Are you looking to travel or go on a mini adventure in a rural area where you can pray about love? If so, then Izumo has your name written on it!
Praying for Love at Izumo Taisha
I have been dying to go to Izumo for over 4 years, what better time than now since my best friend from America was in town? I first heard about Izumo when I watched the anime Kamisama Kiss back in high school and learned that Izumo was where the Gods meet. When I started living in Japan, I learned about the main legend of Izumo and fell in love with it even more. I love Japanese legends, folklore, and history, so this was always on my list of places to go.
As soon as our bus dropped us off in Izumo, we ate and then hopped on the train to get to the shrine. The trains around Izumo are very cute, I was instantly reminded of an old-time movie with the way the tables are set in between the seats. Not to mention there was this cute little character for us to take pictures with during our trip!
When we arrived, we were in awe of the beautiful train station we were met with. I think that finding stained glass is very rare in Japan, but this station had two different stained glass windows. You’ll find that there are hundreds of Instagram-worthy places here. We stayed and looked around at the pamphlets about Izumo for a while before going to the shrine. There were many informational pamphlets for tourists to look at to help them decide what to do during their trip. <There is also free Wi-Fi available at the station.>
Unfortunately, on the day we went, it was raining a lot. On the plus side, it made the scenery around us extremely beautiful. It was so nice to walk through the town and take everything in. It felt like we were transported to a different setting. I guess we were given that we weren’t in Osaka anymore haha, but there was something about being in a small town that we both really enjoyed. Especially for my best friend since she’s only ever traveled around America.
The shrine was only about an 11-minute walk from the station, so it was fairly close by. It was fun to teach my best friend Japanese customs when it comes to going into the shrine, such as not walking through the center of the gates< since those are for the Gods>, and the importance of walking on the side. We were instantly taken aback by how beautiful everything was. I can’t stress enough how lovely Izumo Taisha is. By far, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Aside from the main purpose of praying there, we just wanted to take pictures of how beautiful the nature and everything was around us.
One interesting thing about Izumo is that the number of claps that you do when praying is different from other shrines. I didn’t know until I saw many people praying before we went to the shrine, but you’re supposed to toss in your money, bow twice, clap four times, make your prayer/wish, and then bow once at Izumo Taisha. Normally, it’s only twice that you clap!
Izumo is famous for many legends, though the main legend that I know of is about love. A short version of the story is that the God of Wealth, Okuninushi (also called Daikoku), was often bullied by his siblings. On their long journey to meet the beautiful princess in Inaba, Yagami-hime, they made Okuninushi carry all of their belongings. Because Okuninushi was carrying heavy items, he was slower and trailed far behind all of the other siblings. As they were traveling, they came across a rabbit whose skin had been torn off. Rather than helping the crying rabbit, the siblings suggested that the rabbit swim in the salt-filled ocean and let the wind blow on its wounds to help him feel better. Naturally, that only made the rabbit’s flesh burn more and he started crying.
When Okuninushi saw the rabbit as he trailed behind his siblings, he asked the rabbit what happened. The rabbit explained that he had played a mean trick on the sharks by using them to cross the distance between the land of Inaba and Oki Islands. The rabbit made a bet with one of the sharks that he had more friends than him. As the shark’s friends lined up, the rabbit jumped on each of their heads to bring him closer to the Land of Inaba while pretending to count. Unfortunately for the rabbit, he got cocky too soon and started laughing about how he was tricking them while jumping on their heads. Just as he was about to get on the land, the angry sharks tore off the rabbit’s skin. The rabbit also told Okuninushi about how gods that had come before (his siblings) told him to soak in the ocean’s water, which aggravated his flesh.
Okuninushi took pity on the rabbit and told him that he needed to rest in freshwater and rub flowers on his flesh to feel better. After taking his advice the rabbit began to feel better and his fur grew back. With gratitude, the rabbit blessed Okuninushi with the love of Yagami-hime.
There is much more to this legend and it truly is fascinating, so I recommend reading the complete story. Overall, this is one of the legends that Izumo is well known for and a reason why many people come to the shrine to pray about love.
(I bought laptop stickers of the legend .)
After praying, I bought numerous souvenirs and did fortune telling (おみくじ・omikuji) with my best friend. In the end, we only covered about 50% of the grounds around Izumo Taisha, so I am looking forward to going back and seeing the rest that Izumo has to offer….Maybe with a future boyfriend? haha.
Something felt magical about finally seeing the lands after learning about it in high school and dreaming about going for the last 4 years. I’m looking forward to seeing how my prayers come true throughout the next year. Everyone should go to Izumo at least once whether it be just to see beautiful nature or to pray about love.