About Japan Heritage

In April 2016, cultural landmarks in the Okuizumo region were designated as Japan Heritage sites under the moniker “Land of Izumo, Tatara Chronicle~A Thousand Years of Iron.”

The terraced rice fields, the proud Shimane tradition of Yasugi-bushi folk dance, age old festivals, and many other facets of life in the region today are all connected to tatara ironmaking, including of course the tatara itself. These were all borne of a long history of iron, as informed by the Yamata no Orochi myth.
Even now, the tamahagane produced here is used to create beautiful nihontō that attract the attention of collectors worldwide. The long history of iron is even utilized to create high-quality Yasuki Specialty Steel, used in razors and airplance parts all over the world.

Japan Heritage Recognized
Land of Izumo, Tatara Chronicle ~A Thousand Years of Iron~

The Izumo Region in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture is the only place in the world where the flame of the tatara, a traditional iron-smelting furnace, continues to burn. The region’s iron industry was a sustainable one; the mountains excavated for iron sand were turned into expanses of rice fields, and the charcoal that fueled the furnace was made from trees whose land was reforested. The system was an intentional symbiosis between man and nature. The iron trade brought literature and goods from all over Japan, fostering a regional culture as brilliant as Kyoto’s.

Today, the Izumo Region continues its tradition of iron making, a story begun by its predecessors 1000 years ago.

Japan Heritage Cultural Property
Photograph List

Sugaya Tatara Sannai Village

Site of the last remaining tatara. The location and scenery are breathtaking.

Kayano Kannanagashi (Iron Sand Filtration) Site

Thede channels located near Sugaya Tatara Sannai Village were once used to separate iron sand from other sediment.

Tanabe Storehouses and Yoshida Townscape

Yoshida is where tatara managers, “tesshi,” lived. The many alleyways are fun to explore.

Blacksmith’s Tools / A collection on tools used by blacksmiths of old

A collection of tools used in tatara ironmaking Tatara Ironnaking Tools.

Izumo Kagura

The Yamata no Orochi myth tells us that iron was produced in this region since the age of the gods. The Izumo Kagura dance version is popular repertoire.

Ryuzugataki Falls, Yaedaki Falls

Nearby tatara were run using the plentiful water and natural resources near the falls.

Kanayago Shrine

The main shrine for present-day iron workers and believers of Kanayago. The stone lanterns and wood carvings along the main road are a sight to see.

Kanayago Shrine and Nishihida Town

The once bustling town of Nishihida is now a quiet village. The shrine was packed with visitors during the Edo Period.

Iron Production, “Tatarabuki” (closed to the public)

Traditional smelting to create the base ingredient of katana, “tamahagane.” Workers feel the power of Kanayago.

Takezaki Katsura Tree

A katsura tree in which Kanayago is said to reside. New buds bloom red for 3 days and 3 nights, just like the fires of the tatara.

Okuizumo Tatara Ironmaking
and Terraced Rice Field Landscape

Land below mountains carved out to gather iron sand were repurposed into fields that now yield quality rice and buckwheat.

Torikami Charcoal Factory and Box Furnace

Furnaces that did not have to be destroyed after each production led to greater efficiency.

Sakurai Family Residence

Tatara manager Residence. Leaves change colors and resemble a line of flame. A stream which runs through the complex is relaxing.

Itohara Family Residence

Tatara manager residence. The Izumo style garden began construction in the late Edo Period and took 50 years to comlete.

Oni no Shitaburui

The scenic area has been visited by many famous writers. The name comes from a character of a tragic love story.

Onji Tatara Ruins

These culturally important ruins help us understand the transition from medieval to modern tatara.

Hanaidani Mine, Kannanagashi Site

These ruins show the final step of iron sand filtration, a task which required skill to separate iron sand from other sediment.

Bokura Garden

Garden looking up to Mt. Sentsū, where Susano’o was banished.

Hara Tatara Ruins

This site is where murage Yoshizo Abe revived tatara iron production in 1950.

Makihara Tatara Box Furnace

This site features a near perfect recreation of technology used during the modernization of tatara.

Bokura Shinden Terraced Rice Fields

Terraced rice fields made through iron sand filtration overlook Yasugi Port.

Tatara Ironmaking Tools

The Wako Museum houses over 250 tools that were used in tatara ironmaking, including scale bellows.

Nihonto (Sadatoshi and Rikio Kobayashi)

The beautiful hamon (hardening pattern) of a nihonto is a work of art brought out of the by a skilled swordsmith.

Tamahagane Engi

Section of a 55 meter long scroll from 1946 entitled Tamahagane Engi.
Photo: “Current Condition of Tatara”

Yasugi Port

Yasugi Port flourished due to the iron trade. National Tangible Cultural Asset Yamatsunerō continues to exist today as a restaurant and gathering hall.

Yasugibushi Folk Song

A folk song created in Yasugi. The lively clapping and dancing will bring a smile to your face.

Iinashi River and Akae Rice Fields

Years of flooding and iron sand filtration led to the creation of the plains in Yasugi.

Ōro Atagobayashi Festival

This 300 year old festival celebrates the ties between tatara ironmaking and the local culture.

Takezaki Juushichiya

A summer festival created by tatara managers that celebrates the spirit of fire prevention, Akiba Daigongen.