Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Izushi – A Castle Town that Retains the Past Eras’ Remnants

Izushi (出石) is a quaint town in Toyooka City where you can find traces of Japanese history dating back to the Edo period (1603 – 1867). Although it might not seem like it now, the castle town used to be incredibly prosperous. This prosperity earned it the title of Tajima Province’s Little Kyoto! Because the town is sitting away from the train lines, little changes were made to the appearance of the town. This enabled its selection as an important traditional buildings preservation district.

Aside from the Japanese-style buildings, there are also buildings employing Western-style architecture, such as the Izushi Meijikan, which was the former county office of the town.

Izushi is also quite compact. As such, the attractions listed below will only require approximately 2 to 3 hours to fully explore. It is a great place to immerse in Japanese culture and Tajima Province’s history if you have limited time.

HERE is a map of Izushi Town that you can refer to.

How to Get to Izushi

From JR Toyooka Station (豊岡駅), take Zentan Bus (全但バス) bound for Izushi (出石行き) and get off at Izushi (出石). This bus trip will take around 30 minutes.

Note that the number of services is limited, with only one service every hour.

If you are also visiting Kinosaki Onsen, there might also be direct bus services that will take you straight to Izushi instead of changing buses/trains at JR Toyooka Station. You can check with the tourist information center at the onsen town when you get there. If there is no direct bus operating on the day you intend to depart for Izushi from Kinosaki Onsen, you can always take a train to Toyooka Station and change for the bus.

You can also check out SOZORO’s website HERE for any trip deals that may be of your interest.

Izushi Castle Ruins (出石城跡)

Izushi Castle used to be the base of the Izushi Domain back in the Edo period (1603 – 1867) after it was completed in 1604 at the foot of Mt. Ariko (有子山).

Although the castle wasn’t chosen to be one of the Top 100 Japanese Castles back in 2006 by the Japanese Castle Foundation (日本城郭協会), because of its historic and cultural value, it was chosen to be one of the Continued Top 100 Japanese Castles (続日本100名城)!

Although the castle wasn’t chosen to be one of the Top 100 Japanese Castles back in 2006 by the Japanese Castle Foundation (日本城郭協会), because of its historical and cultural value, it was chosen to be one of the Continued Top 100 Japanese Castles (続日本100名城)!

© 豊岡市
© 豊岡市

Crossing the bridge and passing through the castle gates, you will find a restored turret meters away.

With Japan at peace, the turret that shouldered the responsibility of defending the castle is now just quietly watching over the castle town from atop the hill.

© 豊岡市
© 豊岡市

As you walk up the stairs next to the turret’s stone wall, your vision will suddenly widen up!

The space in front of the turret acts as an observation square. From here, you will get a panorama view of Izushi and beyond!

With little physical effort, you get to see the view that the lords of Izuchi used to use this view as stress relief (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Izushi Castle Ruins’ Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The ground of Izushi Castle Ruins can be accessed any time throughout the year
  • The turret is closed to the public

Tips: If you love collecting attractions’ stamps, remember to drop by the Izushi Information Centre (出石観光案内所) for the castle’s stamp!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Inari Shrine (稲荷神社)

© 豊岡市

On the side of the turret, there is this Inari Shrine with 37 red torii gates lined up through the 157 staircases that continue all the way up to the shrine’s worship hall.

This Inari Shrine has existed since Izushi Castle was built. Despite it being located within the grounds of the castle, Izushi’s citizens were allowed to visit the shrine regardless of their social status since the Edo period.

Because the worship hall is located further up from Izushi castle, you will get an even wider view of the surroundings, including the observatory square that we just mentioned.

From the side of the shrine, you will find a trailhead leading to the site where Arikoyama Castle (有子山城) once stood. Arikoyama Castle was the castle in the area from 1574 but was taken down by Hashiba Hideyoshi (the later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) in 1580. It was then completely abandoned after Izushi Castle was completed.

