Go Off the Crushed Path With This San’in, Japan Itinerary


Many vacationers are looking for the “actual” Japan, however it will probably show troublesome to seek out. That is particularly the case in case you’ve by no means been to Japan or have solely visited a couple of instances. There are such a lot of must-visit Japan locations that it may be troublesome to see even secondary ones in your journey, not to mention ones really out of the atypical.

On the subject of locations to go to in Japan which are genuine, wealthy and freed from international vacationers, nowhere matches this invoice higher than the San’in area. The northern half of Chogoku, the westernmost portion of Honshu island, San’in contains Tottori and Shimane prefectures, in addition to a part of Yamaguchi prefecture.

Geographically, that’s—esoterically, San’in is way extra magical, and is the very image of distinctive Japan. From mystical deserts to historical Shinto shrines, and with towering mountains which are simply as spectacular as its pristine seashores, San’in ticks all of the containers—after which some.

What Makes San’in Particular?

I technically first visited San’in, Japan throughout my very first journey to the nation virtually a decade in the past, after I stopped at Tottori Sand Dunes between Kyoto and Hiroshima. On the time, I had no concept that probably the most magical a part of Japan lie simply west of Tottori’s metropolis limits—fairly actually, within the type of Mt. Daisen.

Which isn’t to say you have to be into mountain climbing or climbing to take pleasure in San’in. San’in is a superb place, for instance, to benefit from the tradition of conventional Japan, from Matsue Fort and the award-winning backyard at Adachi Museum of Artwork, to the very completely different however equally captivate shrines in Izumo and Motonosumi Inari. In case you’re very adventurous you may even take an tour to the distant Oki Islands, or take a death-defying climb as much as the mysterious wood cave temples of Mitokusan Sanbutsu-ji.

Locations to Go to within the San’in Area

Tottori Sand Dunes

In case you’ve ever heard a few desert in Japan, however had no concept the place it was (or just doubted its existence, which is honest), right here’s your reply. It’s positioned to the northeast of the town of Tottori, capital of Japan’s least-populous prefecture of the identical identify.




The Tottori Sand Dunes, nonetheless, aren’t the one recreation on the town right here. Simply to their sits sits the Uradome Coast, which is one other place to really feel the particular vibe of off the crushed path Japan. Tottori additionally sits close to the city of Kurayoshi, house to a unusual Pear Museum and the so-called White Walled Warehouses, and gateway to Mitokusan Sanbutsu-ji temple, considered one of my favourite hikes I’ve ever completed in Japan.

Mt. Daisen

Talking of mountain climbing in Japan, the path that leads as much as the 1,700m summit of Mt. Daisen is nothing to sneeze at. Generally known as domestically as “Hoki Fuji” for its resemblance, from afar, to Japan’s most well-known mountain, Mt. Daisen is as stunning from ground-level as it’s trying down from the highest, from the place you may see the town of Yonago—and on a transparent day, far past it.




The city of Daisen itself can be the image of genuine Japan, from a unusual onsen that serves tofu home made with scorching spring water, to the beautiful Daisen-ji temple, to myriad smaller mountain climbing trails throughout the bottom of the mountain. Daisen blew me away—I believe you’ll really feel the identical.

Oki Islands

There are a couple of attention-grabbing sights in Yonago metropolis, which I’ve simply talked about. However most vacationers will head on to the port of Sakaiminato, both to discover its unlikely anime connection, or extra prone to board a ferry to the distant and distinctive Oki Islands, whose 4 inhabited islands are Dogo, Chibu, Ama and Nishino all supply distinctive and charming experiences so as to add to your San’in itinerary.




The Okis boast many experiences for these looking for distinctive Japan, from extraordinarily pleasant locals (and, as I discovered, Japanese from elsewhere within the nation who’d come to benefit from the fairly ambiance of the islands), to surroundings that, at turns, resembles Eire greater than Japan, to mystical shrines and towering cedar timber, such because the one pictured above.

