Tsuwano (津和野町)  is a town in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, on the border with Yamaguchi Prefecture. In 2017 it had approximately 7500 people. It's sometimes referred to as a "Little Kyoto" and is well known for having a lot of koi (carp) that live in the narrow canals that run through town, mostly in the Tonomachi area.
Hagi-Iwami Airport (IWJ) is in Masuda City, about a 40 min. drive away.
Tsuwano is on the JR Yamaguchi Line, which branches from the Sanin Main Line at Masuda and terminates at Shin-Yamaguchi, the closest shinkansen stop. The quickest rail access is from Masuda on the Super Oki Ltd. Express train (30 min, ¥1350, adult unreserved seat) and from Shin-Yamaguchi Stn (60-65 min, ¥2370, adult unreserved seat). From Masuda however, a local train for that legs costs less than half and only takes about 10 minutes longer. There are six incoming and six outgoing trains each day (3 local and 3 Super Oki ltd express each direction).
For tourists, much of the year a train pulled by a steam locomotive (SL Yamaguchi-gō) built in the early 1900s runs once a day on weekends between Shin-Yamaguchi station and Tsuwano.
There are buses to and from local and regional destinations. There are also overnight buses to some large cities such as Osaka and Tokyo (Shinjuku Station New South exit).
Much of Tsuwano can be easily accessed by foot. There are some bicycles for rent across the street from Tsuwano Station and usually there are several taxi's waiting in front of the station as well.
- Tonomachi - This is the main site seeing road with numerous shops and some old samurai houses. One the side of the main Tonomachi streets are canals lined with large carp. There are also numerous food and product stands.
- Tsuwano Castle Ruins (津和野城跡) The castle was built around 1325 and demolished during the Meiji Restoration, five and a half centuries later. The stone foundations are pretty much all that remains, but the summit offers views over the valley and town. It can be reached via chairlift (¥700, 9AM-4:30PM) near Taikodani Inari-jinja Shrine; alternatively, from Taikodani, walk down to the parking lot and along the road ~50m, then follow a small path on your right — the walk will take around 30 minutes, and seeing the ruins 60-90 minutes.
Shrines, Temples and Other Religious Buildings
- Tsuwano Catholic Church (カトリック津和野教会) - A nice church with tatami mat floors and if you go on a fine day the sunshine shines through the stained glass windows; very good for photos. You can also pick up a copy, for a small fee, of the story of the Otome-Toge Martyrs.
- St. Mary's Chapel (乙女峠マリア聖堂), Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, ☎ 0856-72-0251. 7:30AM-5PM. In the area known as Otome-Toge behind the station. 37 Japanese Christians were tortured and killed here during the Meiji Period. When Japan "opened" to the West, many Japanese Christians mistakenly thought that meant it was okay to come out and admit their faith but Christianity was still illegal at first, so those found to be Christians were taken here (and to other special places) and tortured or killed. This small chapel is run as a memorial to them. Free. edit
- Taikodani Inari Shrine (太皷谷稲成神社), 409 Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, ☎ 0856-72-0219, . One of the Five Great Inari Shrines. It was built in 1773 by Tsuwano's seventh generation feudal lord Kamei Norisada to enshrine a share of the rice spirit Inari worshipped at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto. The walk up the mountain-side, through over a thousand bright red torii (gates), leads to a great view over the town. Free. edit
- Washibara Hachimangu Shrine (鷲原八幡宮本殿) - A small shrine on the edge of town. It has a mounted archery ritual on the 2nd of April. It is a pleasant walk through the garden.
- Yomeiji Temple (永明寺) - Built in 1420, it is one of the 2 great Soto Zen sect temples. It was the family temple for many of the Tsuwano feudal lords and has Mori Ogai's grave. Also has a very beautiful temple garden.
Other Places of Interest
- Tsuwano Japan Heritage Center (津和野町日本遺産センター), "Ro-253, ☎ 0856-72-1901, . 9-5, Closed Mon.. Free. edit
- Hori Gardens - While not near the center of town, this is a great place to visit. The residence of the Hori family, the estate consists of a main building, a very beautiful garden, and guest house. Open 8AM-5PM. (9AM-4PM during winter season). From Tsuwano station take the Iwami Kotsu Bus for Nagano. Get off at Hori Teien (23 min.)
- SL Train - Two authentic early 1900's steam locomotives run once daily (only 1 train a day) on weekends and on national holidays (except in the winter) from Shin Yamaguchi (formerly Ogori) station to Tsuwano and back. It only stops for about three hours in Tsuwano before returning to Shin Yamaguchi station.
- April - Yabusame In the spring, when the Cherry blossums are in bloom, men in bright outfits take part in a horseback archery festival in front of Washibara-hachiman-gu Shrine, about 4 kms from Tsuwano station.
- May 3 - Otome-Toge Festival A procession from Tsuwano Catholic Church in Tono-machi to Maria Cathedral at Otome-Toge Pass is followed by a mass at the square in front of the cathedral.
