Going east to west, Shimane is a rather long prefecture, and Tsuwano is a few hours away from Matsue by train. It’s so far to the west that it is commonly mistaken as being part of Yamaguchi. Make no mistake, though. This little gem of a town is part of the San’in region, and is completely nicknamed “Little Kyoto of the San’in Region.” It’s compact, but packed full of charm.

One of the first things visitors notice is that many of the buildings are classic in style or otherwise fit Tsuwano’s theme.

One of several wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) shops where you could find signature genshimaki. But, you know, living in Matsue I’m a little spoiled when it comes to wagashi.

This is a back alley, not one of the main tourist streets.

A bank building that ventured not to be boring.

Why the egret? Because one of the things Tsuwano is famous for is Sagi Odori (“Heron Dance”, though I’m told the costume is more like an egret). This is originally a famous Kyoto custom, but the Tsuwano version is deemed national Important Intangible Cultural Property. I have not seen this dance, but I’ve seen traveling Yosakoi dance group with the egret similar in style to the Sagi-odori costumes as their theme.

One of the other things you might notice is the Catholic church on the main tourist street. This is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, and there is another chapel elsewhere that is a memorial to persecuted Christians.

I had been curious about this chapel for a long time, because I wanted to see the tatami mats inside!

I image sitting through mass in seiza would be quite the penance.

But there is something else along the main tourist road that keeps every looking down.

Carp! Lots and lots of carp.

In Japanese, these fish are called koi. This is synonymous with “romantic love” but it’s also synonymous with “come here.” Hence, the taxis in Tsuwano are called “Koi Koi.” Come here, fishy…

There is cheap fish food available for sale all over that part of town, but if you take great joy in making fish go on feeding frenzies, you should do so as early in the day as you can. For as many fish as there are along this street, they are very well fed, and by later afternoon there are the most disinterested carp I’ve ever seen. It was very strange watching them give the fish equivalent of a shrug to the food floating above their heads before very slowly proceeding to eat it.

However, that may have had something to do with the day I went, as there was a big event going on in April and a lot of people were in town. Also, because it was April, the just-as-iconic irises in the canals with the carp were not quite blooming yet.

The cherry blossoms were barely hanging to the trees, but still filled the air when the wind blew. That day of alternationg clouds and sunshine, I still had more to see besides the quaint townscape. We’ll touch on more in the next entries.

We’re off to a very Kyoto-like place next time…