This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD). The manga this time is a single installment, and we’ll take a look at the associated geography in the following entry.


Don’t forget who Okuninushi is! He’ll continue to be important.
Why the ropes? That’s in reference to Kunibiki (start reading that story Fudoki story here.)



Recall that we first encountered these creatures in the story of the White Hare of Inaba. We’re fairly comfortable calling them sharks (in modern Japanese, same), but the word used in the archaic context is wani (translated from modern Japanese, “crocodile”).







Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
One of my favorite hiking spots in the San’in region, Oni-no-Shitaburui–where the crocasharkgator is stuck!

Or start reading the next story!
The rapid expansion of Okuninushi’s love life and rule over the land

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)

Or see the Kojiki a.t.b.b. masterlist!
The Kojiki Myths in Manga Form

You’ll notice Japan has a lot of “Top 3” lists. There’s not really any ranking within these lists–if something is in the top three, it does not mean it’s a kind way of saying third place, it means it shares first place with two others of its kind. Of course, you’ll notice that has expanded into “Top 100” lists, at which point I think it’s getting a little out of hand, but there are probably already hundreds of “Top 3” lists to begin with. I guess it just means that you can find a “Top 3” list to suit any of your needs.

And if beauty onsen happen to be among your needs, allow me to introduce you to one of those “Top 3”, Yunokawa Onsen, south of Lake Shinji and five minutes away from Izumo Airport! (Not be confused with Yunokawa Onsen in Hokkaido!)

Click for source

This post is following up two other posts introducing the other places associated with this myth.

This post is following up two other posts introducing the other places associated with this myth.

I cannot take credit for this discovery–rather, Princess Yagami herself was said to have found spied this onsen on her way to Izumo, and she happily refreshed herself from the long journey so she could look beautiful in front of her husband–but we all know how that worked out. Stories go on to saw that she stopped there on the way back as well and nursed her broken heart, but was able to start fresh both body and soul afterward–with lovely silky smooth and springy skin, of course.

But hold up… where in the Kojiki did it say that? Or in the Nihonshoki, the more political history-book like of the two? Or was it in the Izumo Fudoki?

This legend is much more recent, perhaps as late as the Edo period. A lot of people were coming up with new interpretations of the Kojiki around those times, so in wider culture, you tend to be left with a mash-up of interpretations about just which kami is actually which kami. Although there have been movements to go back to the original text and reanalyze it in purely linguistic methods (which, depending on whether you’re reading for the character for their meaning or their sound, could give you very different results!), the interpretation of the Kojiki has constantly been evolving, and this piece of cultural canon is so attached to the original Kojiki story that, at least in terms of general cultural use, it’s not worth trying to separate them.

The crystal clear water is rich in sodium and calcium, and it is classified as both a sulphate and chloride type onsen. Chloride onsen tend to warm up your body even faster, so although this lets your skin soak in the minerals, just make sure to stay hydrated and don’t pass out! But that applies at every onsen, though you’ll notice some are especially hot while others are more lukewarm. At least when I went, it was just right for a rather lengthy evening soak outside in the cool night air.

Nestled among the mountains, it’s the perfect spot for a quiet onsen getaway, though if you’re just in for a brief stop, there is a day-trip onsen for ¥500 at Hikawa Bijin no Yu. On your way out, be sure to stop at the Michi-no-Eki (like a rest stop, only much nicer) next to the statue of Yagami by the entrance to the onsen area. Izumo is also famous for ginger, which also has body warming properties, so in addition to ginger products on sale, they also serve ginger curry–that way you can warm yourself up from inside and out! The ginger tea or candy is easier to take home, though~

I must be a bit biased because I continue to mention Tamatsukuri Onsen almost every time I mention an onsen–the bath of the gods may not be in this particular “Top 3” list, but it was listed as one of the “Top 3” onsen in Sei Shonagon’s ever-famous “Pillow Book” record of courtly Heian life. That means we have two top onsen just south of Lake Shinji which the gods are said to frequent, and they’re a very short car-ride away from each other.

While population density is one of the first things that comes to mind when people are thinking about life in Japan, it’s important to note that there is a big difference between the toshi (city) and inaka (rural) ways of life. Most people will tell you these are the two faces of Japan, but people in Tokyo might tell you that there is only Tokyo and inaka.

We’re talking stumbling upon an old bus in the middle of mountain rice fields while you’re lost and hunting for a somewhat mythological shrine kind of inaka.