Adachi Museum of Artwork

I’ll be sincere: I don’t contemplate the Adachi Museum of Artwork to deal with the perfect backyard in Japan, even when I can recognize its magnificence. The sheer crowding of its floor, the place I noticed extra gaijin in a couple of hours than I did throughout your entire remainder of my time in San’in, contribute to my evaluation therein.


In fact, there are many different methods to expertise conventional Japan in and across the museum. Proper subsequent door, the truth is, at Yasugibushi Theater, you’ll discover a theatre devoted to the beautiful (by dying) song-and-dance efficiency of the identical identify. Yasugi, like Kyoto, can be house to its personal Kiyomizu-dera temple. In Yasugi metropolis itself, in the meantime, I had among the finest and most genuine soba meals of my life.

Matsue Fort

Likewise, whereas I might cease in need of naming Matsue Fort as being among the many greatest castles in Japan, it’s definitely one of many architectural highlights of San’in, in no small half because of adjoining Shiomi Nawate Samurai avenue. The southern suburbs of Matsue metropolis, which is the capital of Shimane prefecture, are additionally house to the oft-overlooked (however beautiful) Komasu Shrine.


Watching sundown behind a pine-covered island oin Lake Shinji, which sits simply to the west of the town middle, undoubtedly gained’t really feel such as you’re too far off the crushed path, since dozens of native photographers flock there each night time. Even nonetheless, strolling only a couple streets away from the perspective in any path take you to locations the place you’ll really feel delightfully alone.

Izumo Shrine

On the subject of Shinto shrines in Japan, the one in Izumo is probably the most well-known, now and arguably all through historical past. Nevertheless, I’d urge you to temple your expectations stepping into. Whereas the construction itself is magnificent, it was most likely the second-most crowded place I visited in San’in, after the aforementioned Adachi Museum of Artwork.


Fortunately, there are many different genuine Japan experiences in and round Izumo. Specifically, the previous silver mining group of Iwami Ginzan is an interesting half-day journey, whether or not you go down into the mine shaft itself, or just benefit from the picturesque quietude of the gorgeous city.


I’ve visited my share of small cities in Japan, however I can safely say that Tsuwano is my favourite, at the very least as of proper now. Situated within the mountains of Shimane prefecture roughly midway between Masuda and Yamguchi metropolis, Tsuwano is known (amongst different causes) for the koi that swim in its immaculately clear drainage gutters.




There are many different points of distinctive Japan right here too, whether or not you climb to the ruins of Tsuwano Fort, keep in an genuine ryokan (as I did—I’ll identify it in a couple of paragraphs!) or stroll alongside a ginkgo-lined Samurai avenue. Tsuwano can be house to the distinctive washi paper craft custom.

Motonosumi Inari Shrine

In case you’re on the hunt for Japan crimson gates proper alongside the ocean (and never the extra well-known, however dare I say much less scenic, orange ones in Kyoto), you’re in search of Motonosumi Inari, on the northern coast of Yamaguchi prefecture. Though this place is comparatively trendy, having been in-built 1955, there’s no different approach to put it: A shrine constructed proper on the Sea of Japan is a sight whose magnificence can’t be minimized.


Contemplating that you’ll seemingly want a automotive to return right here (extra on why in a couple of paragraphs), a sojourn to the shrine is an effective excuse to discover much more of off crushed path Japan. For nature-minded vacationers, this would possibly embrace the Beppu Benten “blue pond” simply north of Yamaguchi metropolis or the Yuya Rice Terraces not removed from the shrines, whereas cultural vacationers will recognize the previous Samurai city of Hagi.


Most vacationers who head to Shimonoseki (and there aren’t many) go to the westernmost, southernmost metropolis of Honshu island to attempt poisonous Fugu sushi. There’s a complete lot extra right here to find, nonetheless, and I say that as somebody who initially wasn’t certain what to consider the place, or Japan off the crushed observe extra typically.




