Hamada City was formed in 2005, when the five municipalities of Hamada, Asahi, Kanagi, Yasaka, and Misumi were merged. Stretching from the Sea of Japan to the forested mountains of the Iwami region, Hamada is a small city that takes pride in its local industries. The tradition and charm of rural Japan meets the energy of a town trying to carve out its place in modern Japanese society, from the bustling Hamada port to the terraced rice fields that span the mountain valleys in the countryside.
Hamada is well-known for its delicious seafood, and there are plenty of restaurants where one can enjoy local specialties (though you sometimes have to know where to look!). The rich tradition of Iwami culture thrives in the traditional arts. Children and adults alike learn the art of Iwami Kagura, a traditional Shinto theatrical dance famous for its flashy and fast-paced style, its elaborate costumes, and its lively drum and flute accompaniment. In Misumi, Sekishuu Banshi, a traditional Japanese handmade papermaking art passed down from generation to generation, is preserved and practiced.
The people of Hamada are warm and welcoming–they work hard to create a place where the young and old alike can live, learn and play together. There is engagement in intercultural activity as well. Hamada is in the process of renewing its Friendship Agreement with the Kingdom of Bhutan, which began as a collaborative exchange of papermaking techniques between papermaking factories in Bhutan and Misumi. College students engage in a yearly exchange with Monterrey University, and junior high students participate in an exchange and homestay program, alternating each year between exchanges with Shijingsha, Beijing in China and Pohang City in Korea.
JETs in the area quickly discover that there are many opportunities to get involved in the local community and engage in international exchange. There are three CIRs (English-speaking, Chinese, Korean) who plan exchange events with local community members, and the ALTs of Hamada are typically very involved in their schools, connecting with their students both inside and outside of the classroom.
We love our Hamada and have a lot of fun here!
Town Highlights by Area: Hamada, Misumi, Asahi, Kanagi and Yasaka.
The largest town in the region, Hamada boasts a variety of tourist and local hotspots. If you don’t have a car, buses can get you access to any of these sightseeing venues for a low price, so you have no excuse not to enjoy the full wonders of the city!
- Yuhi Park: “Sunset Park” has one of the best views of the city and harbor. It’s a great spot to view the summer firework festival, and there’s a fun playground with a huge slide, giant toy-ship to climb on, swing sets, and a picnic area. If you’d rather go for indoor eating, the center also has some great stopover restaurants, including Hamada’s only Mos Burger, Japan’s famous fast-food restaurant!
- The Hamada Castle Ruins: Situated on a small hill near the Hamada Harbor, the Hamada Castle dates to 1620. It was destroyed in 1866 to keep it from falling into enemy hands during the Meiji Restoration, leaving behind only the gate and stone foundation. Today, the area where the castle stood it a popular spot for hanami viewing and picnicking in the summer months.
- Hamada Harbor and the O-Sakana Center: Hamada is famous for its seafood, and at the O-Sakana Center in Hamada Port you can sample and purchase the local seafare straight from the fishermen’s boats. The harbor is the only deep-sea port in the area and is always full of boats and ships, and the occasional cruise ship, so you’ll sometimes see sailors from other countries strolling around Hamada. The harbor is where the summer festival is held every year, so expect the whole city to be out that night!
- Hamada Children’s Museum of Art: Set high on the hilltop overlooking the town, this is Hamada’s biggest museum. The institution is for children of all ages and has exhibitions of art making, traditional crafts, special touring shows, and even literary shows. There’s something for everyone at this museum, which also features interactive international cultural workshops.
- Marine O-Hashi: Affectionately dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere”, this white suspension bridge connects the harbor to Setogashima Island (which is already connected by another tiny bridge around the back!). It’s well worth a ride over just to experience the short thrill that is the roller-coaster-like speed bumps at the end. This road also leads to a small port where locals love to go fishing. It’s also a great spot to watch the squid boats light up off coast at night.
- Mt. Taima: The highest mountain in Hamada City. On top of “Hemp Mountain,” you can climb a massive observation tower that, on a clear day, hosts a view north towards Sanbe-san and south into neighboring Yamaguchi Prefecture.
- The Kagura Clock Tower: This incredibly crafted clock tower is located in front of the entrance to Hamada Station. Each hour, on the hour it opens and expands to reveal an intricate scene with musical renditions of Iwami Kagura played by mechanical puppets that welcome visitors and entertain residents.
- Mt. Sankai: Located just behind the University of Shimane, the top of this mountain boasts an unrivalled view of Hamada. Go up just before sunset to catch the light changing and watch over Hamada and watch the lights come on as the evening turns into night. Drive up as far as the road will go, then hike up the pathway until you see a wooden look-out structure to the right. Take a seat and enjoy! Or, during the day, go a little further up to the top and you can see the shrine where many students visit to pray for good luck. It’s a spectacular view in the spring and summer, when, if the weather is good, you can see as far as Oda!
- Sun Village Hamada: Home to Iwami’s only Ice Rink (open October-May), Sunlake also boasts a gymnasium. Hamada Golf Links and Driving Range is across the road and there’s a little Thai restaurant around the corner.
- AQUAS and Iwami Seaside Park: This large beach resort has one of the most beautiful beaches in Shimane. It’s so popular that you often find tourists from other prefectures coming on a day-trip or to stay at the campsite during the summer months. You can try a variety of sports, including surfing and swimming, parasailing, tennis, cliff-diving, and beach volleyball. There’s also the famous AQUAS aquarium, which is one of only four aquariums in Japan that is home to the white beluga. The aquarium has penguins, fish, sea lions, and other sea creatures and hosts events throughout the year.
