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.
Do-gyoretsu Drum Parade serves as the annual festival of Matsue Shrine held on the 3rd Sunday in October every year in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. “Do” is a special drum made of paulownia tube and cow skin. It is a huge drum with a diameter of about 2 meters.
The origin of a Do drum dates back to 1724, when Princess Iwahime of the Fushimi-no-miya family, a branch of the Imperial Family in Japan, married into the 5th lord of the Matsue domain, Matsudaira Nobuzumi. The townspeople made a huge drum and beat it loud to celebrate their marriage.
On the day of the festival, two or three Do drums are placed on dozens of large floats, which are pulled by children in happi jackets and parade through the city. The parade is joined by about 2,000 citizens, accompanied by flutes and copper clappers called “Changara”. On the floats are young drum players beating the drums powerfully with fantastic quill techniques. The spectators can enjoy not only viewing the parade but also listening to the sound of this energetic festival echoing through the city.
The furoshiki (wrapping cloths) made in the Izumo, Matsue and Yonago areas of Shimane Prefecture are designated as traditional hometown handicraft.
Before the Meiji period, there were aizome indigo dyers across the nation, however, around 1917 (Meiji 40), chemical dyeing had become popular. By 1950, of the 59 tsutsugaki aizome dyers in Izumo, only 4 remained. Today, only one tsutsugaki aizome dyer remains in Nagata, which is recognized by the prefecture as an intangible cultural asset.
Tsutsugaki aizome with a family crest were used as trousseau items up untilthe Taisho period. Furoshiki wrapping cloths were also included in trousseaus.
Making the tsutsugaki aizome requires repetition in dyeing. During the dyeing process, the patterns on the aizome are protected by paste, which is later washed off in the Takase River.
Izumo agate work is a traditional handicraft in Matsue City, Shimane Pref. It is selected as one of Furusato (hometown) Traditional Handicrafts of Shimane Pref. The origin of this craft is said to have been dated back to the mythological age. Curved beads, which were accessories of the ancient noble people, were made out of jade or agate. It is said that many of the ancient curved beads including Yasakani no Magatama, which is thought to be a part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, were made in Shimane. Agate work in Izumo area started in the late Edo period, and in the Taisho period, there were a lot of workmen engaged in this handicraft in various towns and villages including Tamayu Town. Later the number of the workmen decreased, and at the present time, the skills have been handed down at Agate Work Densho-kan (patrimony workshop). Accessories such as pendants and necklaces as well as curved beads for souvenirs are popular among tourists.
Matsue Castle is located in Matsue district, Shimane Prefecture. Horio Yoshiharu founded the castle in 1611. It took 5 years to construct. It is also called ‘Plover castle’ because it looks like a beautiful plover spreading its feathers. The castle passed from Horio Yoshiharu and Kyougoku Tadataka to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grandson Matsudaira Naomasa. The Matsudaira family then commanded the castle for ten generations (234 years). The castle is constructed using a system called ‘Bouroushiki and has six floors that appear to be five storeys from the outside. It is one of the largest and highest among the 12 remaining castles in Japan. From the uppermost floor, the outlook is still beautiful. The beauty of the four seasons (cherry-blossom, autumn leaves, snow flower, etc) can be seen. Nowadays, it is called Matsue Castle Mountain Park and is a sightseeing spot of Matsue district. It is also one of the 100 Japanese Cherry-blossom Landmarks.
Matsue brushes are a speciality of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, and are also designated as a Traditional Hometown Handicraft. The history of these brushes goes back 400 years, when the brush-making skills of the Old Imperial Palace of Kyoto were adopted in the Edo period (1686). Matsue brushes use various hairs depending on what kind of brush is being made, of which there are over 56 . Sheep, raccoon, or mink hair may be used, and with each, the elasticity and adhesion changes accordingly. The brushes are completed in 10 steps. The botan (peony) style brush, with the tip dyed red and green, is one of the most popular. From normal to special, many brushes are made according to their use, ranging from painting, calligraphy to haiku poetry, or for the occasion, such as the celebration of the birth of a child, where the brush is made from the hair of the newborn baby. Orders can be taken starting from just one brush. Each Matsue brush is made delicately by hand and for ease of use. .
Iwami-kagura masks are manufactured in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture. They were first made in the late-Edo period to be worn in the Iwami kagura dance, which is a traditional performing art. Kagura masks are made using glued layers of traditional Shimane craft paper, named Iwashuu. It is said that the Iwami kagura dance form originated from the Izumo kagura dance, which uses Nihonshoki and others as subject and shows dedication to kagura. Izumo kagura is also danced with masks. It is a tradition for men to act all the roles, which include gods, princesses and devils. For each role specific masks are worn. There are two basic types of masks; the most common being a helmet type that covers the head completely with holes for the eyes and nose Nowadays it is used as bringer of good luck as well as decoration.