Yomega Island, Lake Shinji, Matsue, c. 1920.

1920sAmusements & RecreationsNotable LandmarkReligious
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Yomega Island, Lake Shinji, Matsue, c. 1920, a city very much associated with Lafcadio Hearn, the early chronicler of emerging Japan during the Meiji era. Lake Shinji is Japan’s seventh-largest island. But, Yogmeashima is small – just 90-feet wide and 330-feet long – an islet sanctuary appearing to float upon the lake’s surface, and dedicated to the goddess Benten, inaccessible to the general public for much of the year.

“The vapors have vanished, sharply revealing a beautiful little islet in the lake, lying scarcely half a mile away – a low, narrow strip of land with a Shinto shrine upon it, shadowed by giant pines; not pines lie ours, but huge, gnarled, shaggy, tortuous shapes, vast-reaching like ancient oaks.

“Through a glass one can easily discern a torii, and before it two symbolic lions of stone (karashi-shi), one with its head broken off, doubtless by its having been overturned and dashed about by heavy waves during some great storm.

“This islet is sacred to Benten, the Goddess of Eloquence and Beauty, wherefore it is called Benten-no-shima. But it is more commonly called Yomega-shima, or ‘The Island of the Young Wife’, by reason of a legend.

“It is said that it arose in one night, noiselessly as a dream, bearing up from the depths of the lake the body of a drowned woman who had been very lovely, very pious, and very unhappy. The people, deeming this a sign from heaven, consecrated the islet to Benten, and thereon built a shrine unto her, planted trees about it, set a torii before it, and made a rampart about it with great curiously shaped stones; and there they buried the drowned woman.”

“The Chief City of the Province of the Gods”, by Lafacadio Hearn, The Atlantic Monthly, November 1891

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