Region - San'in
Explore a mysterious land of ancient Japanese mythology with its fascinating history and diverse traditions
Delve into the region’s mining history and metalcrafting traditions, including the renowned steel-making and bladesmithing traditions of Izumo
Observe artisans at work in small family-run workshops upholding traditional methods—blacksmithing, indigo-dyeing, ceramics, sake, soy sauce and soba noodles
Discover the region’s ‘real’ food culture and tradition of environmental sustainability, and their surprising connection with mining history
Experience traditional rural and coastal life by staying in private local accommodation in charming villages
Visit some of the best Japanese gardens in the country and regional galleries showcasing diverse artistic talent
Immerse in the serenity of forest temples and unwind at onsens (hot springs) in the beautiful countryside
The San’in (pronounced as in ‘the sun in the sky’) region extends along the Sea of Japan seaboard of western Honshu. The region is centred on Shimane and Tottori prefectures, extending to the northern parts of the adjacent Yamaguchi, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures. Though culturally and historically diverse, the region shares a common character that has been shaped by its humid and often overcast (particularly in winter) climate, a long tradition of seafaring and trade, and a history of mining and metalcrafting.
San’in is also the birthplace of many divine legends in the ancient Japanese mythology—that appear almost to come to life in the swirling mist and under the dark skies common in the region. In particular, the Izumo and Iwami regions of Shimane Prefecture are famous as the centre-stage for the Izumo-Shinwa (the Izumo Legends). Stories such as the 8th-century Kunibiki (the ‘land-pulling’) tale—in which a god resolves the shortage of flat land by pulling together pieces of land from around the Sea of Japan with gigantic ropes—contain curious parallels with actual historic or natural events suggesting that the legends are, at least in part, an ancient Japanese chronicle.
Izumo and Iwami’s culture is also intimately linked to their long history of mining (particularly copper, iron, silver and gold), and the Tatara steel-making tradition that established an enduring reputation for one of the highest quality blade steel in the world. The tradition lives on today in the few small blacksmithing workshops scattered through the countryside, and in the world-famous Yasuki Speciality Steel manufactured by the Hitachi steelworks. What is remarkable is how the regions’ people, for centuries, managed the environmental impacts of mining and metalcraft to co-exist with healthy, productive and sustainable natural and agrarian ecosystems. Many of the regional food traditions, including the celebrated Izumo soba (buckwheat) noodles developed as a result of the Tatara steel production. Organic farmers and food artisans continue this tradition in environmental sustainability, producing ‘real’ food with minimal impact on nature. In the Iwami-Ginzan silver mining area, once the largest producer of silver ore in the world, the harmonious coexistence of mining with the natural environment over four centuries was recognised through an UNESCO World Heritage registration in 2007. The far-reaching influence of the mining and metalcraft tradition is also apparent in San’in’s other rich traditions including its crafts and gardens.
San’in is home to a number of famous tourist destinations such as the Matsue Castle, Mt Daisen, Iwami-Ginzan and Adachi Museum of Art (with its acclaimed Japanese garden). However, most of the region is practically off the international tourist trail. We invite you to discover this wonderful region in your own way, which will provide you with deep experiences you simply cannot get through conventional tourism. Watch village blacksmiths handcraft a traditional kitchen knife with cutting quality second to none. Take a walk through the Arcadian countryside, and learn how the bountiful fields, densely forested mountains and rushing streams all relate to the region’s mining and metalcrafting history. Delve into the mysterious world of Japanese mythology by visiting ancient shrines, spectating divine theatrical dances, and hiking along river gorges. Enjoy a wide range of culinary experiences, from rustic traditional soba noodles to a dinner course of fusion Japanese-European cuisine, all using safe locally produced ingredients. Stay with farmers in a traditional country house nearly three centuries old for a taste of pre-industrial rural life in Japan, and learn about the region’s growing organic farming movement. Relax in a coastal village, enjoying fresh local seafood and sleeping to the sound of the waves as your lullaby. Immerse yourself in spirituality at Buddhist temples deep in the forests. Contemplate some of the best traditional-style gardens in Japan, grand and small. Nourish your creative soul at one of the numerous local galleries showcasing artistic talent from the region and elsewhere—painters, photographers, ceramicists to name a few.