Once upon a time, there was a violent god named Susanoo-no-mikoto who challenged a giant serpent that had demanded the life of a young woman every year. The god killed the eight-headed Yamata-no-crochi, a dragonlike creature with eight tails, when it became drunk on the local Yashiori-no-sake.

According to one of Japan’s oldest myths, from the Izumo district, Shimane Prefecture is famous for its high-quality rice wine. Although the legendary sake no longer exists, people say the skills to produce top-quality sake have been handed down to local producers.

“Sake has an old history in Shimane, and what was created at that time is the root of our sake,” said Masahiko Fukushima, manager of the Tokyo branch of the Shimane Prefectural Products and Tourist Center.

In the Izumo district, also known as the home of the gods, Matsuo Shrine, dedicated to a god of sake, is located in the east of the famous Izumo Taisha Shrine, which is dedicated to a god of marriage and fortune.

Good rice, as well as highly skilled local artisans producing sake, have helped Shimane Prefecture turn out the top quality drink. However, the prefecture had not felt the need to expand this market, so that the sake could only be enjoyed by a limited number of people, Fukushima said.

Traditional sweets are another Shimane specialty.

The prefectural capital of Matsue is one of the three most famous areas for Japanese sweets, along with the cities of Kyoto and Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture.

“Unlike Kyoto, where such sweets were mainly produced for court nobles, those in Matsue were produced for warriors,” Fukushima said.

A head of the feudal clan in Matsue in the Edo Period was so culture-oriented that he enjoyed the tea ceremony and ordered local shops to produce sweets to go with the tea.

On the shelves of the Shimane shop, these sweets are sold in small portions, with each package containing three or four individual sweets and costing between 500 yen and 600 yen, so customers can taste various types at a low cost.

Other local specialties include sea products, such as dried sardines, mashed meat of flying fish and seaweed, as the north side of the prefecture faces the Sea of Japan.

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