people.

Here are some useful addresses:

Hagi tourism office

Hagi city portal

I hope many people will visit Hagi City and find Japanese traditional beauty. Japan is not only modern but has a lot of traditions. There are still some people who are always devoting themselves to conservation of our old culture. I really respect them.

Day 5 Yamaguchi (Shimonoseki)

San-in/Chugoku Day 3 Shimane (Izumo)

Leaving Tottori prefecture at noon, we arrived at Izumo City in Shimane prefecture in an hour or so.  The train we took was full of local people, not rushing at all, really tranquil.

Izumo was the center of Japan a long time ago. Japanese at that time had active trading with people on the continent, and all new technologies and knowledge were first arriving at this region from China and Korea. Izumo was prosperous and its people went as far as to constitute an independent polity.  But, unfortunately, during the 4th century they were absorbed into the state of Yamato Province, which was gaining power and extending their influence from present-day Nara prefecture. Vanquishing the ruling families across western Japan, Yamato established the Yamato dynasty (Wakoku), which was ruled by the Great King of Yamato, the origin of our imperial family.

Izumo lost its power, but it has always been playing a sacred role in Japan, and even today it’s the same. The spiritual impact Izumo had at that time was really remarkable. To prove it, you will see that Japanese mythology contains a lot of mentions of Izumo. Most of the Japanese myths say that the creation of the land of Japan took place at Izumo . Various gods at Izumo created our land, and that means we can say Izumo City is the place where Japan was born!

Now let’s hit the road!

To get to Izumo Taisha (Izumo Shrine) from JR Izumo Station, we took the Ichibata Densha, a small local train. In the train we had a young female conductor managing everything. She was taking care of passengers’ tickets, directing us to the right way when we changed trains, and giving us a short guide about the sightseeing spots. I didn’t know Shimane had some wine makers until she explained it! I was very impressed that she did so many things during the short ride.

Enjoy the petit excursion and a beautiful landscape of Japanese countryside.

Izumo-Taisha-mae-eki is the terminal of the Ichibata Denasha Line.  According to Ichibata Densha Company, this station was built a hundred years ago (the year 2012 is its 100th anniversary)!  It has always been here, rain or shine!!!  It’s a simple design, but considering the time, it is very modern.  


(This photo comes from Wikipedia)

Izumo Taisha (Izumo Grand Shrine)

Starting from Izumo-Taisha-mae Station, we walked a few minutes and came to a big torii,  the entrance of Izumo Taisha.  A torii is the gateway to a Shinto shrine, and it is regarded as a barrier against evil spirits.

Japan is the country of “kami,” Shinto gods, and Izumo Taisha is one of the most important Shinto shrines,  dedicated to the god Okuninushi.

Do you remember the story about the hare at Hakuto Beach ( Tottori Day 1)? Okuninushi, or Onamuchi as he was young, had many older brothers called Yaso-gami, and all of them wanted to marry the princess Yakami. However, when Okuninush saved a poor hare on the beach Hakuto, which was actually a god, the hare told that it would be Okuninushi who would marry the princess.

Learning about this, his brothers became furious and started to attack Okuninushi. Then his mother, Kami-Musubi, advised him to take refuge in the underworld.

In the under world, he met the storm god, Susano, and his daughter, Suseri-hime, with whom Okuninushi soon fell in love with. Knowing that, Susano got enraged, and in response he gave Okuninushi a number of ordeals. Okuninushi successfully managed to overcome all the trials and left the underworld with the princess. After coming back to his world, Okuninushi, then, fought his older brothers with the weapons he got in the underworld. When the entire ordeal was over, he became the ruler of Izumo and started to create the base of the land of Japan.

I don’t remember how much we walked , but I do remember it was very very hot! We continued on the path to the shrine, looking for a shade … but in vain… I found on the way, however, the statues of the hare and Okuninushi, and their presence encouraged me to walk on…

Here we are! This is where the god, Okuninushi, lives. A big ornament hanging from the eaves is called “Shimenawa” (the photo above). A shimenawa is a straw rope with strips of folded paper. It is considered to repel evil spirits.

Some people were throwing a coin at this shimenawa. They believe that if the coin they throw successfully gets stuck in the straw rope they will have happy marriage. However, other people think that such people are not respectful to the god…

Another interesting thing I learned is that the shimenawa at Izumo Taisha is woven in the opposite way from the way used for other ordinary shimenawa ropes. This means that the sacred rope at Izumo Taisha is designed to prevent evil spirit from escaping from the inside of the shrine. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? A lot of mysteries are still there to be solved.


