Izumo-taisha, stone rabbits 出雲大社
Day 93, December 2016,
A night marked by heavy rain and thunder but the morning brings pale sunshine, even if the thunder is still rumbling around and the western sky fantastically dark. I make a trip to the toilet, thinking I have time before any serious rain arrives. As I emerge, the hail is sheeting down. This doesn’t last long and, after a short chat to the lady cleaner, I make it back to the car. We drive across the road to a Lawson car park for breakfast as, uniquely, this michi no eki has no vending machine for coffee.
Our next stop is Izumo-taisha. Its big hall, immediately, made me uncomfortable – a big, plain, power statement. A large enclosure with lots of gravel and unadorned, large, wooden buildings, in this, it is like Ise.
Another feature of Izumo is the number of cute, stone rabbits dotted around the place. This is a reference to a rather gruesome folk tale.
Basically I didn’t like the place, and anyway the god’s had already left, as we were in December, so I saw no point in hanging around. The gods have holiday homes here, believe me, I have seen them. The homes not the gods. They visit in October apparently.
We leave and make for Hinomisaki, the end of the peninsular. More my kind of place. It is very windy with sudden, brief showers. Excitingly, tornadoes are possible, according to the forecast, so D. is reluctant to go – but we do. This takes us along a coast of very jagged rocks and narrow inlets. There are occasional hamlets down at the seas edge, wedged in the narrow valley – or gully is perhaps more precise. We make it to the lighthouse where we learn it is in the top 100 lighthouses in the world. I am unsure of the criteria.
We can feel the salt spray from the sea dashing on the rocks below, carried on the gale, and the crows and kites are having fun wheeling in the up-draught. There is a thick spar sticking out of the sea about 70 meters from the shore and the waves are breaking around it in complicated patterns. I suspect a wreck but there is no mention of it.
Next we visit a nearby shrine of the same name, Hinomisaki. This is undergoing extensive repair work but is otherwise unremarkable. On our way to the harbour of this small fishing community with only a handful of houses, it is sad to note, many are empty.
The jetty itself, however, is far from deserted, hosting a mass of Black-tailed gull, which in Japanese are Umineko or Sea Cats. Just offshore is Umineko jima or Sea Cat Island which, I suppose, hosts even more birds than the jetty of Hinomaski.
For the rest of the day we drive west, along Route 9, following the coast. The sky gets brighter and there is no more rain though the wind continues strong. It is still buffeting the car as I write this. We stop at various michi no eki to stretch our legs and to buy dinner at an Aeon.
We miss our intended michi no eki and drive on for another hour to arrive at michi no eki Yutori Park Tamagawa. This michi no eki has an onsen nearby, so we take an extra bath. At this point there is a real feeling that the end of the trip is near. Signposts feature Shimonoseki, that is almost home. We don’t need to find a coin laundry; we can do it at home. That kind of, end of the trip feeling.
＊Tamagawa onsen Ikoi no yu ; 410 yen / adult ＜2023 ; 550 yen ＞
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.