Next Stop, Japan

Next Stop, Japan

Shimane Prefecture

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Shimane Prefecture (島根県) shares with its western neighbor, Tottori Prefecture, the Sanin Coast which has some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Japan. The central mountain ranges dominate the greater portion of the inland areas, except in the northeast, leaving only a small strip along the Sea of Japan (East Sea) easily habitable.

The historic composite provinces of Shimane Prefecture (Izumo, Iwami and Oki) are still used to divide the prefecture. The northeast Izumo area around Lake Shinji is where Matsue City, the prefectural capital, is located. The Oki Islands are where political exiles were sent in medieval Japan. Iwami takes up the remainder of the prefecture's mainland in the west.

The prefecture is 80% forest. Only 6% of the land is arable of which 80% is used for rice farming.


Shimane Prefecture is known more for its sights like the Oki Islands and Izumo Shrine than its large cities.

Aquas - Shimane Aquarium

Aquas is a world-class aquarium located north of Hamada City in the middle of Iwami Seaside Park. It has a fantastic collection of fish from the Sea of Japan and elsewhere. Some 3,000 tons of water are used in the exhibits containing 500 different animals. Its star attraction are its belugas. The aquarium is easily accessible from many places in western Honshu thanks to the Hamada Expressway.

Izumo Taisha Shrine

The Izumo Taisha Shrine is the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. This shrine dates back 1,500 years and its importance is second only to the shrines of Ise. The shrine is dedicated to Okuninushi. This is the deity of marriage (and other things) so visitors clap twice for themselves and twice for their partner or future partner. The shrine is located west of Lake Shinji in Izumo City.

Iwami Seaside Park

Iwami Seaside Park is a popular place of scenic beauty and large sandy beaches. North of Hamada City, this prefectural park is the closest point to the Sea of Japan for people living in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Oki Islands

The Oki Islands were an outpost of the Japan where political outcasts were once sent into exile. They are known for their scenic cliffs and horses. They are a fair distance north of Matsue City. Ferries and small airplanes go daily to the islands.


Tsuwano is a historic village famous for its location in a picturesque deep valley and its carp. In fact, there are more than 65,000 carp swimming in canals alongside the roads. Its location in the southwest corner of the prefecture makes it far easier to reach from Yamaguchi Prefecture than most places in its home prefecture.

Shimane Prefecture's Cities

1. Matsue City

Matsue City (松江市) is the prefectural capital with 206,406 (2014) people. The city center is beside the Ohashi River which connects Lake Shinji with the Sea of Naka. Northwest of Matsue Station is Matsue Castle which is one of the few original castles left in Japan. The city's most unique attractions are related to Lafcadio Hearn. He was an early western explorer of Japanese culture that lived in Matsue City and became famous for his books published in English about Japan.

Website: Matsue City (Japanese)

2. Izumo City

Izumo City (出雲市) underwent a large amalgamation on March 22, 2005. In total, 4 towns and 1 city joined it to create the second largest city in the prefecture with 170,494 (2014) people. The city's most famous attraction is the Izumo Taisha Shrine.

Website: Izumo City (Japanese)

3. Hamada City

Hamada City (浜田市) was once the capital of Iwami province and now is the third largest city in Shimane Prefecture. It is home to 59,216 (2014) people. Thanks to the Hamada Expressway, it takes just over an hour to get there from Hiroshima City to it. Many tourists from Hiroshima Prefecture visit the city and Iwami Seaside Park to its north.

Website: Hamada City (Japanese)

Professional Sports Teams

Shimane Prefecture has no major professional sports teams.

Official Symbols of Shimane

TreeJapanese Black Pine
FishFlying Fish

Getting There

Shimane Prefecture is not a densely populated prefecture and so there are no major airports in Shimane Prefecture.

JR West rail lines follow along the along the Sea of Japan coast and connect the prefecture to Yamaguchi Prefecture and Tottori Prefecture to the west and east. To its south, trains run to Miyoshi City in Hiroshima Prefecture but with slow trains and bad transfers it is much faster, easier and cheaper to reach Shimane by highway bus.

Posted: April 6, 2011 Updated: February 15, 2015

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