Izumo Taisha and the Shimane Coast

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The entrance to Izumo Shrine is a long gravel path with two parallel paths beside it.  Originally, the center path was reserved for the gods (humans walked the side paths).  Japanese believed that in the fall each year, every kami (god) in Japan gathered at Izumo.  After proper ceremonies, they met to confer with each other about their respective realms.  Legend says that they decided which relationships among humans would thrive. People still come to Izumo to pray for strong relationships, especially marriages.  In October, a festival welcomes the kami to the nearby seacoast and a procession escorts them to the shrine.  Near a main shrine building, worshippers tie their fortunes to a tree so that the gods will remember them. The god of Izumo has traditionally been regarded as the god of marriage, good fortune and agriculture.  Shinto shrines are often unpainted.  The wood is allowed to age naturally to a soft silver sheen.  Across the entrance is a large rope of rice straw, showing that this place has been purified. We could enjoy viewing the interior of this worship hall.  The floor is covered with soft rice straw tatami mats.  The screens were open and the sun shone throught the rice paper lining. We visited the shrine early in the morning when there were very few visitors.  The priests were cleaning the grounds and their bright blue hakama caught the sunshine. The main shrine is farther back and approached by a longer set of stairs.  This is the first gate and you can see the great roof of the main shrine rising behind it.  Only priests are allowed through this gate.  The shrine is built in the taisha-zukuri style, considered the oldest shrine architectural style in Japan. Izumo Shrine is in a wonderful setting, with pine covered hills gracefully arched at its back.  In the early morning light the backdrop of hills was still blue. A large sculpture set in a garden honors Okuninushi no Mikoto who turned over his lands to the first emperor.  The hairstyle and clothing are from the Jomon era which was from 400 BC to 400 AD, perhaps when Izumo was first used for worship. Izumo is in Shimane prefecture which faces the Sea of Japan.  Farther up the coast is a lighthouse and park.  The path follows the cliff edge, with lovely views of the windswept trees and rocks. Japan is really a chain of volcanic islands and here the lava rock has been eroded into amazing patterns.  We took extra photos for the family geologist, Andy Rindsberg. The coastline is quite rugged and tucked into an inlet is Hinomisaki Shrine.  We both were fascinated with the brightly painted shrine buildings. It was quiet during the late afternoon and we could easily compose photographs that celebrated the beauty of the buildings. All the screens around the major workshp hall were opened to a gentle breeze.  The light was perfect as it highlighted the brass filials on the bright red railings. A smaller temple was up a steep short hill.  Again, the lowering sun made the colors sing.