Inside the metropolis limits, there’s loads of genuine Japan, with my favourite being the well-preserved Samurai district of Chofu and the panorama of the town from Hinoyama Park. Exterior the town limits, the water below the Tsunoshima Ohashi bridge is a number of the most stunning I’ve ever seen in Japan, although if you wish to go to this vacation spot you’d higher have a automotive.

San’in Sensible Issues

When to Go to San’in

As is the case for the perfect time to go to Japan usually, San’in is particular throughout the cherry blossom (early April) and autumn colour (late November-early December) seasons. Nevertheless, as a result of sakura and koyo viewing can typically prioritize the seasonal spectacle over a selected vacation spot itself, I’d advocate coming to San’in throughout the month of Could, when stunning spring climate continues to be current, however crowds and distractions are at a minimal.

The place to Keep in San’in

Though San’in is the image of conventional Japan on the subject of Japan and even the sensibility of the individuals, I’ve discovered that lodging leaves one thing to be desired. In giant cities like Tottori, Yonago and Matsue, I stayed in enterprise accommodations like Lodge Resh, Tremendous Lodge and Dormy Inn Specific, respectively. I did handle to seek out some cute ryokans (like Kusuburu Home within the Oki Islands and Wakasagi no Yado in Tsuwano), although these had been sadly extra the exception than the rule.

Tips on how to Get Round San’in

For almost all of locations in San’in, the aptly-named JR San’in Line (and native buses) is a wonderfully fantastic manner of navigating between them. Nevertheless, there are a couple of locations the place renting a automotive in Japan is principally the one possibility: The Oki Islands, the place bus schedules are anemic at greatest; and in Yamaguchi prefecture, the place the price of a round-trip taxi between Nagato Furichi station at Motonosumi Inari shrine is actually the identical as renting a automotive for your entire day. On that observe, whereas driving in Japan may be tedious, the liberty of getting a automotive is finally good. Usually, if San’in is the one place in Japan you go to, I don’t advocate getting a Japan Rail Move.

Different Issues to Preserve in Thoughts As You Journey San’in

San’in is certainly underrated Japan, nevertheless it’s additionally under-visited Japan. Which means that along with the aforementioned deficiency in accommodations, you’ll steadily encounter conditions the place you may’t communicate English. You would possibly sometimes really feel misplaced and even unwelcome, although not in a hostile manner. On a random observe, I suffered the worst allergy assault of my life on Nishinoshima within the Oki Islands, I presume as a result of lack of human inhabitants has allowed flowers to thrive unchecked.


How Lengthy Ought to You Spend in San’in?

For many vacationers, the query of what number of days in Japan it’s best to spend (or weeks, as is extra typically the case) is a considerably summary query, with a solution based mostly largely on the belief that Japan is “small.” My hottest Japan itineraries embrace my two weeks in Japan and one month in Japan journey plans, although some vacationers even choose to take a marathon one week in Japan journey.

The reality is, nonetheless, that San’in is a destination-within-a-destination, along with being off the crushed observe Japan crystallized. I spent two weeks on my final swing by right here, and I nonetheless felt like there have been locations I missed. Now, in case you simply need to see a selected place or two, you may come for a shorter time frame. However in case you really need to expertise the magic of San’in—and I hope you’re satisfied, by now, that it really is magical—two weeks is the minimal period of time I might personally spend.

The Backside Line

On the lookout for the actual Japan? Look no farther than the San’in area. Whether or not you spend two full weeks exploring in all places between the Tottori Sand Dunes and spectacular Shimonoseki, or drop in to go to jewels like Matsue Fort, Izumo Shrine and Yasugi metropolis’s Adachi Museum or Artwork, San’in is the Japan you’ve been in search of. Make it an entire journey and proceed southward to Hiroshima and Kyushu island, or loop again round to Kansai. It may be troublesome to plan your San’in itinerary, it doesn’t matter what form it takes, so don’t really feel afraid to hunt the assistance of an expert.



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