Japan: Lake Shinji in Matsue, Between Natural Beauty and Cultural Richness
Updated: Oct 19
Lake Shinji is likely the most interesting lake in the San-in region. It is located near Matsue in Shimane Prefecture and ranks as the 7th largest lake in Japan, covering an area of about 80 square kilometers. The lake has brackish waters and is connected to the Sea of Japan via the Ohashi River, as well as being linked to Lake Nakaumi through the Daisen Canal.
Unique Features of Lake Shinji
The lake and its shores offer a variety of attractions. More specifically:
1. Ecosystem: Lake Shinji is renowned for its diverse ecosystem, which includes various species of fish, birds, and aquatic plants.
2. Fishing: It serves as an important fishing site, especially for eels, clams, and "Shijimi" (Corbicula japonica), a species of freshwater clam. Shijimi fishing is particularly significant both culturally and economically.
3. Tourism: The lake is a popular tourist destination featuring activities like boating and bird-watching. The sunset over the lake is considered one of the most beautiful in Japan and attracts numerous visitors.
4. Scientific Research: The lake is also an important site for ecological research due to its brackish water conditions and diverse ecosystem.
5. Shimane Shrine: Located nearby, this Shinto shrine is a significant cultural site that also draws visitors to the lake area.
On its shores, one can find various tourist amenities such as hotels, restaurants, and museums. Thus, Lake Shinji is not only important for local biodiversity and economy but also holds cultural and touristic significance.
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The unique feature of Lake Shinji is its sanctuary island located not far from the shore, making it easily photographable from various angles. The island's stone Torii stands out distinctly against the backdrop of a pine forest, making it an ideal subject for photography.
The embankment that runs alongside the lake is a popular spot for locals in the evening, who gather with friends, family, or colleagues to admire the sunset over a drink. The large stepped areas designed for this purpose provide various vantage points to capture the lake and its island.
In the early morning, I found the tranquility necessary for my work. Around 5-6 a.m., only fishermen will quietly accompany you as you photograph the lake. It's a special time to wake up gently behind your camera while capturing the first light of the day.
You will also find some other elements of photographic interest for long-exposure enthusiasts. The morning lights in October are of a fairly intense blue that I haven't encountered on other lakes in Japan. Cloudy skies are also conducive to beautiful effects.
My Gear: URTH. High-quality filters for long-exposure photography.
The island is accessible by boat. Several shuttles make daily round trips. Although its location is unique, the island is mainly interesting to observe from the shore; it is much less interesting to visit. Several festivals are held there each year, as well as some religious ceremonies.
The island is also illuminated in the evening, providing another opportunity to photograph its Torii and majestic pines. The atmosphere is very pleasant, conducive for strolling or meeting up with friends. Public amenities encourage lingering or sitting to admire the last light of the day; something locals often do and that I highly recommend.
Getting to the San-in Region
If you're departing from Tokyo, you can take a direct flight to the major cities in this region, such as Tottori or Matsue. Otherwise, you'll have to take the train, as no other domestic airports serve these cities.
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The simplest way is to go to Tottori by the "Super Hakuto Express" train from Kyoto or Osaka. The journey takes about 3 hours from Kyoto in a comfortable train equipped with free wifi.
From Tottori, you will then need to head back down the coast where numerous photographic spots await you. It's also mandatory to rent a vehicle. It's not possible to visit the region any other way. The distances are long and public transportation does not serve the photo spots.
The city of Matsue is 120 km (about 2 hours by car) from the city of Tottori.
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