Important: If you want to hike your way up, a one-way journey takes around 100 minutes. But note that the slope of the mountain track is steep, so you need to come with appropriate hiking gear for a safe trip.

Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage Seasons in Izushi

  • The cherry blossom season is usually from early to mid-April
    • The Izushi Cherry Blossom Festival (出石桜まつり) is usually held in early April
    • The Izushi Soba Eating Tournament (出石名物そば喰い大会) is usually held in mid-April
  • The autumn foliage season is usually from late October to mid-November
  • Check out the various festivals that take place in Izushi HERE!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Izushi Karoh Yashiki (出石家老屋敷)

As the residence of the Izushi domain’s lord has been destroyed, why not check out his chief retainer’s home instead?

© 豊岡市

Just minutes away from Izushi Castle Ruins, this traditional house that was built in the late Edo period is now a museum that exhibits many of the objects that were used when the lord paraded through the town.

Apart from the spears and other weapons, the most exciting exhibit is probably the wax figure of the Chief Retainer. It just looks no different from a real samurai sitting there. One might even find themselves trying to strike up a conversation with the wax figure!

While the museum might seem to be a one-storied house, it actually has a second level. Connected by a hidden staircase, the house is well-prepared for any attacks that could have taken place back in the not-so-peaceful era.

If you are quite tall, you will need to bend down a bit once you get to that hidden second floor. The low ceiling is another preventative measure to keep the enemies from freely swinging their swords.

Tip: If you are interested in seeing over 120 samurai parading through the town with their spears in hand, don’t miss out on the Izushi Castle Festival (出石お城まつり), which takes place on the 3rd of November each year! Many of the things that are used during the parade are actually from this museum’s exhibition room!

Izushi Karoh Yashiki’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily except the 3rd of Nov, the 31st of December, and the 1st of January
  • Final admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The admission fees are
    • 200 for adults
    • 120 yen for senior high school and university students
    • Free otherwise

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Shinkorō Clock Tower (辰鼓楼)

© 豊岡市

The clock tower standing out from the streets of Izushi is called Shinkorō. The base of the clock tower used to be the base of the turret of Izushi Castle’s third-quarter (三の丸).

After the Edo period, in 1871, the clock tower’s predecessor was built as a facility to sound the Taiko drum to inform the locals of the time.

10 years later, the tower was transformed into its current appearance after a Netherland-made mechanical clock was donated to the town by a doctor practicing western medicine. The clock is this doctor – Ikeguchi Tadashi’s (池口 忠恕) way to show his appreciation for the kindness of the locals while he was seriously ill.

Shinkorō used to be thought of as the oldest clock tower in Japan. But after an investigation completed by the professionals in June 2021, it turned out that the clock only started operating on the 8th of September 1881, which is later than the clock tower in Sapporo.

The current clock is the third generation.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Izushi Soba (出石そば)

© 豊岡市

When speaking of Izushi, the town is probably most famous for its Izushi Soba. With around 40 soba restaurants in the small town, there is no doubt that soba noodle is one of the town’s biggest selling points.

Unlike elsewhere in Japan, where you are served with one bowl or plate of noodles, in Izushi, the noodles are divided into five small plates, each containing two to three mouthfuls of soba. This is so you may enjoy the noodles in five different ways!

In Kansai, udon is considered the mainstream noodle type. What changed people’s eating habits was a swap of territory ordained by the Tokugawa shogunate.

In 1706, the lord of Izushi Domain and the lord of Ueda Domain (上田藩) were ordered to exchange their land. Because the new lord of Izushi Domain, Sengoku Masaakira (仙石 政明), came from central Japan, the origin of soba noodles, he brought along quite a few soba craftsmen with him. Probably because he still wanted to enjoy the delicious soba noodles even after he was transferred to Kansai (´▽`*)?

Coming to a new environment, those soba craftsmen learned how the buckwheat was farmed and made into soba noodles in Izushi. From there, the soba-making technique was refined, combining the pros of the soba noodles in both central Japan and Izushi.

