Isumi-shi / いすみ市, located on the east coast of Bōsō Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture, whose name written only in Hiragana today, is not so known.
Most of you may know that three types of letters, Kanji / 漢字, HiraganaW / ひらがな and KatakanaW / カタカナ, are used in Japanese language. Kanji, literally meaning “Characters of Han dynastyW”, have meanings as well as sounds. On the other hand, Hiragana and Katakana are both syllabaryW which only represent phonemes and have no meanings.
If you start to learn Japanese language, we believe that getting to know Hiragana and Katakana will be your first step of learning the language. The next step would be getting to know the Kanji which is pretty difficult but once you are familiar enough with Kanji, it should be easier and faster to understand what is written, even if you ever come up to the Kanji you’ve never seen before, you would be able to imagine what meanings and sounds that the Kanji has by its assembling shape.
Soon after the 3rd millenniumW’s start in Japan, many villages, towns, and cities were merged and developed into new bigger cities. Because each town and city that was merged for single new cities had its long history background, it wasn’t easy for all of them to decide new city names. The best way would have been to combine the both (or several) names together to make a new name but the facts were not that simple. Among such struggle of deciding the new names, one of the idea was to use Hiragana and no Kanji which may remind more than the other. Today, there are 23 cities (towns excluded) whose names are written in Hiragana ‘officially’. We assume that it is natural that every town and city wants to keep its name but in order to keep all the names of the towns incorporated, the new names of the cities would become too long as well as the problem of how to connect them, in “Bosnia and HerzegovinaW” way or in “CzechoslovakiaW” way…
Joking aside, considering why some cities had to count on Hiragana for their new names, it could be because they wanted to make the new names sound flat, simple, and easy to understand by using no Kanji, which refers also to some meanings, in order to avoid any conflict.
For the sake of the respect to the area, we would now like to share the history and the meaning of Isumi-shi which also chose its new Hiragana name.
We can trace the origin of this area in one of the ancient document, Nihon ShokiW, the chronicles of Japan, with the name ‘Ijimi / いじみ’ written in Kanji as ‘伊甚’. Surprisingly, we can trace a very old shrine named ‘Ijimi / 伊甚’ in Shimane prefectureW which was called ‘Izumo provinceW / 出雲国’ until Edo periodW. The province had been a very important area since the dawn of the Japanese history as the top ranking Shinto shrine (though this system was abolished in 1946), ‘Izumo-taishaW / 出雲大社’ is located. Some people say this is a proof that these two towns are connected from the ancient times and that the people of Izumo came to construct the land of Ijimi country.
Later, in Edo period, Tokugawa shogunateW sent one of their Four Paladins, Honda TadakatsuW as the ruler of this area because the land was recognized as an important food supplier for Edo. There were farms which provided rice and vegetables, together with the ocean which provided fish. Therefore, this area was very important. However, Tokugawa shogunate was so defiant, mean and perverse that they named this area ‘Isumi / 夷隅’ literally meaning ‘Barbarian country on the extremity’ to contradict its importance.
To tell you the truth, we have never heard of this city until quite recently even we live within 2-hours-drive from the area. In Chiba, we only knew some places as Narita where there is International Airport, Urayasu where there is Tokyo Disneyland, Kamogawa where there is Kamogawa Sea World, Makuhari where there is Makuhari Messe, Kisarazu where there is an entry/exit of Tokyo Bay Aqua-LineW, Kujūkuri where there is long and beautiful sandy Kujūkuri BeachW, Chōshi where there is the Cape InubōW which is the easternmost point in the Kantō region…
These famous places above are absolutely the ‘must’ for beginners of travelling in Japan. Since there are tons of sites and guidebooks introducing these places, we will leave the informing to them and introduce you to the out‐of‐the‐way place where you could experience interesting and exciting, REAL Japan.
In fact, it was a cheese which brought us here. It was in Michi-no-eki ‘Miyoshi-mura’ where we have found some locally made cheeses which interested us and made us look over the information, found that Isumi-shi had five six cheese makers. Later, we would like to introduce these small cheese makers who make cheese with their raising cows’ milk in their farms.
Isumi-shi has a very beautiful scenery. You can enjoy both the ocean view and the relaxing landscape of rice fields on the hills which reminds us of the world that Hayao MiyazakiW creates.
Talking to people of Isumi would remind us of every enjoyment that the rich nature of Isumi offers. One of them at this time of the year is surely the fireflies watching.
In Yamada area where there is Yamada River / 山田川, large amount of Genji Fireflies are living. Of course, they are wild but they have been protected by the local people and the City of Isumi. In Japan there are several places that we can recommend you where you could enjoy beautiful fireflies fly twinkling at night. However, Isumi should be one of the best where you can watch numerous fireflies in a wide nature panorama. When you see a big tree illuminated by many charming fireflies which is made out from 100% nature, you would notice that you’ve forgotten to breathe…
For those who want to get informed on Japanese culture of admiring fireflies, please refer to our past article “Land of Fireflies, Isshiki“, written about the place you could see fireflies in Yamanashi prefecture.
Here is the map for firefly watching in Isumi-shi.
If you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo from the end of May to early June, we strongly recommend you to go for firefly watching. Once you experience, we bet you would seek for another place for your firefly watching on your next visit!
On 31st of May, Firefly Festival will be held in the area. It would be a good occasion if you have never seen fireflies before and easier to find where they are as many people gather for them on the day. Otherwise the area is very dark where you would easily drop your foot into the paddy field if you don’t know the right way. Most of all, best viewing spots for beginners would be directed in such events.
The ecology of fireflies can be observed only in places where the nature is perfectly protected and the water is absolutely clean. This definitely proves the cleanliness of the nature in Isumi. Fireflies are proving the rich and fabulous nature that has long been of the landscape of the Japanese heart!
How To Reach Isumi-shi
By Car :
- Take Keiyō_RoadW or Higashi-Kantō ExpresswayW at Soga I.C. which are connected. Next, take Chiba-Tōgane RoadW and Togane Kujukuri Toll Road / 東金九十九里有料道路 and then Kujukuri Yuryo Doro / 九十九里有料道路. After driving to the end of the toll road, take National Road 128.
Of course, you can reach Isumi by using Aqua Line. At the end of Aqua Line, continue driving Tateyama Expressway to Kisarazu-kita / 木更津北 I.C. Take National Road 409, then take National Road 297.
- There are parking lots near the Kuniyoshi / 国吉 and Ootaki / 大多喜 stations of Isumi Railway where you could park your car and enjoy a ride on the fancy, cute Isumi Railway trains through the rice fields and rich nature of Isumi on a track.
By Train :
There are three ways by train to Isumi.
- Take JR Wakashio Line which would take you to Ohara /大原.
- Take Chūō-Sōbu LineW to Chiba and transfer to JR Sotobo Line to Ohara / 大原.
Useful Time Table Site : http://www.trainlines.org/line.php?tl=35
From Ohara / 大原, take Isumi Railway to explore the area.
We will be introducing a small trip on Isumi Railway in our next article here, at 2 Hours Drive From Tokyo!