The Shadows of Old Japan…

In addition to the above, it’s also a place where things like this…

…and this…

…and this…

…are completely normal and characteristic of the region.

The San’in Region is generally known as the area of Japan in the Chuugoku Region (Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Shimane, Tottori, and Okayama Prefectures, in the westernmost part of Japan’s main island, Honshuu) that is north of the Chuugoku Mountains and facing the Sea of Japan. It’s the shady side of the mountains (山陰 san’in: Mountain Shadows), whereas the southern part of Chuugoku is the sunny side (山陽 sanyou: Mountain Sun). A fun fact for those who enjoy Chinese characters: 陰 is yin and 陽 is yang.

The exact boundries of the San’in Regions vary from Yamaguchi to Kyoto (in which case, the castle town of Matsue is in the middle), but it is generally known as Shimane and Tottori, Japan’s two least populated prefectures (in which case, Matsue is still in the middle). The largest city (again, Matsue) has a population of about 200,000 people. The bubble economy development didn’t show up as much here as in the rest of the country, and it has a strong agricultural output and retains much of the old character of rural Japan.

In fact, this is a major cultural center. Besides retaining and/or founding traditions like such the yabusame archery, bull fighting, and sumo wrestling, it was also the seat of power of Izumo, one of the most refined kingdoms in Japan’s very early history. Besides the Paleolithic and Joumon period artifacts (14,000-300BC), it is well known for its Yayoi period artifacts (300BC-250AD). The founding mythology of Japan’s homegrown religion, Shinto, also primarily took place in Shimane’s Izumo region. Start reading my comic-retelling of the Kojiki mythology here. (Admittedly I’m quite partial to the Izumo region, or especially what used to be known as Izumo Province until the abolition of the han system 1871.)

The old borders of Izumo Province (not to be confused with Izumo City)

In more recent history, the region can boast of famous writers and storytellers, such as Koizumi Yakumo (aka Lafcadio Hearn) and Mizuki Shigeru. Expect to hear more about them, as well as the local folktales they drew inspiration from.

I live here now, too (in Matsue, if you haven’t guessed that yet). I may not be as accomplished as the aforementioned, but hopefully I’ll have some interesting stories of my own to share as well.


3 Responses to “About the San’in Region”

  1. […] since 2005, as well as writing comics for fun.  Her current area of study is now Japan’s San’in region, the often overlooked shadows of ancient Japan. About 1/3 of the Shinto legends recorded in the […]

  2. The San’in region of Japan is often misunderstood because of the rural, tradition-laden culture of the region that is often different from the rest of Japan, even though Shinto beliefs started here. However, I have some interest in the region, since there is a YouTube member who has posted many videos of this area (I believe the member currently lives in the town of Izumo not far from Izumo Taisha).

    1. Buri-chan Says:

      Glad to hear there is interest! Although the Yamato clan ultimately took control of what we think of as ancient Japan, even today Izumo lingers as the “other” side of Japan. I’d be interested in seeing this YouTube page!

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