Defeating the Orochi

– Story Summary –

After Susanoo was banished from Takamagahara, the realm of the gods, he descended down to Ashihara-no-nakatsu-kuni, which is modern-day Shimane prefecture.

When he set foot on earth, he met an elderly couple and their younger daughter, sobbing inconsolably.
He asked what was wrong, the old man replied, “I had many more daughters before but a monster called Yamata-no-orochi with its 8 heads and 8 tails came yearly and took my daughters as sacrifice. Now I only have one daughter Kushinadahime left, and the monster will come take her away tomorrow.”

Susanoo thought of a way to defeat the Yamata-no-orochi, he asked the elderly couple to get 8 vases ready and fill them up with sake (Japanese wine).

Susanoo hid and waited patiently for the monster to come. Finally, the monster appeared and was drawn to the smell of sake. It dipped its 8 heads in each of the vases and drank up all the sake.
The Yamata-no-orochi was drunk from the sake and fell asleep.

Susanoo seized the moment and leaped up from where he was hiding, drew out the sword from its sheath and cut off the monster’s heads, and sliced up its body.
After killing the Orochi, he noticed a sword beautiful shimmering sword embedded within the Yamata-no-Orochi’s tail. Susanoo retrieved the sword and gave it as a peace offering to his sister Amaterasu.
The sword was later known as ‘Ameno-murakumo-no-Tsurugi’ or ‘Kusanagi-no-tsurugi’, one of the 3 holy treasures that has been passed down to the emperor of Japan to this day.

Susanoo & Orochi Picture Book

Artwork by ‘Tsuchie Ryoji’


The Place

Okuizumo & Unnan

The ancient Japanese notion that gods dwell in all things has evolved into unique mythology that has found its way into Japanese culture.
Here in Okuizumo and Unnan, it has evolved in its own way, and remains alive even today.

Okuizumo and Unnan is located about an hour drive from Izumo grand shrine and Matsue castle.
You can also get there by JR train which takes about 2.5 hrs from JR Izumo station.
The cultural affairs agency of Japan recognized Okuizumo as the sole producer of ancient Japanese style iron in the world. This ancient process of iron smelting is called “Tatara” . Tatara was also depicted in the Ghibli movie “Princess Mononoke”.

Map of Unnan and Okuizumo

Go for a drive or ride and immerse in Japanese country side

Suga Shrine

Mt. Sentsu

Ryuzuga Falls

Inada Shrine

Onsen Shrine

Onigami Shrine

Hiigawa River

Oni-no Shita Burui

Sugaya Tatara Sannai

Okuizumo Tatara & Sword Museum

Itohara Memorial Museum

Sakurai House & Garden

Sanouji Rice Terrace

Guest House Tanabe

Tane Nature Museum

Tera-ce House

Kisuki Brewery

Soba 'Yukari-an'

Japanese Restaurant 'Sugihara'

&Cafe 'Kara'

Izakaya Okui

Mythology & Folklore

Many ancient shrines still remain in Unnan. Shrines are protected mainly by priests , but they are also supported by local residents called ujiko, or parishioners, who clean, make repairs, and offer charms at the visitor center on a daily basis. As a part of their lives, parishioners inherit faith in the gods and a daily sense of prayer and gratitude. One such shrine is the Suga Shrine in Unnan City. It is said that after Susanoo-no-Mikoto conquered the Yamata-no-Orochi serpent, he and Princess Kushiinata built their first shrine here, and many gather here to worship. As the generations of ujiko parishioners change, the older and younger generation work together to protect the shrine.

須我神社 – Suga Shrine

The “Suganomiya” mentioned in the “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki” is said to refer to Suga Shrine. When Susanoo-no-Mikoto built his palace, beautiful eight-layered clouds rose up around the palace, and the poem written to describe the scene is said to be the oldest waka poem in Japan. Three large and small rocks in the inner shrine look like a parent and child, drawing visitors into a world of wonder. There is also a legend that the sword Amenomurakumo no Tsurugi, one of the three sacred treasures, was presented to the Amaterasu Oomikami from this spot. Many people come here to pray for good fortune, good luck, and good marriages.

船通山 – Mt. Sentsuzan

This is the mountain that Susanoo descended on after he was banished from Takamagahara. Later on, he settled on this mountain and built a palace for him and his wife, Kushinadahime.

稲田神社 – Inada Shrine

This shrine is dedicated to the princess, Kishinada-hime (Inada-hime), whom Susanoo rescued from being eaten by Orochi. There is Soba (Buckwheat) restaurant here, where you can enjoy the Okuizumo Soba lunch set. The soba is handmade from the Buckwheat that is grown nearby the shrine.

