Travel Tsuwano, where you can see the original scenery of Japan

The town with histro and culture still alive

The street of the town of Tsuwano
The location of Tsuwano

Tsuwano is a castle town deep in the mountains in Shimane Prefecture in western island of Japan. The Tsuwano Castle was built early in the 14th century, and the town was formed around it. The structure of the castle does not exist anymore, but samurai residences and business streets from several hundred years ago still remain in the original locations. The first thing that catches your eyes is the red tiled roof of the houses called Sekishu Gawara or Sekishu roof tiles. They are made of the local clay, and became widely used in the snowy town of Tsuwano because they are durable in snow, freezing temperatures and fire. These red roof tiles make the unique scenery of Tsuwano.

Access to Tsuwano

Take Sanyo Shinkansen to Shin-Yamaguchi Station, change to JR Yamaguchi Line and get off at Tsuwano Station.

Maria Chapel
Maria Chapel
Tsuwano Catholic Church
Tsuwano Catholic Church

There are many Japanese style buildings, but some buildings in Tsuwano are important for Christians. From the end of 16th century to the latter half of the 19th century in Japan, Christianity was officially prohibited, and Christians were being suppressed. Standing on the Otome Toge mountain ridge right behind Tsuwano Station, Maria Chapel is a historic spot with a sad moment in history. Here 153 Christians and their families were deported from Nagasaki, and 36 of them couldn’t survive the ordeal. Their stories are drawn on the stained glass inside the building. Tsuwano Catholic Church, a Western Gothic-style masonry building standing in the middle of the town, also shows the history of the relationship between Tsuwano and Christianity.

Otome Toge Maria Chapel

Address: Otome Toge, Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open all day, free admission

Directions: 15 minutes walk from JR Tsuwano Station

Tsuwano Catholic Church

Address: 66-7 Ushiroda-Ro, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open: 8:00am – 5:30pm, free admission

Access: 8 minutes walk from JR Tsuwano Station

Sagimai, or Heron Dance, is a tradition passed on in the town of Tsuwano. Sagimai first started in Kyoto, and then spread throughout Japan. But Tsuwano is the only place where this tradition remains to this day without any interruption. It is also designated as an important intangible cultural asset of Japan.

Walk along the history of Tsuwano

Tsuwano is a relatively small town, and most the highlights are around JR Tsuwano Station. The beauty of this town’s scenery is the look of historic buildings with rich nature and mountains in the background.

Honmachi Avenue

Honmachi Avenue

Honmachi Avenue is just 5 minute-walk from Tsuwano Station in an old merchant town. Well-established sake breweries, folk craft shops and Japanese sweets shops line up along the quaint cobble stone street, and this is where you should walk down. Even in today’s heavier traffic, this street remains with the same width since the 17th century.

Tonomachi Avenue

Tonomachi Avenue
Irises and colored carps

Town’s oldest buildings and many historic spots are located including samurai residents from over 400 years ago between Tonomachi Avenue and Honmachi Avenue. This avenue is characterized by the white walls of the samurai residences and a waterway along them. In the waterway, 20,000 colorful carp swim, and at the beginning of summer, the beautiful scenery of white and purple irises in full bloom spreads.

Taikodani-Inari-jinja Shrine

Taikodani-Inari-jinja Shrine
Torii or shrine gate

Taikodani-Inari-jinja Shrine is worshipped as a god that brings success in business and drives away evil spirits, bringing in good luck. Vermillion-lacquered Torii or shrine gates stand one after another along the slope to the main shrine. More than 1,175 gates create an approximately 300m-long tunnel of Torii providing a mystic atmosphere.

Taikodani-Inari-jinja Shrine

Address: 409 Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open all day, free admission

Access: 30 minutes walk or 5 minutes drive from JR Tsuwano Station

Anno Mitsumasa Museum

Anno Mitsumasa Museum
Artwork of Anno
「Aonoyama」by Mitsumasa Anno
(c)KUSO KOBO

There is a museum which exhibits about Anno Mitsumasa, a world famous award-winning picture book author, near Tsuwano Station. The things you also must see in this museum are the class room of old elementary school and a planetarium where you can see starry sky above Tsuwano.

Anno Mitsumasa Museum

Address: 60-1 Ushiroda-I, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Admission: Adult 800 yen, Ages 13-17 400 yen, Ages 12 and under 250 yen

Access: 1 minute walk from JR Tsuwano Station

Hori Teien Garden

Hori Teien Garden

Hori Teien is a garden of the Hori family, who was involved in excavating copper in Iwami Ginzan or Iwami Silver Mine, a World Heritage site. Although it is a little bit far from the town, but it is highly recommended to visit this garden in fall, because the garden displays beautiful autumn fridge. The best time to see the fall colors in the garden is from the end of October to mid-November.

Hori Teien Garden

Address: 795 Muraki, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open: 9:00am – 4:00pm (Closed on Mondays, closed on the following Tuesday when Monday is a holiday)

Admission: Adult 500 yen, Age 13-17 300 yen, Age 12 and under 200 yen

Access: Take Iwami Kotsu Bus or Town Bus for Nagano from JR Tsuwano Station and get off at “Hori Teien” bus stop (about 25 minutes ride)

Yomei-ji Temple

Yomei-ji Temple

Yomei-ji Temple is a temple of the Zen sect with over 700 years of history. This is one of the best places in Tsuwano for fall colors. Many local feudal leaders and a great 19th century Japanese author Ogai Mori are buried here, and their tomb stones line up in this temple.

Yomei-ji Temple

Address: 107 Ushiroda-Ro, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane Prefecture

Open: 8:30am – 5:00pm

Admission: Adult 300 yen, Age 13-15 200 yen, Age 6-12 150 yen, Age 5 and under free

Access: 15 minutes walk from JR Tsuwano Station

Visit the world of nostalgia created by a steam locomotive and rice fields

SL Yamaguchi-go

Another highlight of Tsuwano is a steam locomotive. A steam locomotive, the SL “Yamaguchi”, runs between Tsuwano Station and Shin-Yamaguchi Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture mainly on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from March to November. It was shut down once, but with the efforts of train lovers and local residents, it was restored in 1979.

(Left) Inside the car (Right) Viewing deck

The SL “Yamaguchi” is unique because each car has different interior design. In addition to the cars that re-created three different eras of 120 years ago, 100 years ago and 70 years ago, there are also a Western-style car and ones with a viewing deck. This will be a perfect experience to finish off your nostalgic trip to Tsuwano.

Notes: The train operates only mainly on Saturdays and Sundays and holidays from March to November. It runs only one round-trip per day. The schedule is released about two months prior on the website. Please note that it will be extremely crowded during a long holiday weekends. Tickets are available at JR Midori-no-Madoguchi or JR Ticket Office (Online reservation and phone reservation from overseas are not available).

The town of Tsuwano where time passes by slowly. Travel off the beaten path to find the nostalgic scenery of Japan.