Izumo and Matsue

Published 15 April 2013 in:

Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA

Because of my interest in ancient Japanese history I have always wanted to visit Shimane prefecture, but although I first came to Japan more than forty years ago, it was not until the end of last week that I could realize this trip. My wife and I, together with the Nordic ambassadors in Japan and their spouses, visited Izumo and Matsue on Friday and Saturday. After meeting the Governor, Mr. Mizoguchi Zenbee, and the Mayor of Matsue, Mr. Matsuura Masataka, in two separate meetings, we visited the Adachi Museum of Art, where Japanese nihonga painters, not the least the fabulous Yokoyama Taikan, are exhibited. The garden which is attached to the museum is one of the most beautiful in Japan.

At the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo we could see the impressive collection of artifacts from the ancient province of Izumo, easily described as the ‘home of Japanese mythology’. It was a special pleasure and privilege to be able to meet Professor Ueda Masaaki, Honorary Director and a professor whose lectures I often attended at Kyoto University in the early 1970s. After a tour of the museum we were given a once-in-a-lifetime experience when the gûji , 宮司 ‘chief priest’, of the Izumo Grand Shrine (Izumo Taisha ) took us to the inner sanctuary of the shintô temple. Every 60 years the temple, a national treasure, is renovated and while the renovation goes on the temple godresides elsewhere. The official ceremony when the god will be welcomed back, the so-called sengû 遷宮, will be held on 15 May and after that the inner sancuary will be locked for another 60 years.

We ended our study tour by visiting the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue. In Japan Lafcadio Hearn is better known as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲) and he was a great introducer of Japanese culture to the West. Many Japanese themselves refer to him as a great resource for understanding Japanese culture. His great grandson, Koizumi Bon (小泉凡), was there to guide us through the museum.