The 10th month of the lunar calendar is known throughout most of Japan as Kannazuki, or the "month of no gods." During this time, Okuninushi, the kami (Shinto god) enshrined at the renowned Izumo Taisha shrine, summons myriad deities to decide the fate of all people for the year ahead. For this reason, the 10th lunar month in Shimane Prefecture alone is known as Kamiarizuki — the "month of the gods."

My visit to Izumo Taisha shrine fell in the weeks before Kamiarizuki, a good time to curry favor ahead of the gathering of the gods. Many people, and perhaps even a kami or two, reach the shrine via the Sunrise Izumo, a 12-hour overnight train from Tokyo with relatively few stops along the way. Despite the arduous journey, the gravity of Izumo Taisha in the national psyche compels people to pack these trains, not just for the month of the gods, but throughout the year.

I arrived at midday during a serendipitous break in the stormy weather that the Sea of Japan is famous for, but a roil of Stygian clouds ringing the horizon in every direction reminded me of the gods' caprice. It was a Sunday, and a varied assortment of pilgrims and tourists scurried back and forth, chatting and snapping pictures.