Ever heard of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, home to the most famous shrine in Japan for enmusubi (matchmaking)? Izumo is home to the only airport in Japan that can proudly name their airport the official enmusubi airport.
Along with visiting the shrine for celestial help with finding your perfect partner, career or in any type of relationship, here are five things you should do in Izumo this autumn.
1. Visit Izumo Shrine in November for Kamiarizuki
It is believed that the week of Oct. 10 on the lunar calendar is when eight million deities from around Japan congregate in Izumo for a yearly meeting. Hence, every November in Izumo is kamiarizuki (the month when the deities are present). In contrast, November is more commonly referred to as kannazuki (the month when deities are absent) around Japan.
Crowds flock to Izumo Shrine during those seven days as it is believed that one’s wishes are more likely to come true. There are also two festivals to mark the occasion, one to welcome the deities called kamimukaesai, and another to bid them farewell till next year called karasadesai.
2. Explore the shrine grounds
Izumo Shrine is filled with little surprises along the way, so much so that it should take up two items on this list. Did you know you can see 46 statues of rabbits scattered throughout the shrine, all with different expressions, with some making sake and others gearing up for a sumo wrestling match?
There are also bronze statues of a sacred horse and cow, rumored to bring luck if you were to rub their noses.
3. Check out Inasanohama Beach
Inasanohama Beach is home to the iconic shrine on a rock. Said to be home to a female sea deity who keeps a watchful eye over seafarers. Just a 15-minute walk from Izumo Shrine, Inasanohama Beach is where celebrations for Kamiarizuki begin.
One of the rituals for locals and travelers alike also involves taking sand from Inasanohama Beach and bringing it to Soganoyashiro, one of the smaller shrines situated behind the main hall at Izumo Shrine. The sand is considered a talisman to protect people from evil and a ritual for those beginning construction on a new home.
4. Go on a sake or winery Tour
Izumo is said to be the birthplace of nihonshu (rice wine) with its sake brewing culture developed around the Izumo Toji, a group of master brewers. Sake brewing was originally carried out by farmers sent to breweries to work in the off-season winter. With time, brewers emerged spontaneously to share brewing techniques amongst these sake brewers, thus the Izumo Toji.
Jujiasahi Brewery in Izumo city offers brewery tours and a ¥100 tasting for six little cups of their sake. You’ll also learn more about the rice, water and barrels they use to make their sake since their establishment in 1869.
Shimane produces the largest amount of Delaware grapes in Japan. Grapes harvested around Shimane are made into wine at Shimane Winery. There are free daily winery tours at Shimane Winery where you can learn more about the brewing process. Drop by the shop for a free wine tasting before heading to the restaurant.
5. Soak in an onsen
Autumn is the perfect season to soak in an onsen (hot spring). A bus ride away from the doorstep of Izumo Shrine is Tamatsukuri Onsen. One of the oldest hot springs in Japan, it was opened in the Nara period (710-794) and is known for being one of the best onsens for the skin, with a hydration effect that is likened to soaking in skin lotion.
With an onsen street with food stalls and souvenir shops, you’ll be able to enjoy a walk around the small town other than enjoying quiet time at the ryokan. There are also three open-air foot baths in Tamatsukuri Onsen, all free and open to the public.