Shimane – Location & Background
To the west of Tottori, Shimane Prefecture faces north across the Sea of Japan to ancient trading partners China and Korea, while the southern boundary is aligned along the Chogoku mountains of south west Honshu. Although 18th largest in area, it is the second least populous prefecture of Japan, with a population of less than 800,000. Population density is 110.6 people/sq.km against a national average of 338.1. Retailing (over 60,000 workers) and manufacturing (49,000) are the largest employers.
Of the three regions of Shimane, Izumo is deemed culturally most significant and is home to the prefecture capital, Matsue (pop. 196,000), situated on the shores of Lake Shinji. In Japanese folklore, Izumo is the legendary realm of the gods and birthplace of much Japanese mythology.
The Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan, historically used as a place of exile for such important notables as out-of-favour emperors, are part of Shimane Prefecture and are the focus of an important fishing industry.