How to Eat Izushi Soba

  • For your first plate, add shallot and/or wasabi to your noodle and add the soba dipping sauce
  • For the second plate, beat the egg in the small cup provided before you add the soba dipping sauce and the second plate of soba noodles
  • For the third plate, add half of the grated yam into the small cup then put in the third plate of noodles
  • For the fourth plate, add the rest of the grated yam onto the soba noodles and add some soba dipping sauce
  • For the last plate, eat it in whatever way you like

Important: The soba dipping sauce provided by the restaurants is most likely not vegetarian. If you are strict with your diet, please bring along your own dipping sauce.

☛ If you don’t eat eggs, you can check with the restaurant to see if you can swap the egg for wasabi or grated yam (pronounced as tororo in Japanese). For sentences to use, please refer to our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article.
☛ Despite there being so many soba restaurants in town, on weekends and public holidays, the restaurants can still be packed. Arrive early if you can.

Recommended Soba Restaurants at Izushi

One way to enjoy the Izushi Soba is to try out the soba noodles in different restaurants because each of them makes its noodles in a slightly different way. The dipping sauce and side menus can differ as well. If you do decide to dine at more than one restaurant, another way to enjoy the Izushi Soba is to check out the patterns on the containers that the restaurants use to hold the noodles, as most restaurants have their own original design!

Below are just a few suggestions if you can’t decide which restaurant to go to.

  • If you want to admire the Izushi Town’s symbol – Shinkorō Clock Tower (辰鼓楼) while you eat the noodles, dine at Soba Honjin Tsuruya (そば処 本陣鸛屋)
    • Soba Honjin Tsuruya opens from 9 am to 6 pm
    • The cost is 850 yen
  • If you eat a lot or want to make your own soba noodles, Izushi Shiroyama Garden (出石城山ガーデン) is a great place since they provide an all-you-can-eat soba plan and soba-making experience
    • It would be best if you could make a reservation with them in advance by calling them at +81-796-52-7530. This is to allow them to determine if they need to prepare extra noodles for the day or make any necessary preparation for your soba-making experience
    • Showing up without reservation can mean they won’t be able to cater to you. If you don’t speak Japanese, you can kindly ask the staff at your accommodation to make the phone call on your behalf
    • If you have a Japanese phone number, you can also reserve it via submitting the web forms on their website HERE. If you don’t read Japanese, you can open the link in Google Chrome and get the page translated into English by switching the language by the Google Translate icon on the right of the address bar
    • They allow customers to bring along their pets to the restaurant!
    • The all-you-can-eat soba session lasts for 60 minutes and costs
      • 2,000 yen + tax for adults
      • 1,000 yen + tax for elementary school students and younger
    • The business hour of Izushi Shiroyama Garden is from 10 am to 6 pm

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Izushi Eirakukan (出石永楽館)

Izushi Eirakukan is another spot in Izushi that you may want to visit. The theater, built in 1901, has since entertained its audiences with traditional performing arts such as Kabuki and Rakugo.

Eirakukan was once closed when television and movie theaters became more common. But after a major renovation, it is now the oldest and the most traditional stage theater in the Kansai region.

© 豊岡市

On days when no shows are scheduled, you can pay your way in to discover what a traditional Japanese theater looks like.

In the theater, the wooden dividers between the seats are for the hawkers (who sell snacks and drinks) to walk on during breaks. The wider wooden platforms surrounding the seats are the extensions of the stage for the performers to walk on to entertain the guests even more.

And if you look up, there are numerous old-fashioned advertisements for the shops and restaurants that may or may not exist now.

© 豊岡市

Also, don’t forget to take a closer look at the stage. It is your chance to see a rotating stage up close!

If you go underneath the round rotating stage, you can see how much human effort was required back then to turn that gigantic round stage!