While comparing the mindsets of Tokyoites and Osakans, or comparing the mindsets of Kyotoites and everyone else is always fun, there is also perspective to be gained within other regions as well. For example, the term “U-turn” refers to young people who move away to the big city for a while, but soon find themselves returned to their inaka hometowns. On a smaller scale, an aquaintance here once boasted that even if this region seems far away, living close to an airport means that it’s easy to fly out to Tokyo for a weekend to play and shop, and that is just enough time to receive a shock and be happy to come back home just as easily.

While many, many prefectures in Japan would proudly describe themselves as inaka, only the San’in region, facing the Sea of Japan and nestled behind the Chugoku mountain range as if hiding from the rest of the country, gets to boast of the lowest population of all the prefectures. Tottori Prefecture, to the east, wins in a lot of these contests: lowest population, as well as the last prefecture to get a Starbucks. Shimane Prefecture, to the west, only has the second lowest population and was only the second to last prefecture to get a Starbucks (as of about a year ago–we more recently got a Godiva right across from it, though!).

Furthermore, just as people enjoy trying to find any kind of unique(ish) claims to fame for US states, you find the same of push for fame for each prefecture in Japan. I heard of a list labeling each prefecture for something it is famous for, and while Shimane was quite appropriately named Shinwa-ken (Mythology Prefecture), Tottori was named Nashi-ken (Pear Prefecture). Tottori pears are indeed very, very, very tasty, but the problem with this nickname is that the word for pear (梨) is synonymous with the word for “nothing” (無). It doesn’t seem people were insulted. Rather, they laughed and took it with a sense of ironic pride–“Haha, that’s right, there is nothing in Tottori! We’re as inaka as it gets!”

That’s not true, though. Tottori is famous for–within Japan–very unique sand dunes, as well as for being the home prefecture of many famous mangaka, such as Mizuki Shigeru (who wrote Gegege no Kitaro), and Aoyama Gosho (who wrote Detective Conan). Thus, one of Tottori’s other nicknames is “Manga Kingdom.” If anything, because of Tottori’s reputation for being the most inaka of the inaka (and indeed, in many manga I’ve read where they want very a inaka setting, Tottori tends to be a popular choice), it’s kind of famous in its alleged “nothingness.”

And alas, Shimane, being second to Tottori in inaka-ness, is often overshadowed by Tottori’s supposed void. We joke that we’re the 47th most popular prefecture. Irony tends to be a strength of the region, though, as evidenced by Yoshida-kun, our scowling volunteer ambassador who tells it like it is and therefore doesn’t sugar-coat what really does make Shimane a cool place.

To break down regional attitudes a little further, I’ve written before about how the western portion of Shimane (Iwami) and the eastern region of Shimane (Izumo) tend to have different mindsets (and notice that this is completely ignoring the rather large, unique Oki Islands), illustrated in little things like offering and accepting tea:

A person from the Iwami region (western Shimane) goes to visit a friend in the Izumo region (eastern Shimane). The Izumo friend asks, “Do you want another cup of tea?” and the Iwami friend replies, “no thank you, I’ve had enough.” The Izumo friend then prepares another cup of tea, and the Iwami friend is surprised and then forces himself to drink it so as to be polite.

A person from the Izumo region goes to visit a friend in the Iwami region. The Iwami friend asks, “Do you want another cup of tea?” and the Izumo friend replies, “no thank you, I’ve had enough.” The Iwami friend pours no more tea, and the Izumo friend sadly wonders why he isn’t getting another cup of tea but says nothing so as to be polite.

Even breaking down the Izumo region even further into small cities and towns, you find even more different mindsets despite the higher level of integration. For example, the two largest cities in the Izumo region are Matsue City and Izumo City, respectively on the east and west sides of Lake Shinji, comprising the Shimane Peninsula. They are connected by various roads and train lines on both the north and south sides of the lake, and visitors to one city usually do not pass up the other. When it comes to tourism, however, you notice some of the following ways of viewing each other (I’ve emphasized and compiled general passing comments I’ve heard over my time here).

Matsue, when viewed from Izumo’s perspective:

Matsue is so lucky. They have Matsue Castle and all the samurai era history and festivals that go with it, the iconic Horikawa Sightseeing Boat weaving through the canals around town, and generally being a very walkable, welcoming place for visitors, always eager to show off its history with pride. What’s more, if they want to start a new city wide festival or even put on a weekend event in a shopping area, they have enough people that they can generally count on people attending! It’s just too quiet and spread out here for us to be able to put on big themed parades over five times a year… sure seems lively over there across the lake.

