As a follow up on my post on the Grand Shrine of Izumo, Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture earlier this month I wanted to share some details or close ups of buildings and places around the shrine grounds. If you’ve visited any Japanese shrine you’ll recognize most of these details, the main difference being perhaps that there is so much of everything at this fantastic shrine. I can’t wait to go back there someday, but this time with more time on my hands. Enjoy!
It’s summer again and that means the season for discovering very local countryside train lines! Here’s the Ichibata Taishasen (一畑電車大社線) running between Izumotaishamae and Kawato stations (出雲大社前駅-川跡駅). This line is actually just an off-shoot on the main Kita Matsue line that is very rural even in itself. This train and the terminus pictured here is famous for being the station closest to the famous Izumo Taisha. There used to be a line dedicated just to service the town of Izumo with a connection to Matsue City, the capital of Shimane Prefecture, the Taisha Line but it was cancelled in 1990, even before the end of the bubble economy. If you’ve been traveling around rural Japan you will have noticed that almost nothing has happened since 1991-1992, the famous lost decade of Japanese economy is now famously two lost decades. Still, the areas close to the main cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama) have fared better but it is still amazing to see how robustly the Japanese countryside has managed to withstand the death sentence meted out to most rural areas in North America and Europe. But I fear even the Japanese countryside will succumb to the final death blow with this TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Once Japan signs the agreement the last lifeline of the Japanese rural economy, the domestic market, will implode and that will be the end of all these cities and towns spread out over the country. If you will allow me to be political for a moment here, it is my opinion that the TPP is an even great threat to Japan than earthquakes and nuclear accidents. Once the agricultural sector is left defenseless from cheap imports there will be no reason to farm in Japan anymore, and with that the supporting businesses and civil society built around the farms will collapse. Many people fail to realize that Japan is essentially an agricultural society. You don’t need to venture far out from the cities to enter a countryside that in essence has remained the same for the last two to three thousand years. However, the TPP can still be stopped and I urge anyone with voting rights in the concerned countries to vote only for parties that are fundamentally opposed to the agreement.
Traveling around Japan I often meet idealistic young farmers who are putting their livelihoods on the line to keep the countryside of Japan alive but there is absolutely no chance of them being able to stand in the face of the TPP. And with them the rural train lines, like this one.
Among the several classes of shinto shrines in Japan, ranked according to importance and seniority, the taisha class is one of the highest, and one of the highest among the taisha shrines of Japan is the ancient Izumo Taisha, or Izumo Grand Shrine in Shimane prefecture on the north coast of Japan. It is so old that it’s founding predates Japanese written history and it is widely believed to be the first shrine in Japan, with its origins in the mythical beginnings of this country. In the old days this magnificent shrine was said to have been much bigger and the fact that archeaological digs have revealed pillars made up of three giant tree trunks each three meters in diameter makes this claim very believable. If it took that kind of trees to make just one out of dozens of pillars it must have been huge indeed. The building in these photos is merely the ceremonial performance hall for weddings and such, the Kaguraden, but the shimenawa, the giant straw rope hanging at the entrance is the biggest in Japan and is said to weigh about 5 tons. The rope is now the symbol of the shrine for most people around Japan. The red threads you can see if you look closely on the photos of the shimenawa are tied to five yen coins that have been thrown into the straw. If you get it in just right it will stick. As an interesting side note, the care takers of this shrine is said to be descendants of the first Gods of Japan and thus related to the Imperial family. The present head care taker is the 84th in line and took aver after the death of this father in 2002. Eighty four generations of the same family! Imagine that!