Matsue Suigo Festival is held in early August in Matsue City, in the eastern end of Shimane Prefecture. Located almost at the center of the coastline in the Sanin region, Matsue had long been a thriving castle town during the Edo period (1603-1868), the remnant of which can still be seen everywhere in the city. Surrounded by water, as is called “a city of water,” and blessed with an abundance of beautiful natural scenery including Lake Shinji, Matsue was designated as an International Culture and Sightseeing City.
The Suigo Festival, first held in 1929, is a representative festival of this city of water. A diverse range of events are held, including the main event of the spectacular fireworks display over the lake and the Soriko boat race. Although the festival was discontinued during World War II, it was renewed and revived with the present name in 1987 and has been enjoyed by a lot of tourists from inside and outside the prefecture every year.
The festival is culminated with the fireworks display, in which more than 9,000 fireworks are shot up over Lake Shinji. The most impressive ones are the simultaneous shooting of the two fireworks from the two boats on in the lake and the slant shooting of Starmines, which gorgeously bloom up in the sky over the city of water.
Lizard Rock clings to the steep cliff to the northwest of Mt. Washigamine (563 m) in the eastern part of Oki-Dogo Island in the offing of Shimane Prefecture. Clearly, the rock looks like a giant lizard climbing the precipice.
You can get a first view of the rock from the point on the Shizenkaiki-no-mori walking trail, 50 m away from the parking lot located at the end of Nakabayashi Forest Road. The best viewing point is the observation deck further 100 m ahead from there, where a bower and the description board are built.
Lizard Rock was formed by the erosion occurred onto the rock surface of different properties. As the result of such erosion, the lizard-shaped part, about 30 m in total length, remained on the cliff. It is a scientifically precious natural phenomenon.
It is said that one of the forepaws dropped off due to an earthquake some years ago. The lizard will continue changing its shape with the course of time from now on.
Kabura-sugi is a huge cedar tree in the Nakamura area on Dogo, the main island of the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture. It was prefecturally designated as a natural monument in 1968.
The directions are: Drive to the north along National Route 485 from Saigo Port and turn right into Prefectural Road 316 and go toward Choshi Dam. After passing by the dam and through a tunnel, you can see the tree on your right.
This huge cedar tree is presumably 600 years old, about 40 m in height, and about 10 m in trunk circumference. The trunk grows into 6 sub-trunks at the height of 1.5 m from the base. It is said that it had 12 sub-trunks until the early Showa period (1926-1989).
It was named so, because one theory states that the tree looks like Kaburaya (whistling-bulb arrows), while another states that the name derived from a Japanese term “kabudachi,” which means a tree divided into several trunks. View it from the distance, from up close, or look it up, you may be able to get a message from this aged tree.
Yagumo Honjin is the former residence of the Kowata family, which was one of the wealthiest land owner families in Izumo province (present-day Shimane Prefecture). Carrying on a brewing industry, the family also served as O-Shoya (the officer that ruled Shoya of each village).
This grand building with a floor area of 2,640 m2 standing on 3,940 m2 land was constructed in 1733. In the Edo period, the residence was used as honjin (an inn for the nobility and daimyo), where the lord of the Matsue domain stayed when he made an inspection tour around the domain territory.
After World War II, the residence was open to public as a Japanese restaurant and inn, where guests can enjoy its gorgeous interior furnishings. Yagumo Honjin was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1969.
Lafcadio Hearn, was an Irishman who was a naturalized Japanese and who took the name Koizumi Yakumo. He is well known as the writer of such books as Kwaidan, which contains ghost stories including Hoichi the Earless and Snow Woman. Lafcadio Hearn’s Old Residence is the house where he spent half the year, from May through November in 1891, with his new bride Setsu. Setsu was the daughter of a samurai family from Matsue. The residence has been well preserved and few changes have been made. It is also known as “Herun’s Old Residence”, Herun being a rendering of his name - Hearn, in Japanese Roman letters. He loved the name and he often used it himself.
Lafcadio Hearn’s Residence was originally built for a samurai of the Matsue Clan during the period 1716~1735. It is said that Hearn, eager to live in a samurai house, rented the residence which was unoccupied at that time.
Hearn especially loved a room from which he could see the garden on three sides. He enjoyed the garden so much that it was mentioned in his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.
The Kumi kagura dance has been handed down at Ise Mikoto Shrine in the Kumi area on Oki-Dogo Island. It was derived from the Ochi kagura dance that has been performed on the islands of Oki. The Kumi kagura dance is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property. It is dedicated at an annual festival held at Ise Mikoto Shrine on July 25th in the years ending with even numbers and 26th in the years with odd numbers.
The kagura dances in the Oki Islands are usually performed by the people called Shake (hereditary kagura dance performers). However, the Kumi kagura was handed down to the local worshippers from the Wada family, the successor of this kagura in the Aburai area, in 1889, since when it has been performed by local people.
The dances are performed all through the night from 9:00 P.M. till the dawn of the following day. The repertoire includes “Miko-mai (the dance by shrine maidens),” which is typical to this kagura, gallant “Sarutahiko-no-mai,” and humorous “Taizuri (Sea Beam Fishing).” The combination of dynamic dancing and colorful costumes gives a deep impression on the spectators.
Amidst the dances, a small banquet ritual called “Nusa-no-sakazuki” is held, where the dancers and the directors of the shrine parishioners’ board are served with sake wine.
Oki Muramatsuri Furyu is held on October 19 every two years in Nakamura on Dogo, the main island of the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture. It is one of the three large festivals on the Oki Islands and prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The festival dates back to the early Kamakura period (1192-1333), when Sasaki Sadatsuna was appointed governor of Oki province. He transferred the gods of the sun and the moon from Omi province, his native country, and enshrined the god of the sun at Hachioji Shrine in Motoya and the god of the moon at Jorakuji Temple (later transferred to Ichinomori Shrine) in Nakamura. He, then, performed a festival in hope of a rich harvest by fusing the power of Yin and yang.
On the festival day, the processions carrying the gods leave the two shrines and head for the meeting place, where the ritual to unite the gods of the sun and the moon is performed. After that, various performances such as the salutation by Gyoji (sumo referee) wearing armors, Onmyo-douchi (the Yin-yang drum performance) by young men wearing makeup, Kozuma (the holy sumo tournament) by children and Urate, the sumo-dance by young men are dedicated one after another. The festival ends with the horseback archery. All are performed in accordance with ancient rituals, which make the spectators slip into delusion of seeing a history picture scroll.
Donto Festival is held on January 15 every year in the Imazu area in the southern end of Oki-Dogo Island. Donto, or Dondo in some districts, is the festival, in which ornaments for New Year’s Day are burned in the bon fire in hope of good health in the coming year. Donto Festival has been handed down in Imazu since the Heian period (794-1192).
Early in the morning on the festival day, people with colorful bags in their hands get together on the beach. They carefully put Ofuda (talismans) and New Year’s ornaments on the huge fire-stage called Donto, build up of bamboo poles. After a large streamer is put on the stage, piled straw is set on fire and burn up into a huge column of fire.
When the bamboo poles are burned down and fall into the sea, young men divided into East and West teams and wearing only loincloths dive into the frigid sea and struggle for the burned bamboo poles. At the end of the festival, the bamboo poles are carried to the houses that had blessed events in the previous year.