How do we pray at Izumo Taisha?

At a shrine, usually, we bow twice, clap our hands twice, and bow one last time, but at Izumo Taisha we bow twice, clap our hands four times, and bow one more time.

*Remember you mustn’t clap your hands at a temple. At a temple you join your hands quietly in prayer. Here are some tips for manners !

Kashiwade (clapping the hands) in Shintoism is believed to have originated from the sound of the creation of heaven and earth. In other words,  it is the sound when Japan was born. In our myth, Amaterasu-omikami, the goddess of the sun, had sequestered herself in the cave because the storm god Susano was behaving violently. The world was in the darkness and chaotic while she (or the sun)  was in the cave. And finally, when she appeared, or the sun came out, Japan was put in perfect order. The sound also indicates the light to this world.

Gassho (putting the hands together) in Buddhism, on the other hand, comes from the general way of greeting in India and Southeast Asia. It is an expression of respect to the other person. This form was adopted and is still used to the present day as a way to show one’s belief in the Buddha.

When you visit a shrine, remember to follow these rules.

1. You bow when you pass the torii gate. If you want to walk on the left side of the path, you start to walk with your left leg, and the right side with your right leg. Avoid walking in the middle of the path where the god walks.

2. Before you pray you should purify your hands and mouth with sacred water. Don’t let your lips touch the dipper.

3. When you pray in front of the altar, avoid standing in the middle. You should show your modesty to the god.

4. When you make a money offering, don’t throw it, but do it gently.

5. You don’t make a wish but you show your gratitude for the god first.

Why Okuninushi lives here?

Amaterasu-omikami is a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun and of the universe. She sent some messengers to Izumo to tell Okuninushi that the world where Okuninushi was should be governed by the descendants of Amaterasu-omikami. Okuninushi accepted this order on the condition that he would have a palace of his own. And the palace is now called Izumo Taisha.

Some people believe that this exchange didn’t go smoothly. Okuninushi might have been in great despair and anger because he had to give up his land. That’s why this shrine has a unique pattern of shimenawa in order to keep the vengeful spirit of Okuninushi shut in.

I don’t know what is true, but it is an interesting hypothesis.

The Emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu, and it means this story actually shows that the Yamato dynasty was expanding its power and finally reached the Izumo Region.

The origin of my country is very mysterious. But our imperial family carries the roots. Look at the tree in the photo. This tree , found in the compound of the Izumo shrine, was planted when our future emperor Hisahito was born in 2006.

Izumo soba:

There are many souvenir shops and soba restaurants around the shrine, and we decided to taste Izumo soba (the photo above) for lunch.

After delicious lunch, we continued our excursion.

History of Kabuki:

Izumo is also known for the origin of Kabuki. It’s a traditional stage drama performed by men, to the accompaniment of songs and music. They dance with elaborate (or eccentric) costumes on.

Okuni, the originator of kabuki theater, is believed to have been a shrine maiden at Izumo Taisha. She traveled to Kyoto and performed a new style of dancing, singing, and acting to ask for money to repair and renovate the shrine. At that time it was difficult to find money to maintain shrines or temples, and she came up with this unique idea.


This small cottage is the place where she spent her later years.

Initially Kabuki was performed by female performers, but the Edo government prohibited them. Many people followed the way Okuni did, but for different purposes, including prostitution business, and it was considered as corrupting public morals. And since then, Kabuki has been always played only by men.

My husband found her wearing a necklace with a cross (on the statue near the cottage), but I don’t think she was a Christian. She was trying to look eccentric to draw more attention when she performed.

You can also visit her cemetery. I think it was a 10 minutes’ walk or so from the shrine. And if  you continue farther on the same street toward Inasa Beach, you will find a small mountain, which is also dedicated to Okuni. There is a memorial tower. If you go there, go up to the top of the mountain. The mountain is called “Hono-zan”. You can enjoy a panoramic view of Inasa Beach.

Another myth tells us that Izumo used to be a very narrow incomplete country and that Izumo people had to pull in some extra land from other countries to expand their territory. Look at the island  in the photo above! It could have been pulled in too!


In the traditional Japanese calendar, the month of October is called Kan-na-zuki. While today we all call the month just “ju-gatsu”, literally meaning the tenth month, Kan-na-zuki indicates that it’s the month with no gods. Kan=gods, na=no, and zuki =month. Why no gods? It’s because all the gods in Japan leave their shrines and have an annual gathering at Izumo Taisha! So, in Shimane prefecture people call the tenth month Kami-ari-zuki, which means the month when the gods are present.

