Translated by Richard Perkins
Take In Thousand-Year-Old Traditions In The Oki Islands, Shimane
Written by Maki
The Oki Islands in Shimane boast a unique culture with a history going back more than twelve centuries. This article introduces Dogo Island, where impressive ancient cultures still remain today.
In the northeastern part of Shimane in the Sea of Japan, there is an island group called Oki. The archipelago consists of four inhabited islands and a number of uninhabited islands.
In the year 724, it was decided that Oki was to be where political exiles would be sent. Since then, many people have come to these islands, including one of the former Emperors of Japan. The personalities who came to Oki had a great impact on the island culture.
In this article, we introduce the places in Oki where visitors can feel the long history and culture of the area.
In Oki, an archipelago with a rich culture, there are several shrines. Most of these shrines were built using a unique construction method specific to Oki. Some of the shrines in Oki are very highly ranked and have been designated important cultural assets.
Tamawakasumikoto Shrine is a shrine with a long history. It is even mentioned in a chronicle from the Heian period (794 - 1185). The main shrine hall (honden) has been designated an important cultural asset of Japan.
On the shrine grounds, there is a cedar tree called Yaosugi. It has been designated as a natural monument. This tree is over one thousand years old, measuring 30 meters in height with roots that are about 20 meters in length, making it the largest Japanese cedar in Shimane prefecture. The flourishing bark and thick branches of this tree can be seen from all directions, making quite an impact.
Mizuwakasu Shrine is another shrine that was constructed using the construction method specific to Oki. I is also an important cultural asset. There is even a dohyo, or sumo wrestling ring, inside. A portion of the Japanese movie ‘Kon-Shin’ was filmed there.
The area that is usually visited there is the haiden or the outer shrine where visitors offer their prayers. The distinctive style of construction can be observed here in the structure of the roofs and the eaves.
The Rare Culture of Bullfighting that Still Remains in Japan
Bullfighting washed to the shores of Oki back in the 13th century. It is said that it was brought about in order to please the ex-emperor Gotoba.
Though it might not seem very Japanese, there are a number of areas in Japan where bullfighting still remains. However, the bullfighting that takes place on Oki has a history spanning over 800 years, making it the oldest traditional bullfighting in Japan.
Bullfighting events started off taking place three times a year. At the facility called Momo Dome, bullfighting is shown at events to entertain the visitors to the islands.
The sight of huge bulls with bulging muscles slamming into one another is quite impressive and the whole battle will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of the win. At the Momo Dome, it's a rule for the bullfight to end in a draw before the fight actually finishes.
The History of a Town Supported by Fishing
In the area known as Yana no Matsubara there are roughly 20 small buildings resembling huts that were once used to house boats. With the blue sea and cedar bark roofs of the fishing huts all lined up in a row, this fishing village has a beautiful atmosphere.
The Oki Food Culture - The Bounty of the Sea and Mountains
Oki is best known for its fresh seafood, caught from the neighboring seas. Among the seafood caught includes local specialties such as a type of shellfish known as a turban, abalone, and Iwagaki oysters.
Even though the turban in Oki is chewy, it’s also rather soft, and has a distinctive, fresh taste. Turban-don, a bowl of rice topped with turban, along with turban curry are two local dishes that are a must-eat when visiting the area.
Oki soba, made with 100% soba flour and served in a sweet mackerel broth, is a unique local cuisine. The soba here differs from traditional soba, as it crumbles to pieces inside the bowl. Slurp this dish as if it were ochazuke (rice that has toppings and green tea poured over it) and you'll be able to enjoy the aroma of the soba along with the rich flavor of the mackerel broth.
Growing rice is another industry that flourishes on Dogo, and this rice is used in the production of local sake as well. Made from local rice and pure waters that have been included in the top one hundred most exquisite waters in Japan, this sake has its own distinctive taste that is mild, yet first-class.
Discover the Amazing Culture of Oki!
Oki is an archipelago with a rich history and culture in the Sea of Japan. On these islands you can still find historic sights and traditional events taking place as they have for centuries. Why not take a trip to the island of Dogo on Oki and discover the local history and culture?