A trip to Izumo where you can experience Japanese tradition and culture

Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, “En-musubi” (matchmaking) god

“En” means “a relationship”. “En-musubi”, which means uniting a relationship, refers to finding a good partner. Many tourists wishing for a good match visit “Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine” in Shimane, which is worshipped as a matchmaking god. This is a very popular tourist site with over 2 million visitors every year.

Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine
A very popular tourist site with over 2 million visitors every year

Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine has a long history, so old that its establishment is recorded on “Kojiki”, a history book considered to be the oldest in Japan.

Solemn grounds
The grounds of the shrine, surrounded by mountains including Mt. Yakumo, has a solemn atmosphere

It is believed that there are “Yaorozu (meaning countless number)” of gods in Japan. Gods from all over Japan gather in Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine in October in the lunar calendar (equivalent to the period from late October to early December in the solar calendar), so October is called “Kamiari-zuki” (meaning the months when gods are around) only in Izumo. On the other hand, gods are out in other areas, so October is called “Kanna-zuki” (meaning the month when gods are absent). It is believed that the gods gather at Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine for a meeting called “Kamubakari” to discuss who to match. Since all the gods work together, if you wish for a good “En-musubi” at Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, the benefit is powerful.

Huge “Shimenawa” (straw festoon) worth seeing

The site of Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is a precinct. This is a sacred ground where gods reside and has powerful mystical energy. The gate to enter the precinct is a wooden shrine gate standing at a place called “Seidamari”. Go down the hill from here, cross Harai-no-hashi bridge, and you will see the approach to the grounds of the shrine. After you purify your hands at “Chozuya” at the entrance of the grounds and enter, you will see the front shrine with a huge “Oshimenawa” (huge straw festoon) hanging. You can see Mt. Yakumo behind the shrine, and the shrine is surrounded in the solemn atmosphere.

Oshimenawa, one of the biggest in the world
Oshimenawa of Kagura hall is one of the biggest in the world

Oshimenawa hanging on the front shrine, which catches your attention as soon as you enter, is 6.5m long (21.3 ft) and weighs 1t. “Kagura-hall” which stands to the left of this shrine has even bigger Oshimenata, which is 13m long (42.6 ft), 8m thick (26.2 ft) and weighs 4.5t. A straw festoon this big is rarely seen in the world. This is a perfect place for a photo for visitors to Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine.

When you go around to the back of the shrine, you will find “Yatsuashimon” gate where you can pray in front of “Honden”, the inner shrine. Visitors are usually only allowed up to Yatsuashimon gate, but you can go inside the gate and see the inner shrine up close when the gate is opened from January 1st to 5th.

The roof of the inner shrine
The inner shrine roof, unique for its 2 pairs of crossbeams

The inner shrine, which enshrines Okuninushi-no-Omikami, was built in 1744 and is designated as a national treasure. It is about 24m high (78.7 ft) and has 2 pairs of 7.9m-long (25.9 ft) crossbeams on the roof with thick cypress bark, which makes it unique.

Japanese-style wedding ceremony in the shrine

When you visit Izumo Shrine, you sometimes happen to see a traditional Shinto-style wedding ceremony being held. The Shinto-style wedding ceremony is a Japanese-style ceremony, and the current popular Shinto-style wedding ceremony was created based on the royal wedding of the Emperor Taisho in 1900.

Many couples want to have their wedding ceremony at Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, which is famous for “En-musubi”. Because the members of Japanese royal family had a wedding there in 2014, having a wedding ceremony at this traditional shrine is gathering more attention.

Shinto-style wedding ceremonies at Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine, are held every hour from 9am to 4pm except for event days of the inner shrine. Not all the slots are filled every day, but many ceremonies are held on the day of “Taian”, that is considered to bring good luck according to “Rokuyo” which shows the fortune of the day. If your travel schedule matches and you visit Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine on the day of Taian, you may be able to see a ceremony.

Reservations for wedding ceremonies at Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine are accepted up to the end of the following year and they start accepting reservation for the following year from March every year. The ceremony takes around 30 minutes and although there is no rehearsal, the shrine staff will guide you through the ceremony, so even couples not familiar with the Shinto-style wedding ceremony can comfortably enjoy. They have a kimono rental service as well. This will surely be an unforgettable experience offered only in Japan.

Pure white is valued for bridal costumes

Since ancient times, white has been considered as the color of the sun and a holy color in Japan. White is often used for vestments (clothes worn for ceremonies and events) and pure white is valued for bridal costumes, so a white costume is often worn in a Shinto-style wedding ceremony.

Traditional bridal costume
A hood called “Wataboshi” to match the white kimono is one of the traditional costumes
A cloth with woven patterns
Detailed patterns are woven in the white cloth

After the ceremony is over, the bride changes from a white kimono to a completely different colorful “Irouchikake” kimono. Irouchikake is meant to express reincarnation from ancient times and to show that the bride has started a new life. Traditional Irouchikake has “Kissho-moyo” (auspicious omen), “Tsuru-kame” (crane and turtle), “Ho-oh” (phoenix) and “Sho-chiku-bai” (pine, bamboo and plum blossom) patterns, which are all considered to bring good luck, woven in it.

Pattern of colorful cranes
The pattern of colorful cranes which is considered to bring good luck is often seen in traditional Irouchikake
Gorgeous Irouchikake is especially beautiful in a photo

A trip to Izumo where you can experience Japanese tradition and culture

The Izumo area, which has many myths and legends that have been passed down, is attracting many tourists who want to wish for a good match and to visit a place with mystical energy mainly around Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine. This is a destination worth considering where you can see Japanese culture and tradition including a Shinto-style wedding ceremony. Let’s travel in Izumo and experience Japanese culture and tradition!