Izumo, when viewed from Matsue’s perspective:

Izumo is so lucky. They have Izumo Taisha! Everyone knows Izumo Taisha! Everyone comes here for Izumo Taisha. Everyone goes to Izumo Taisha for En-musubi. We have En-musubi too, you know! Sniffle… I wish we could have Izumo Taisha. Sure, we have Miho Shrine and Kamosu Shrine and Kumano Taisha and Sada Shrine… but nobody knows them like they know Izumo Taisha!!

So maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.

It’s okay, Matsue, you are loved and known.
Click photo for Facebook source and share the love for Matsue.

However, even within Matsue, you find that there is still some leftover cultural differences from before the 2005 and 2011 mergers with surrounding small towns and villages (there was a big push for mergers all over inaka Japan around this time). At the far northeast, Mihonoseki retains its Mihonoseki culture and pride, as does Shinji at the far southwest, though they are all collectively Matsue now.

However, I frequently hear comments about those oddballs out in the Yatsuka district–otherwise known as Daikonshima, the large island on Lake Nakaumi. The island didn’t use to be accessable by car, so the little peony and ginseng kingdom combined its occasional influences from Sakaiminato (a fishing port) and Yonago (a business area, the San’in region’s “Little Osaka”), Mihonoseki, and central Matsue to create a strange cultural mix and even stranger dialect. While you hear varying amounts of Izumo-ben (Izumo dialect) in the city center and in the outskirts of Matsue, or in Izumo, or the famous folk songs of Yasugi, or in the little mountain villages of Unnan and Okuizumo… you don’t hear Yatsuka-ben anywhere but the Yatsuka district. I haven’t actually spent enough time on Daikonshima talking with locals or anyone outside of Yuushien Japanese Garden to have noticed, but I certainly hear the people in the rest of Matsue talk about how weird it is.

And who knows… maybe the locals on Daikonshima talk about their weird neighbors on the even smaller island, Eshima.

Soba is a typical noodle dish that may come to mind when you think of Japanese cuisine. Served hot or cold to suit the weather, you dip the thin buckwheat noodles in dashi sauce as you slurp.

Or at least, that’s how I used to think about soba. Having gotten so used to Izumo Soba, I now find regular soba rather bland in comparison. Where’s the deep color? Where’s the aroma? Where’s the nutty taste and firm texture? Why bother making a mess with dipping when I can just stir the sauce in and eat it as is?

Regular soba is made with flour from the tiny unhulled buckwheat seeds, which makes for a rather uniform (and typically factory-prepared) consistency, but Izumo Soba is made using the entire seed, hull and all. This not only makes for more texture and taste, but also more nutrition.

A big close up on ting buckwheat hull (thanks, Wiki.)

Furthermore, Izumo Soba is still typically handmade (you can see photos of the process here on the Haneya restaurant homepage), and these makes for variations in each restuarant’s brand. Some people are very fierce in defending their favorites, and seeing as I’ve only tried a handful of the different Izumo Soba restaurants swarming around Izumo Taisha and Matsue Castle. Provided you don’t have a buckwheat allergy, eating Izumo Soba is pretty much essential when visiting the region, and the place I take people usually depends on where we happen to be standing around lunchtime or what kind of scenery we want, or wherever we can squeeze into the establishment on especially busy days!

Another difference you may have noticed in the above photo is how Izumo Soba is served. While you might usually picture soba served on a bamboo mat, this is charming, but it doesn’t make it very easy to take noodles with you on the go. The bentou-box approach has become pretty standard for Izumo Soba, especially when served in Warigo Soba style (I have yet to even hear of an Izumo Soba restuarant that doesn’t offer Warigo Soba). In this form, it is stacked in three little boxes and an extra box on top with the toppings.

The toppings are mostly similar to what you’d expect in other soba servings–strips of dried seaweed, chopped green onions, maybe some katsuo flakes. However, instead of wasabi, Izumo Soba is usually served with momiji-oroshi. Literally translated, this grainy red topping is “grated maple leaves” but it is really a mixture of grated daikon radish and spicy red pepper. However, the toppings are not limited to this–I’ve also have Izumo Soba served with raw quail egg or sticky grated yam. Part of the fun of Warigo Soba is that you can try out different ratios and combinations of flavors in each dish. You add dashi (the sauce) on top and stir it all together before you start slurping, but you can add the leftover dashi to the the next dish for a strong flavor since it’s already soaked up some of the flavors in the first dish.

On that note, here is a handy video explaining how to eat Warigo style Izumo Soba like a pro!

Notice that drinking the water the soba was boiled in is an option. It’s known for how healthy it is, and has a smooth, light texture and flavor. One of the other popular ways to eat Izumo Soba is in the original water it was boiled in, with some flavor added to make it a nice broth. You can add additional toppings to this from there, and some establishments are known for their own touch on this, such as how Yakumo-an adds duck meat.