© 豊岡市

Izushi Eirakukan’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The theatre is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily except Thursdays and the 31st of December and the 1st of January
  • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • For the days where you can explore the interior of the theatre, please refer to their calendar HERE. Visit the theatre on the days that aren’t colored
  • The admission fees are
    • 400 yen for adults
    • 240 yen for senior high school and university students
    • Free otherwise

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Izushi Shiryō-kan (出石史料館)

For the Japanese history buffs and those who are interested in the interior of the mansion of a wealthy merchant in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), you may be interested in Izushi Shiryō-kan (now Izushi’s museum).

The exhibition in the museum focuses on historical materials related to the Izushi Domain, including old hand-drawn maps, armor, and swords used by the samurai. You will also find artifacts excavated from Causuyama Tumulus that helped paint a picture of what life was like in ancient Japan.

© 豊岡市

Other than the exhibition areas, feel free to walk around this old house to examine the Japanese architecture in detail. From time to time, special exhibitions may be on to celebrate certain Japanese festivals. For example, around Doll’s Day in March, Hina Dolls that were passed down generations is one of the exhibitions that attract many visitors to this relatively quiet spot in Izushi.

Izushi Shiryō-kan’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum’s opening hours are from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily except Tuesdays and from the 28th of December to the 4th of January
  • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The admission fees are
    • 300 for adults
    • 180 yen for senior high school and university students
    • Free otherwise

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Sukyōji Temple (宗鏡寺)

Sukyōji, also known as Takuan-dera Temple (沢庵寺) is a guardian temple of the Izushi Domain.

If you know a bit of Japanese, the temple’s nickname might sound really funny. Takuan or Takuan-zuke is a pickled radish that commonly appears as a side dish in Japanese cuisine. Apparently, the pickled radish is named after the monk who presented this kind of pickled radish to the first lord of the Tokugawa shogunate – Tokugawa Ieyasu. Loving the pickled radish received so much, Ieyasu named the radish after the monk – whose name was “Takuan”.

And what does this have to do with Sukyōji Temple? It is because Takuan was the monk who revived it in 1616 after the temple was devastated as a consequence of the Arikoyama Castle (有子山城) up in Mt. Ariko being taken down by Hashiba Hideyoshi.

But enough of the history talk, we wanted to introduce the temple to you because it is a stunning place throughout the year, especially in autumn and winter. The best photo spot is the Tsurukame no Iwa Garden (鶴亀の庭) from the main worship hall. After all, the garden was designed from the perspective of sitting and looking from the room of the main hall!

Tip: The pickled radish loved by Tokugawa Ieyasu is sold at the temple. The pickled radish recipe remain unchanged from the Edo period. Thus, this is your opportunity to taste the recipe that was so highly regarded by this famous samurai.

Sukyōji Temple’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Sukyōji Temple is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily except from the 31st of December to the 2nd of January
  • The admission fee for high school students and above is 300 yen
  • If you are taking the Zentan bus, get off at Takuandera-guchi (沢庵寺口). The temple is then a 10-minute walk away

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Izushi.

Discover Other Awesome Attractions in Toyooka City

Kannabe Kōgen isn’t the only amazing attraction in Toyooka City. It also has a stunning coastline and a town that is nicknamed Tajima Province’s Kyoto.

To find out more places to visit that you might be interested in, refer to our article on Toyooka City!

Click the photo to find out more information about this beach!

Visit Kinosaki Onsen for Extraordinary Michelin Certified Sceneries

For those who are looking for a hot spring resort with rich historical and cultural elements which also sports many recreational activities, make sure you visit Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉). The soba restaurant here is the recipient of a two Michelin star rating!

Click the photo to find out more about the stunning Onsen Town

The onsen town, relatively close to Kannabe Kōgen, has prospered for over 1,300 years. Not only is it blessed with a spectacular view from Mt. Daishi (大師山), but it is also close to the stunning Hiyoriyama Coastline (日和山海岸).

For more information, please refer to our article on Kinosaki Onsen!

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