In this region, there are many many more sites to visit. The capital city of Shimane, Matsue, is also a must-go. You shouldn’t miss their specialty, shijimi clams. And Iwami Ginzan (a silver mine) was added to the World Heritage list in 2007.

Have a lot of fun in Shimane! You can download an English guide at Izumo Tourism Guide.

 Day 4 Yamaguchi (Hagi)

San-in/Chugoku Day 2 Tottori (Yonago to Sakaiminato)

Leaving Kurayoshi City, we headed for our next destination, Yonago City. The Tottori liner we took was a rapid train. It took about 45 minutes to get there. We checked in at a hotel near the station. Super Hotel is a chain hotel. Their chain hotels are everywhere in Japan and they are very reasonable. Very clean, good services. This type of hotel is designed for business people who usually travel on a low budget, so you can save money. We liked their breakfast!

At Yonago Station first we found the city very quiet. On the north side of Japan called San-in, it was more populated in the past, but since more business was created on the Pacific Coast in modern times, many people started to move to the south.

Yonago Station is also the birthplace of the San-in railroad. Thanks to this railroad we could enjoy our trip!

Inside the city, we found a unique street where nine temples stand side by side. According to my guide brochure it goes about 400m long. If we’d had more time, we would have visited each one, but actually we did not have much time and the sun was setting. I’d love to visit this city again. There must be many interesting things hidden in its small streets.

Yonago Navi (English)

At Yonago Station we took the Sakaiminato line to get to Sakaiminato City. Look at the trains running on this line. It’s a lot of fun! This is Kitaro Ressha” (Kitaro Train). I saw “Medama-no-oyaji Ressha” too. Do you know the characters?

Kitaro is a popular manga (comics) series character. Most of Japanese know this manga, Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro.

It was created in 1959 by a manga artist, Shigeru Mizuki. Imagine! in 1959! And still popular among Japanese children. Me too! I was watching it when I was small. There are several versions. The oldest one is black and white, but the latest one is making full use of modern technology. The one of my generation is, maybe, somewhere in-between.

The folklore creatures known as yokai have been always very popular in Japan. Yokai is kind of a spirit-monster. All characters appearing in this manga are yokai. The manga, thus, shows very well-human mentality too.

The artist, Mizuki Shigeru, is now living in Tokyo, but Sakaiminato is famous for his birthplace. And he contributes a lot to revitalize the city. You see what his contribution is:


The man in the middle is Shigeru Mizuki and his yokai friends are watching him working at the desk.

The street is called “Mizuki Shigeru Road”. They say there are 139 yokai statues.

If you are interested, you can learn more about this manga at Mizuki Shigeru Museum on the same street.

Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro is also sitting somewhere on the street, with his father, medama-no-oyaji on his hand.

The street is all decorated with the characters. The taxis, and even the street lights.

When we tried to take a rest in the park, we found even the park itself converted into the yokai world!

Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro is really popular in Japan, but my recommendation is Non Non Ba. Shigeru Mizuki received the Best Album Award for this work at The Angoulême International Comics Festival in France in 2007. This is the largest comics festival in Europe. The story is based on the author’s childhood. It’s not only funny but nostalgic for most of Japanese, I think. Something we are forgetting in the material world comes back to our mind. My husband had kind of a fixed idea against manga, but he is now saying manga has great variations.

Sakaiminato is the city where yokai are living!!!

Before visiting the city, get a street map on the official site.
Sakaiminato Tourism office (English)

Day 3 Shimane (Izumo)

San-in/Chugoku Day 1 Tottori (Toyooka to Hawai Onsen)

Japan is an island country, consisting of 6,852 islands, and the four largest islands are named Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. Some cities are well known worldwide, such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, but that’s not all about Japan. We have a variety of regions and landscapes, and there are still many places even I have never been to.

In the year 2011, a major earthquake hit northeast Japan, causing extensive damage and heavy casualties. The images reported from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima also scared or is still scaring off many foreigners. As a result we had a big drop in the number of foreign visitors. As a Japanese with an official guide license, I’d like to help Japan retrieve its previous healthy image and have foreigners understand that Japan has more attractive places to visit.

With that idea in mind, I decided to start a round tour in Japan in the summer of 2011, of course, with my husband, who loves traveling in Japan.

The first stage is the San-in and the Chugoku Region.