- July 20, 24, 27 - Gion Festival Men in white bird outfits perform graceful dances to the music of bells, flutes and drums. This festival is held to worship the gods at Yasaka Shrine. At the same time, another group made up of young children in costumes proceed along Tonomachi, the station vicinity, and the city outskirts.
- August 15 - Bon Odori A black scarf, white head band, white short kimono, and black tights are worn by Tsuwano Odori dancers. This dance began in the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573) in memory of the dead and is now recognized as an intangible cultural asset of Shimane Prefecture.
Tsuwano has made washi (paper) for hundreds of years. The souvenir shops sell many kinds of paper and dolls made of paper. There is also a shop near Tsuwano High School that makes paper in the traditional way. For a fee, you can make some paper yourself and keep what you made. The souvenir shops also sale various kinds of traditional pickles.
Tsuwano also sells Genji-maki, a kind of pancake wrapped around sweet beans.
Many visitors come through on tour buses, so most restaurants serve lunches but close early in the evening. If you are staying overnight in Tsuwano and your accommodation does not include meals, take care not to leave eating until too late.
- Pino Rosso, is an Italian restaurant with delicious and authentic Italian appetizers, pizzas, pasta, and pastries, as well as a large collection of international liquors. This is one of the few restaurants open past 6PM. Located across the street from the post office further up the main tourist road heading towards the staion.
- Furusato, is a small restaurant opposite the post office near the Tonomachi district. There are western style tables or Japanese. At this restuarnt you can order a locally speciality of Uzume-meshi, which is a soupy rice dish served with wasabi small pieces of mountain vegetables and tofu.
- Tsurube, is a small udon-only restaurant located on Ushiroda street, clustered with other small noodle and okonomiyaki shops. The owner is a former Yabusame (Horse-back) Archer, and the shop is littered with his old photographs and shattered wood targets. Top class, but slightly pricey, udon of all kinds can be found here.
- Naniwa, is an Osaka-style restaurant specializing in okonomiyaki (Naniwa is the ancient name of Osaka). It is owned and operated by the brother of the neighboring Tsurube Udon-ya, and aside from having tableside griddle-cooked okonomiyaki, also serves a variety of soba/udon/noodle dishes, as well as having a larger back room for parties of more than 6.
- Aoki Sushi, is one of two sushiyas in Tsuwano, located just down the street from the main train-station. It has an elegant traditional Japanese style, multiple tatami-based back rooms, as well as a central seating room and small sushi bar. A great place for delicious and relatively low-priced Sushi.
There are at least 3 sake factories, 2 of which are on Tonomachi road.
- Diner & Guesthouse Satoyama (食堂民宿 さと山), 345 Washibara, ☎ 080-1913-9396, . A family run diner and minshuku pension on the southern part of town. Rooms from ¥2500~. edit
- Hoshi Ryokan (民宿星旅館), 53-6 Oaza Ushiroda, ☎ 0856-72-0136, . checkin: 16; checkout: 10. Family ryokan just a minute from JR Tsuwano Station. Rooms from ¥4000, or more with breakfast and dinner. edit
- Minpaku Megumi (民宿めぐみ), 357 Ushiroda, ☎ 0856-72-2188, . Small inn run by elderly Japanese couple. Five minute walk from JR Tsuwano Station. Rooms ¥4000 single, ¥7500 dbl. edit
- Noren-Yado Meigetsu (明月メイゲツ), 665 Oaza-Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, ☎ 0856-72-0685, . Very nice ryokan just off Tonomachi. Some rooms have own bath; others just use the ofurou. Rooms from ¥15,000, includes breakfast and dinner. edit
- Miyake Guesthouse (みやけ), Ro-150 Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, ☎ 0856-72-0216. Small family run 2-star minshuku or pension. Close to Tsuwano Stn. Rooms from ¥8500. edit
- Wataya Onsen-Ryokan (津和野温泉宿 わた屋), Ro-82-3 Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, ☎ 0856-72-0333, . A 3-star Japanese inn with hot spring. Rooms from ¥20,000. edit
- Hagi - A small but beautiful castle town, with surreal temple graveyards and preserved districts from ages ago.
- Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park - See Japan's biggest and longest limestone cave, as well as its huge karst plateau.
- Yamaguchi City - A near rival capital to Kyoto in medieval times, with several temples and famous Sesshu gardens.
- Nagato - Located west of Hagi, with the gorgeous seaside Motonosumi Inari Shrine, Senjojiki clifftop views, and the rugged coast of the Omijima Sea Alps.
- Iwakuni - City near Miyajima in Hiroshima and with Japan's most beautiful old wooden bridge.
- Miyajima - Famous for Itsukushima Shrine with its iconic "floating torii", deer, Daishoin Temple, and Mt. Misen, one of Japan's most beautiful traditional views.
- Shimonoseki - Major city at the southern tip of Honshu, famous for its history, seaside, and deadly fugu puffer fish.
- Masuda - Gateway city with flights to Tokyo and Osaka, with a few lesser sights to see.