In sync with Shinto spirits

In historic Shimane Prefecture WILL YEOMAN connects with Japanese mythology

Leaving Matsue, my taxi glides down the great length of Lake Shinji before continuing further west to the smaller city of Izumo, on the Sanin Coast. Awaiting me is Japan’s oldest shrine, Izumo Taisha, which dates back to at least the 8th century.

Typical of Shinto shrines — and Izumo is one of Japan’s most revered, not least because of its antiquity, but because the country’s 8 million kami (gods, or deities) meet there each year — are the pervasive qualities of rusticity, simplicity and closeness to nature.

However, having passed under three torii gates and purified myself with water at the main temizuya, I am distracted by the sight of a puppy being carried in the backpack of a fellow pilgrim. Very “Instabae”, as the Japanese say. I ask if I can take a photo.

I approach the Worship Hall, or Haiden, which is adorned by an enormous shimenawa (straw rope), in this case indicating the presence of the main kami, Okuninushi no Okami, whose kneeling bronze statue I passed earlier. Okuninushi once ruled Izumo; he is also said to have founded Japan itself.

This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.

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