温泉神社 – Onsen Shrine

The deities enshrined here are the elderly parents of Princess Kushinada, the gods of the earthly realms, Tenazuchi and Ashinazuchi. This was where they were living when Susanoo stumbled upon them.

鬼神神社 – Onigami Shrine

The deities enshrined here are Susanoo-no-mikoto and Isotakeru-no-mikoto, Susanoo’s son.
Susanoo and Isotakeru boarded a Nifune (a ship made of dirt) from the land of Shinra, crossed Mt. Sentsū, and landed here. The “Iwafune Daimyojin” rock, is said to be the petrified ship. The part you can see above ground is about 2 meters, but the rest of the the rock is several meters underground and no one could move it.
There is a tomb on the mountain behind Onigami shrine, which is said to be the tomb of Isotakeru. The locals call it “Goryo-san”.
In the past, many fireballs were seen here, and it is said that they flew down to Mt. Sentsū after landing on Mr. Goryo.

斐伊川 – Hiigawa River

The Hiigawa river runs from Mt sentsuzan through valleys and town, giving life to all the crops in the surrounding area. This river water has also been used back in the day for Tatara sand iron extraction.

龍頭が滝 – Ryuzuga Falls

The Ryuzuga falls is chosen as one of the 100 beautiful waterfalls in Japan. It is around 40m high. There are 400 year old cedar trees lining the path leading up to the water fall. There is a story related to this place, where a horse gave birth in the falls and died. The baby saw its own reflection in the water and thought it was its mother and tried to reach her and eventually learn to walk.

鬼の舌震 – Oni-no-shitaburui Gorge

Oni no Shita Burui is a large gorge stretching approximately 2.3 km that was created as a result of a rapidly-flowing river carving out rocks over a centuries.
Oni-no-Shitaburui is a horrifying name, literally means ‘Shivering demons tongue’. According to Izumo Fudoki, a beautiful princess lived in the village up the river, and an evil crocodile came from the sea of Japan up the river at night to marry her. The princess hated the crocodile and threw rocks into the river and made her escape. However, his feelings for the princess did not change, and it is said that he went up the river many times after that. The name ‘Shivering demons tongue’ came from ‘swaying crocodiles tongue’.

History and Culture

Tatara iron production is a uniquely Japanese process that uses iron sand as a raw material.
Including Izumo, the Chugoku Region once produced the greater part of the country’s iron when production was booming.
Unnan became representative of iron manufacture, even within that, and the influence of tatara iron production can still be felt today in its beautiful scenery and profound culture.

According to one theory, the legend of Yamata-no-Orochi is referencing the Hii River and iron making. The legend of Yamata-no-Orochi is not mentioned in “Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki”. However, because it contains writings about the Okuizumo town area that states: “the iron made here is hard and suitable for making various tools,” proving that iron has been made in this area for a long time.
In the Unnan Area, Tatara ironmaking later flourished. There are still a number of places where the legend of Yamata-no-Orochi is still recited. At the headwaters of the Hii River, where the tradition of ironmaking is passed down across generations, where Susanoo-no-Mikoto defeated the eight-headed dragon and obtained the Amenomurakumo-no-Tsurugi sword.

菅谷たたら山内 – Sugaya Tatara Sannai

The workplaces of people engaged in tatara iron making and the areas where they lived are collectively called “Sannai”. The daily life of Tatara ironworkers was carried out here. There was no other Tatara manufacturers at that time. There is still a townscape here that can be remembered when Sugaya tatara Sannai was flourishing. The houses have been renovated repeatedly, but the people who live here have been around for generations.

奥出雲たたらと刀剣館 –
Okuizumo Tatara and sword museum

Okuizumo is the only region in the world that continues to use tatara iron making to manufacture tamahagane steel, the raw material for Japanese swords. The “Okuizumo Tatara and Sword Museum” comprehensively exhibits and introduces the tatara iron production in Okuizumo Town, and has a powerful full-scale model of a tatara furnace. There are also three actual models of the bellows used in tatara blowing, allowing visitors to fully experience one aspect of iron making of the time. A swordsmith also demonstrates sword forging, recommended for those interested in Japanese swords and smithing.

絲原記念館 – Itohara Memorial Museum

Itohara Memorial Museum is an archival museum displaying materials handed down by the Itohara family, a noble family that rose to new heights of prosperity through iron manufacturing in the Edo period. Within the Itohara family estate, which is inside the museum grounds, is an Izumo-style garden that incorporates the natural forest as part of its design.