Starting from my hometown, Toyo-oka city, we traveled 5 prefectures in the regions in one week, and that all by train!

The stage 1

The first day: Tottori Prefecture 

Tottori is located in the west of the Honshu Island facing the sea of Japan. It is known as the city with the least population in Japan. Very quiet. But! you’ll be surprised to see how beautiful the nature they have. Actually the San-in region is registered as a geo-park which was launched by UNESCO. The coast line in this region is very unique and has a lot of sites representing an earth science interest.

Tottori Sand Dunes: They are the only large dune system (over 30 km²) in Japan.

When we visited there, it was very hot, and the sand was well heated. Better to take sandals! To get the sight of the sea, you have to walk in the sand and it’s not comfortable with ordinary shoes. I got a lot of sand in my sneakers. Some people were also enjoying riding a camel.

There is a big parking lot, and visitors can find local food and goods at souvenir shops. We had lunch at a restaurant up in the hill. Enjoy the cable car to get to the restaurant!

Leaving Toyo-oka city early in the morning, we finally arrived at Tottori Station. (You’ll find the sand dunes before arriving at Tottori Station.)

From Toyo-oka to Tottori Station you can enjoy a wonderful landscape of the San-in coast line. It’s really breathtaking. My husband loves this part of Japan (see the page Toyo-oka for more photos).

At the station, the first thing you should do is to get a local map. They have a lot of free brochures and pamphlets. One of the good things about living in Japan is that they give good services! I love traveling in Japan. The trains always come on time!!!

Our first destination, Hakuto Jinja (Hakuto Shrine). In its Kanji combination, Haku means white, and to stands for a hare. That is, this shrine is dedicated to a white hare.

According to the myth, the hare was trying to cross the sea from the island of Oki to the main land. He tricked the sharks into sending him to the main land. However when he was almost there, he exclaimed that he had deceived the sharks. The sharks became furious and attacked the hare. The hare had his skin ripped off. Then, when the hare was suffering from pain, the god Onamuchi passed nearby. Onamuchi was traveling and serving other gods who would propose Yakami princess goddess for marriage. The god found the poor hare and kindly helped him. The hare got better immediately and revealed its true form as a god. The hare told Onamuchi that Yakami princess would be his.

And the hare is now enshrined here. It’s a very small shrine, but has a long story.

Hakuto Kaigan (Hakuto Beach)

In front of the shrine is a white beach stretching out. We had “ekiben” here. The ekiben (special local boxed lunch sold at a station) we bought at Tottori Station was great! Ika bento! Rice cooked with squid ink and squid meat on it.

Access to the beach and the shrine:
We took a bus at Tottori Station. Hinomaru Bus bound for Shikano. Get off at Hakuto Jinja. Approximately 30 min.

Our next destination was Kurayoshi City, where we stayed one night at a Japanese onsen ryokan (Japanese traditional-style hotel with a hot spring). The city has an onsen (hot spring) resort called “Hawai Onsen”.

It was a 20 minutes’ bus ride from Hakuto Jinja to Kurayoshi. Arriving at Kurayoshi JR Station, we took a pickup bus to the ryokan, Bokoro ryokan. Check their home page for more information. English is available.

Bokoro HP

Can you see how comfortable it is? There is a big common hot spring bath outside with a panoramic view of the lake, but we reserved a room with a private bath for my husband. It’s convenient. You can enjoy taking a bath whenever you want.

Room Hanautage  42,000 yen for two persons per night  (two meals included)

There is a bridge to get to the large hot spring bath. Can you imagine? The bath is located in the middle of the lake! We could also enjoy summer fireworks by chance. It was really beautiful.


The food was excellent too. This is just part of the dinner (left) and the breakfast (right). Every time the madam in charge of our stay came and served a meal explaining what each dish was. We’d love to go back again some day!


The next morning we left the hotel and  went back to downtown. Here are some streets of Kurayoshi City.

These buildings in Akagawara area are well preserved. It was like this before all over Japan…

Sirokabe dozo gun (Storehouses with white walls)

Look at the mailbox. It is rare to find in Japan now. There are many things nostalgic.

This is a local traditional craft item my husband bought at Nakano Chikugei (Nakano bamboo craft-work shop). If you visit Akagawara, why don’t you visit this shop? You can find something nice for your house! Or souvenirs for your friends.

Akgawara official site

Tottori Sightseeing information (English, French and other languages available)

Our first day was already full of discoveries, but it has just started…

Our trip continues … to Day 2 Tottori (Yonago to Sakaiminato)