How’s the weather?
Unlike some parts of Japan, Shimane truly experiences four seasons.
Beginning with the arrival of new JETs in late summer, Shimane is generally hot and humid. Average temperatures in July and August hover around 26℃ (79°F), although high humidity and strong UV rays makes it feel much hotter. Towns in the mountains (such as Iinan or Kawamoto) will feel cooler than more coastal areas (such as Gotsu or Hamada).
As summer winds down in early September, the evenings become cooler, but this cooler air means an increase in rain—and also typhoons. Luckily typhoon season is short-lived, and by October, autumn winds brings warm, sunny days and long, cool evenings. November signals the start of 紅葉 (kо̄yо̄ = autumn colours), when the trees turn vivid shades of red, orange, and yellow. Autumn is one of the nicest seasons for exploring Shimane.
Winter starts in December, although the real cold hits in early January, bringing snow, cold winds, and cloudy winter days. The first snow usually falls in mid-December and continues intermittently until early March. Over a meter of snow can fall in the mountainous regions such as Iinan, with much less snow closer to the sea. Japanese homes do not have central heating and possess minimal insulation (due to the summer heat), so winter can feel quite cold! However, there are a variety of tricks to beat the winter blues, and Shimane boasts a variety of beautiful ski slopes.
When spring arrives in mid-March, the cherry trees come alive with 桜 (sakura = cherry blossoms) and beautiful colours. This new life coincides with the start of the school year, and brings renewed enthusiasm to students and teachers alike. It’s a great time of year when everyone shakes off the winter and heads outdoors.
Around early June, as spring turns into summer, Shimane experiences 梅雨 (tsuyu = the rainy season). Prepare for a month of warm, wet days and cloudy skies, with comfortable temperatures which sometimes become sunny and hot. By the beginning of July, the wet weather gives way to heat and humidity, and the whole cycle starts again.
How many people live in Shimane?
Shimane has a population of 675,937 (11 June 2019) with a population density of 100.8 people per km² (about half as dense as Italy). In fact, by population we are the second smallest in the country. Compare this with the national average of 337 people per km²—or Shinjuku (Tokyo) at 19,043 people per km²—and you’ll see why people refer to Shimane as rural.
Despite this, Shimane has three cities spread along the coast, containing over half of the population: Matsue, Izumo, and Hamada (by car, you’re never more than two hours away from one of them). Matsue and Izumo have cinemas, malls, fast-food restaurants, and a small but active nightlife. Hamada is smaller in comparison, but still boasts a wide selection of businesses and facilities.
Are there natural disasters?
While nowhere is entirely safe, Shimane is relatively earthquake-free and has no active volcanoes. Typhoons also have a tendency to wear out before they reach Shimane. That being said, the more mountainous areas of Shimane can see heavy snowfall, which can make for dangerous driving conditions. Please review the information in our Health & Safety section to be fully prepared, whatever the weather.
What’s it really like living there?
It all depends on you! Even if you’ve travelled to or lived in Japan before, Shimane can be a very different experience.
The way of life here—especially if you’re coming from a large city—is slow, and can take a while to get used to. It can also be frustrating at times not having access to some of the things you enjoyed at home. But often, after your first few months you’ll find you’re not missing those things as much as you thought. In fact, there are many benefits to living the “Shimane life”:
It’s cheaper. When compared to the cost of living in big cities like Osaka or Tokyo, living in Shimane is very inexpensive. JETs here generally find themselves with a decent chunk of their paycheck left over at the end of every month, which opens up lots of opportunities: you can use this to save, pay off loans, or to travel during the holidays and weekends.
The people. People in Shimane are overwhelmingly kind and welcoming. Most of the prefecture is made of small, tight-knit communities who are excited to welcome their newest ALT or CIR.
Other JETs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the JET community here is extremely close. It’s also extremely cosmopolitan—we’ve had JETs from over 19 countries live here in the past few years. We also have a very active Shimane AJET (SAJET) team who are always planning events for the community.
Nature. Shimane is made up of a majestic mountain range which rolls into the sea. Being in the heart of Japan, we really do experience all four seasons. Shimane is an outdoor adventurer’s dream; there is hiking, camping, skiing, scuba diving, swimming and canoeing, surfing, and more, all practically in your backyard.
Time. We often hear from friends in Tokyo that they “love it, but Tokyo’s lonely; everyone is either too busy to meet up or they live three train transfers away.” The irony of living in the countryside is that it gives you more opportunities to hang out, not less. And the extra hours you save by not commuting free up your day to learn new hobbies, play new sports, or just have fun with friends.
How hard is it to get around?
Shimane is a part of Japan that relies heavily on driving; unless you live in Matsue or Izumo, you’ll be hard-pressed to get by without a car. With all the mountains, Shimane also has a number of narrow, windy roads that can be daunting to navigate at first. It’s worth reviewing information on traffic safety, Japanese road signs and what to do in an accident.
That said, don’t be nervous about the idea of driving in Shimane. Outside of the urban centers, traffic is almost non-existent, and it’s a beautiful place to drive through.
In terms of travelling further afield, it’s worth checking out our travel section. Shimane has three airports (Oki Airport, Izumo Enmusubi Airport, and Hagi-Iwami Airport), all three of which are small and handle domestic flights. For those located closer to Hamada, Hiroshima Airport is also relatively close and hosts international flights to several destinations in Asia. From Hiroshima or Okayama, you can also catch the shinkansen (bullet train), which is probably the most comfortable way to travel within Japan.
What do JETs do in their free time?
One of the benefits of being such a rural prefecture is that there’s plenty of outdoors to go around. Depending on the season, hiking, cycling, outdoor barbecues, skiing, canoeing, and camping are all popular with Shimane JETs.
Between your local communities and Shimane AJET events, there are usually plenty of opportunities to try a new hobby. Exactly what’s available will depend on where you’re placed. However, Shimane is very drive-able, so it’s easy to travel on the weekends.
Aside from outdoor adventuring, JETs have taken up other hobbies as well, from taiko drumming to calligraphy, dance, language lessons, traditional sports such as kendo and kyudo (and even sumo wrestling!), tea ceremony, visiting music festivals, karaoke, rock climbing, working out, programming, tabletop games, and more!
Your local communities will host numerous festivals and events throughout the year; you can generally find event schedules from your supervisor or local community center.