Tsuwano, located in the westernmost part of Shimane Prefecture in Japan is a small castle town that prides itself on traditional arts, crafts, and literature. It developed along the Tsuwano-gawa River and is surrounded by nature. Tsuwano is also called ‘Little Kyoto’ in the San-in region because of its picturesque streets. Find out what there is to see and do in Tsuwano!
Tonomachi-dori is the main street of Tsuwano and the center of tourist attractions. They still retain the atmosphere of the old days when there was a castle in this town. There are some historical sites such as the ruin of the school owned by the local feudal government, the entrance gate of a former feudal minister’s house, and a Catholic church.
The stream along the street adds to the atmosphere. This waterway was constructed for irrigation and fire prevention, as emergency provisions in case of famine in the period from the 17th century to the 19th century. The water reflects the white mortar walls and green trees. In the water, there live 300 to 500 colorful carps. This stream and the carps with the old walls and houses together make the scenery of Tsuwano.
Tsuwano Castle Ruin
Tsuwano Castle was constructed by Lord Yoshimi during the Kamakura period (from the 12th to the 14th century) on top of a 367-meter-high mountain. Only stone walls and stone pavement have remained, but you will be surprised by the huge scale.
You can go up to the ruin by chair lift. The view of the town of Tsuwano from the mountain is magnificent!
Anno Mitsumasa Museum
Anno Mitsumasa is a world-famous painter who mainly draws pictures for children’s books. He was born in Tsuwano. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984. This award is regarded as a Nobel Prize for picture book illustrators. And he was chosen as a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government in 2012.
The museum opened in 2001. They keep a great number of his paintings and change the exhibition every season. They show his picture books and landscape paintings.
But that’s not all. There are many interesting facilities in the museum. They reproduced an old elementary school classroom which makes you feel as if you went back to the time of your childhood. They have a reproduction of his workplace which is a Japanese-style room with tatami mats. They also have a library that keeps Anno’s books, picture books from all over the world, and other books of art. And surprisingly they have a planetarium, too. They show a story from a book of Anno.
Entrance: 800 yen for adults / 400 yen for senior and junior high school students / 250 yen for elementary school students
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Thursdays)
Taikodani Inari Shrine
This Shinto shrine founded about 250 years ago is one of the five main Inari shrines in Japan. Inari stands for rice crops, so people have worshiped at Inari shrines for a good harvest since the beginning of time.
Standing at the foot of Shiroyama Mountain, there are about 1,000 red torii gates lining up to the shrine building like a tunnel. There are statues of foxes that are regarded as messengers of gods in Inari shrines. They love fried tofu, so when you worship at this shrine, it is good manners to offer it.
Tsuwano Catholic Church
This Catholic church was constructed by a German priest in 1931 in Gothic style. It is made of wood and mortar. A very unique aspect is that there is tatami (straw mats) inside. The combination of the stained glass windows and tatami mats is really interesting.
Hours: 7.30 am to 5 pm
Local Festival & Local Sake
There are many festivals to enjoy in Japan. On the second Sunday of April, Tsuwano holds its own Yabusame Festival. It is a horseback archery event dedicated to a Shinto god. You can enjoy the festival under the cherry blossoms.
Because Tsuwano has good water, good rice and, a good climate, they produce good sake. There are three sake breweries in Tsuwano. Furuhashi Brewery started its business in the late 19th century. After you visit the brewery, you can taste sake and buy them as a souvenir. Please try the special Uijin ice cream; it has a sake flavor but is non-alcoholic.
On weekends and national holidays, they operate a steam locomotive train from Shin-Yamaguchi to Tsuwano Station. There are two SLs and both are made in the 1930s. They leave Shin-Yamaguchi at 10:50 and arrive in Tsuwano at 12:59. It takes a little more than 2 hours for 62.9 km. It takes one hour more compared to taking the express train, but it will be a unique experience to ride it.
Access: From Shin-Osaka to Shin-Yamaguchi, take the shinkansen (bullet train), then take the Super Oki Express to Tsuwano. It takes about 3.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a steam locomotive from Shin-Yamaguchi to Tsuwano as explained above.
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