Way back in the Edo period when there were very clear distinctions between what different classes of people ate in the caste society, soba was considered commoner food (bare in mind that sushi started this way, too!). Despite how many members of the samurai class turned their nose up at such simple fare, one of the Izumo domain feudal lords was known for his love of good soba. While Matsudaira Harusato (better known by his tea name “Fumai”) is commonly associated with promoting tea culture (still very noticable today), he is also known for sneaking out of his quarters at night go dine at the cheap soba joints!

Nakamura Chaho credits him with the following words:

I drink tea, look for good tools, eat soba,
Garden, watch the nature’s beauty, and
Without other desire, laugh loudly.

I don’t know about Lord Fumai, but I usually desire dessert even after a satisfying soba meal.

It seems that weird ice cream flavors around Japan making use of the local speciality products (or at least making use of the creativity of the locals) has been a big topic around the internet lately, which I did not notice until I had people asking me if I’ve tried any weird ice cream flavors. Well, yes, but it’s not as I go looking for them. It’s more so that you can find them anywhere and my friends and I think, “gee, that’s interesting” and give it a shot. I wouldn’t say they were especially weird (but perhaps after living in Japan for a while my definition of weird has shifted), but I do have a favorite among them.

You can probably guess that I’m leading up to soba-flavored ice cream.

I tried this at a new Michi-no-Eki (a fancy style of road stations or rest stops throughout Japan, many of which are sights in and of themselves) in Unnan, located south of Izumo and Matsue (together with Okuizumo and Yasugi, these five cities/towns make up what is commonly know as the “Izumo region”). This Michi-no-Eki is called Tatara-ichibanchi and has a special focus on introducing local mythology (especially the Yamata-no-Orochi 8-headed giant serpent, which resided in Unnan), with the help of Shimane’s volunteer tourism ambassador, the scowling Yoshida-kun (whose day job happens to be attempting to take over the world). (Recall that Yoshida-kun and company have also volunteered their villianous services in telling Lafcadio Hearn‘s “Kwaidan” ghost stories.)

One of the gastronomical options at this rest stop is the Izumo Soba restaurant, Murage, and they offer this ice cream on their menu. In addition to the buckwheat seeds on top that provide a little crunch, their add components of the soba to the ice cream itself, and it’s a light, refreshing flavor. Unlike other flavor adventures which were more for the experience than for partaking of the treat again, this I would be happy to eat again just to enjoy it!

Izumo Soba is much the same way. It’s not only something I eat with people visiting, but it’s something I pick up at grocery store and use in my daily life, too. It’s not only for the experience as described–it’s simply really good soba.

Continued from Part 2







In some upcoming entries, we’ll take a look at more of the history of and the influence of this legend. The next story will follow Onamuji again. Unlike the happy story of his encounter with the White Hare, this one won’t be as fluffy, and you can start reading that here.

Read about the origins of Kunibiki and the effects of it today in a couple of very info-heavy and nerdy entries. Plus, there’s also Ou-no-Mori, what’s left of the forest made by his rake.

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)

Or see the Kojiki a.t.b.b. masterlist!
The Kojiki Myths in Manga Form

Continued from Part 1








Continued in Part 3.

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)



Recall Susano-o’s fondness for the sugasugashii (cool and comfortable) place at Suga Shrine.

Recall Izanagi and Izanami’s hand in creating the lands of Japan.





Continued in Part 2

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)

Matcha is a big deal here in the San’in region, especially in what used to be the Izumo province, and especially in the city of Matsue. It’s too cold here to grown tea, but they certainly get their fill of it.

As many people know, tea practically flows like water in this country, and being offered tea when you visit someone is a pretty standard form of hospitality all throughout Japan. However, in daily life in most places, this means something more along the lines of sencha, or a steeped tea. That said, there are many very fine grades of steeped tea, many of which I am quite a fan of. However, in this region, you frequently find people offering you matcha–it’s as if you just haven’t been offered tea until you’ve been offered matcha (unliked steeped tea, very high grade tea leaves raised specifically for matcha use are ground into a powder and consumed along with the water–as you would expect, it is generally more expensive than steeped tea).

This is not only my observation; Japanese people visiting from other regions have been just as surprised to see matcha where they expected to be served sencha.

It’s very easy to attribute the regional fondness for tea to Lord Matsudaira Fumai-ko, but I have heard a couple of suggestions for why it has remained so popular: the people here had extra money from the iron industry and ginseng industry, and because this region is so isolated from the rest of the country by the Chuugoku mountain range they’re a lot slower to change their ways, and old habits tend to develop more without so much outside influence. That’s not to say there aren’t serious coffee lovers here and the typical selection of vending machines, just that matcha remains a standard part of life (even the toddlers are frequent drinkers).

