I kid you not, that is exactly how it happened! I heard the Kodama (tree spirits)! If you have not seen this movie, this is all you need to know:

This would make a great story, expect that I remembered it wrong. Hayao Miyazaki’s movie “Princess Mononoke” didn’t take place in Higashi-Izumo. It took place in Oku-Izumo!

I was really excited about the unidentified sounds and certainly appreciated the five-minute walk through the forest near Yomotsuhirasaka for it, but I thought about it more later and what I remember of the Studio Ghibli film. The geography wouldn’t make sense with the time period, so I checked–sure enough, I was wrong! Oku-Izumo makes more sense, giving the iron production history there. I feel a little disappointed, but whose to say forest spirits wouldn’t spread out to the surrounding areas?

I see a lot of piles of rocks like this in forests around here, and they always remind me of Lafcadio Hearn‘s essay about another Shimane sight, “In The Cave of the Children’s Ghosts”:

From the sea the ribbed floor of the cavern slopes high through deepening shadows hack to the black mouth of a farther grotto; and all that slope is covered with hundreds and thousands of forms like shattered haka. But as the eyes grow accustomed to the gloaming it becomes manifest that these were never haka; they are only little towers of stone and pebbles deftly piled up by long and patient labour.

‘Shinda kodomo no shigoto,’ my kurumaya murmurs with a compassionate smile; ‘all this is the work of the dead children.’

(Buri note: Haka = grave(stone), Kurumaya = driver)

Given the circumstances, these rocks made me think more of Kodama!

…but maybe the nearby neighborhood puppies lived here instead?

Thus ended my charming visit to the gateway to the underworld. Given it’s ties to Yomi, the story of Izanagi and Izanami is rather dark and places associated can be on the somber side, but other Kojiki stories that took place in the San’in region tended to have happier endings. Now that we have this tragedy out of the way, look forward to more love stories and heroism ahead.