櫻井家 可部屋集成舘 –
Sakurai Japanese style house and garden

The Sakurai family were one of the two households that managed the Tatara iron making process. Although they are known by the name Kabeya, their original family name is Sakurai.
A natural environment surrounds the museum and Sakurai house with streams and mountains, which change beautifully with the seasons. This traditional residence, combined with the magnificent view, allows guests to feel like they have walked back in time.

山王寺の棚田 – Sanouji Rice Terrace

The rice terraces of Sannoji were certified as one of the “100 Best Rice Terraces in Japan” in 1999. Located on the hillside at an altitude of 300m in the northeastern part of Daito-cho, Unnan City, it has an area of ​​19ha and about 200 rice terraces, and is protected by farmers in the area.
The rice terraces fill with water before planting the rice in autumn, and you can see the sky refecting on the fields like a mirror.
The harvested rice is branded as “Sannoji Rice Terrace”.

Place to Stay

The following accomodations were recommended by the locals. The food was delicious, and the people were so warm and gracious.

かたくりの里 民宿たなべ –
Katakuri-no-sato guest house ‘Tanabe’

A quiet place surround by nature. The onsen here is full of natural minerals that makes your skin smooth and silky. It is one of Japans three major hot springs for skin beauty, and springs from the foot of Mt. Sentsu.

温泉旅館 海潮荘 – Onsen ‘Ushiosou’

The ‘Ushioso’ hot spring inn boasts a large open-air bath with huge natural stones skillfully arranged. The onsen here has been springing since the Nara period, from 1300 years ago, and is mentioned in ‘Izumo Kuni Fudoki’.
You can enjoy a delicious and beautiful kaiseki cuisine while looking out onto the garden from the restaurant. The seafood is from the Sea of ​​Japan and Lake Shinji, and the blessings from the mountain such as Okuizumo Japanese beef, rice terraces, wild plants, and fresh vegetables from Unnan City.

天野館 – Amanokan Inn

The Amanokan has the main building and an annex. The main building overlooks the Hiikawa river embankment. In the spring you can look out your window to the Cherry blossom trees lining the river.” It is one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.
The annex is a building from the Taisho era and is a unique mix of Japanese / European design. The couple that runs the place is very accommodating and speaks a little English.

多根自然博物館 – Tane Nature Museum

This is a rare museum in Japan where you can stay the night, while learning and experiencing the history of life spanning 4 billion years. Among the many facilities, it is the only museum where you can stay in Japan, as a registered museum.
Check-in, eat dinner, take a bath at a nearby hot spring and go enjoy the night museum!

Guest house ‘Tera-ce house’

The spacious Tera-ce house is perfect for getting away from the city to do some remote work surround by nature, or a quick getaway with family or friends. There is a kiln to cook pizza, BBQ grill, and 3 wifi’s, and a lot of other fun and useful amenities.
Since the house is on temple grounds, you can also experience Zazen at the temple.

Food & Local products

木次酒造 – Kisuki Sake Brewery

Using locally grown rice from Unnan city and spring water bubbling out of the mountains near the brewery, master brewer Kuramoto, born and raised locally, solely focuses on his responsibility for brewing the best ‘Sake’.
The rice is the source of sweetness and ‘umami’ flavour you taste alongside the acidity, resulting in a bold yet smooth ‘sake’ that can be enjoyed either before or during a meal.

姫のそば ゆかり庵 – Yukari-an

This Soba restaurant is next to Inada Shrine. The Soba is made from locally grown Izumo Soba and handmade at the restaurant. Compared to the standard Soba, the Izumo soba has a darker and stronger buckwheat flavor as the whole seed is used in making soba flour, and the texture of the noodle is chewy and satisfying.

割烹 すぎ原 – Sugihara

An authentic Kyoto-style restaurant nestled in the “Iron History Village” of Shimane. Seasonal veggies are served, so you can enjoy many flavors and decorations depending on what time of the year you go.

&CAFÉ華羅 – Cafe Kara

Western-style cafe restaurant serving western and Japanese cuisine using local produce. Simple and delicious meals with seasonal accents, old-fashioned tableware and lacquerware used for each dish, old style tools and chests of drawers next to the brewery, and a number of antiques casually displayed around the cafe.

食事処 おくい – Okui

Izakaya style restaurant with a friendly family-run atmosphere. The local delicacy is the dried grilled mackerel sushi. There a variety of local dishes to choose from including seasonal food. Affordable and tasty!

For Private tours or Group Tours, Contact 'Omoshiro Travel'

Often these spots are more rural than urban areas. Exploring such places and emerging yourself in the mysteries of the legends will be a different experience than just sightseeing. Our tourism partner ‘Omoshiro Travel’ can plan and arrange the tour for you.
Slip away from your busy schedule and delve into the world of legends and mythology.