The Shrine in the Clouds
In April of 2000, an amazing find of archaeological and historical significance was made on the grounds of Izumo Taisha: during construction preparations for an underground storage unit, part of a large wooden pillar was found. Upon further excavation, two other pillars were found next to it, and all three were placed together in such a way that they looked as if they had been bound together to make one massive pillar. More digging nearby uncovered two similar groupings of pillars.
Why was this such an important find? It led credence to the claim that at on point in time, Izumo Taisha’s main hall had been 48 meters high, twice the height it is now.
A construction plan for the main hall belonging to the Senge Family, the head priests of Izumo Taisha, had been used to support that claim. However, a lack of any physical evidence meant that the claim had been largely ignored. The discovery of these pillars, and the fact that their size and spacing matched up extremely closely with this construction plan made the archaeological world finally start taking notice.
So at some point in the past, the main hall of Izumo Taisha was taller than even the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) Hall of Todai Temple in Nara. Its floor would have been at the point where the current main hall’s ceiling is now, making it higher than the low-lying cloud cover that tends to surround the shrine. This discovery is more evidence that Izumo Taisha and Shimane played a particularly important role in ancient Japan.
In April of 2000, an old pillar from an earlier main hall of Izumo Taisha was uncovered on the shrine grounds.
This is a model of how Izumo Taisha looked during the Heian Period.
Visiting Locations connected to Izumo Taisha
Izumo Taisha is located on the western end of the Shimane Peninsula, in the Taisha area of Izumo City. A large shrine gate, said to be the largest in Japan, towers over the main road to Izumo Taisha and welcomes visitors to the area. Izumo Taisha is easily accessible by car, bus, or train, and the area around the shrine bustles with tourists and visitors to the shrine, especially on the weekends.
If you follow the road that passes in front of the shrine grounds, you will soon arrive at Inasa-no-Hama beach. This beach is part of Sono-no-nagahama, a place that plays a large role in the Kunibiki legend, and is where Takemikazuchi presented Okuninushi with his demands to turn over Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni to Amaterasu, and where Takeminakata challenged him to a test of strength. It is also where, every year at the Kami-mukae-sai, all of the gods from around Japan are welcomed to Izumo Taisha, and the procession back to Izumo Taisha from the beach follows a path through town along the Kami Mukae Road.