While Shimane is off-the-beaten-path for most foreign tourists, there are many interesting places to visit in the western prefecture. The Izumo Taisha shrine is one of those must-see spots, as you can find both the thickest shimenawa rope and the largest Japanese flag here. Let’s learn more about the matchmaking shrine in this travel guide!
History of the Shrine
East of Shimane Prefecture, the great shrine of Izumo or Izumo Taisha is dedicated to the Shinto God Okuninushi-no-Mikoto. This god is the creator and protector of medicine, sericulture, and agriculture. He would have received it as compensation for another territory given to another god. This would be the oldest shrine in Japan, in fact, its existence dates back to at least the seventh century. However, most of the current buildings date from 1668, and the main building is from 1744 (the 25th reconstruction).
The main shrine, with a height of 24 meters, is a reference for the Taisha Zukuri architectural style. However, it is said that there was a time when its size was 48 meters. This hypothesis is reinforced by the discovery in 2000 of three wooden pillars 1 meter in diameter joined together to form a single pillar for a building that could have supported such a height.
If you are interested in the history and treasures of the shrine, we recommend you to visit Homotsuden Museum. In the museum, you can see a small model of the original shrine building that’s 48 meters high.
The most famous part of the shrine is the enormous shimenawa rope. Shimenawa is a rice straw or hemp rope that covers a sacred area in a Shinto shrine. The one in front of the Kaguraden is the biggest one in Japan. Kaguraden is used for rituals and wedding ceremonies. The shimenawa here is 13 meters long and the weight is 5.2 kg. They replace the rope with a new one every year.
You will also find the biggest Japanese flag on the shrine’s grounds. Its size is larger than 75 tatami (straw mat), and they hoist it every day.
Meeting of the Gods
In Japan, October is called Kannaduki or ‘the month without gods’. It means that gods will be absent from almost all the cities in Japan, except in Izumo. So in Izumo, they call October Kamiariduki or ‘the month with gods’. All the gods from all over Japan get together in Izumo to have a meeting once a year.
The most important topic of the meeting is marriage. They will talk about who should get married to who. So Izumo Taisha is regarded as the shrine of marriage. Many young people who wish to marry pay a visit to this shrine to pray for finding their future partner.
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Izumo Taisha Access Information
Access: Local bus from Izumo-shi (出雲市) station (JR Line) to Izumo Taisha (出雲大社). It takes about 25 minutes
Hours: From March to October 6 am – 8.30 pm / From November to February 6.30 am – 8 pm
Entrance fee shrine: Entrance to the shrine is free
Entrance fee museum: 300 yen for adults / 200 yen for university and senior high school students / 100 yen for junior high and elementary school students. Opening hours 8.30 am – 4.30 pm