That said, the Izumo-based culture doesn’t always spread through the entire region. When I was talking about etiquite with a Kansai-area man who works all throughout Shimane, he stressed that the people in Izumo resemble people in Kyoto when it comes to being the most thickly mannered of the already rather indirect Japanese populous. He illustrated as follows:

A person from the Iwami region (western Shimane) goes to visit a friend in the Izumo region (eastern Shimane). The Izumo friend asks, “Do you want another cup of tea?” and the Iwami friend replies, “no thank you, I’ve had enough.” The Izumo friend then prepares another cup of tea, and the Iwami friend is surprised and then forces himself to drink it so as to be polite.

A person from the Izumo region goes to visit a friend in the Iwami region. The Iwami friend asks, “Do you want another cup of tea?” and the Izumo friend replies, “no thank you, I’ve had enough.” The Iwami friend pours no more tea, and the Izumo friend sadly wonders why he isn’t getting another cup of tea but says nothing so as to be polite.

In my personal experience, there have been many, many more cups of matcha than I ever blatantly intended.

There are ducks that hang out on Lake Shinji all year long, but there seem to be quite a few in winter. As you can see, it’s a major spot for migratory birds of many varieties–not to mention it has been designated as a wetland of international importance.

I like living so close to the lake–it’s very easy to just wander across the street after work to see the scenery for a few minutes. In nicer weather, we’ll often picnic at the lakeside for lunch–though a few of my friends have had parts of their lunch stolen by the kites (birds of prey, not toys). I wish I had been there to see that!

What do you call a flock of kites? A party? There were two more of them hanging out here, too.

There was a day a few weeks ago when the lake was covered with thousands of birds all at once. I had noticed it while passing by the lake for something for work, and I went by after work to see them again–sure enough, still there, in no hurry. My photos don’t do the scene justice, but it was pleasant to watch for a few minutes.


Since I was taking my time on the way home anyway, I stopped by the Ichibata railroad station at Matsue Shinji-ko Onsen. This hot spring at the northeast bank of Lake Shinji is rich in sulphates and chlorates, and there is a long line of fancy hotels, but for people pressed on time (or money) there is a free foot bath right outside the station.

There’s also a Jizo here to pour some hot water on so he can enjoy the hot springs, too!

When I go to Izumo, I usually take the Ichibata rail road line along the north shore of Lake Shinji, and there are other nice day trips along the way–like ice skating! The rink is located direcly at the northwest shore, next to a nature park, and short walk from a train stop. After a few hours of skating, we were surprised by the very pleasant February weather outside.

The watery fields were reflecting the blue sky, and in the distance we could see a huge crowd of swans.

Much closer, however, a bunch of kites were flying around with each other–and one crow invited himself to the party.

Then the two-car train came. Today it was a Mizuki Shigeru youkai themed train–why hello there, Betobeto-san!

Then we had a forty-minute view of the lake on the way back. This included the sunset, of course–as well as more ducks.

Then there are days when most of the ducks are on the Ohashi River instead of in the middle of the lake. It’s just another part of living in Matsue when a friend calls you up and says, “Hey, are you busy? No? Let’s go watch the sunset.”

Lake Shinji sunset
Which the duck sees every day
Plunk! It takes a dive


Lone as the sun sets
But the sun is alone too
Making quite a pair


Shinji’s depth shrouded
Colored by sunshine fleeting
To the land of clouds


Never parting on
Migration to Matsue
Quack quack quack quack quack

For all the J-Pop or singer-songwriter fans out there (or anyone who enjoys some easy, uplifting tunes), I’d like to introduce a musical duo called Kotonoha, made up of a couple native Shimaneians* named Moe and Yuka.

This first video was features western Shimane in the towns of Tsuwano, Masuda, Hamada, and Gotsu.

This one takes place on the Oki Islands.

And here’s one in Izumo.

More information here on the website, though it’s all in Japanese: http://kotonoha.co/

Shimane map: Oki, Matsue, Izumo, Gotsu, Hamada, Masuda, Tsuwano

These a few of the places where you might be able to take part in a homestay during the 23rd Japan-America Grassroots Summit in Summer 2013. This is a very good opportunity for any Americans of any age, occupation, or language level to visit Japan and have a very authentic experience, so please look into it and pass the information along to anyone you know who may be interested.

*Or as some of the CIRs and I have taken to referring to ourselves, “Shimaniacs”