A friendly little town nestled in between hills and the Sea of Japan, Misumi is a bit off the beaten path. It’s filled with only a few hundred people in the central area and boasts just one stop light, which should give you an idea of the general pace of life in the town. Life here is typical of picturesque rural Japan with rice fields and elderly folks working in their vegetable gardens.
- Pasar Moon: In the summer from May to September something magical happens in Misumi, and by magical we mean live entertainment, Coronas, and brick oven pizzas beachside. What? Yep, the place is called Pasar Moon and it a perfect place to kick back and relax. However, during the weekdays it’s pretty sparse and the makeshift restaurant typically doesn’t serve any pizza, and instead usually serves vegetarian curries or salads. But on the weekends and during special events the place really comes alive, with foreigners from around the world who stay for days or months, frolicking in the outdoor sanctuary or the beautiful local beach. It’s a bit of a commune for the free-spirited type, and definitely worth the trek. It’s difficult to overemphasise how rare this type of place is in Shimane!
- Misumi Shinto Shrine: Next to Misumi Park, this shrine was built in 1937 and is a famous spot in the springtime when the azaleas are in full bloom.
- Ryuunji Temple: Located about 2km from Misumi Shrine, this temple was founded in 1382. On the roof in the main hall is the beautiful carving of the dragon that gives its name to the temple.
- Aqua Misumi: Part of Misumi Park, Aqua Misumi has a heated Olympic-size pool, as well as a hot tub and sauna. There’s also a gym, so be sure to bring your workout clothes and stay active in the beautiful countryside!
- Seikisho Art Museum: Built like an Italian church, this cozy little museum features the work of a local artist and houses a wonderful little dessert café decorated with handmade paper crafts and an eclectic mix of modern and traditional arts.
- Washi Paper Making Factory: Try your hand at a Sekishi-washi, a 1300-year old papermaking technique, unique to the region. It is a little difficult, but a lot of fun and you get to take home what you make!
- Kowa Onsen: This newly built indoor/outdoor onsen is a great place to warm up during the cold winter months!
- Obira-san: This huge cherry tree is rumored to be almost 600 years old, and it’s remarkably impressive in full bloom! Tourists frequent its shade during the warm hanami season, picnicking beneath the cherry blossoms, azaleas, and plum trees along the hillside.
Asahi is a mountain town that is especially famous for its onsens, mountain hiking, and a ski slope for avid winter sport enthusiasts. Asahi is also home to the annual snowball fight organized by Hamada City.
- Asahi Tenguston: Located near Mizuho Interchange, this skiing resort is a popular destination in the region, with travellers coming from as far as Hiroshima to go skiing or boarding in the fresh powder of the winter season between December and March. Go for a few rounds and then stop off at the nearby Asahi Onsen (hot spring) to warm back up and recount your amazing adventures on the slopes!
Kanagi is another mountain suburb town that has a quintessential country feel to accompany its unique amenities, onsens, and fruit farms.
- Kanagi Western Riding Park: At this unique park, you can take riding lessons or carriage rides from the approximately 30 horses in residence. There are also other animals at the park that is built much like a western farm. Enjoy a lazy afternoon horseback trail ride during a sunny day, or if it’s raining, take a ride around the indoor gym. There is also an all-you-can eat restaurant where you cook the meat at your table.
- Fureai Gym: This is the biggest indoor gym in Shimane Prefecture, with a huge arena, multi-purpose room, tennis courts, a trampoline, softball and baseball grounds, and even a golf course.
- Kinta no Sato: A highlight of the Kanagi area, this remarkable onsen (hot spring) also features a wonderful restaurant that serves local produce and a great view of the mountains. Across the car park in the smaller building there is a restaurant which serves delicious (but small) pizzas.
- Mimata Hot Spring: This legendary onsen was founded in 1864 and the waters are known for naturally moisturizing the skin, so much so that a fragrance company in Hiroshima uses it to develop new products.
Don’t be fooled by its size! Yasaka is a beautiful small town that provides a real special treat for people who love the rural life. Instead of high-rise buildings, you can tour authentic 100-year-old houses and an original wooden watermill. Here you can do homestays in log cabins that boast a true Japanese living experience, complete with hardwood floors, hot springs, and Japanese-style fireplaces. It’s also a great location for viewing the fireflies in the summer months.
- Furusato Taiken Mura: At this community center, you can take part in traditional crafts, such as weaving, cloth dyeing, and making your own soba noodles. After your tutorial, feel free to take home your souvenir and impress your friends!
- YouMe Town: A mall with groceries, clothes and shoes, accessories and homeware, a McDonald’s, bookshop, sweetshop, toyshop, travel agent, cell phone stores, and a 100 yen store.
- City Park: Groceries, clothes, 100 yen store, drug store, laundrette, fruit/flower shop.
- TRIAL: Affectionately known as “the Japanese WalMart” this large store is located in Sufu, between Hamada and Misumi. It contained a large variety of low cost items such as clothes, food, homewear, hardware, etc.
- DAPPS and Prille: The best places in the city to find fresh groceries.
- DeoDeo, Best, and Juntendo: For your appliance and electronic needs.
- Close to the train station there’s a city sports complex with a baseball field, indoor arena for basketball and volleyball, soccer grounds with a running track, swimming pool, and two membership gyms with exercise equipment.
- There’s also a handful of bicycle repair shops and motorbikes and scooter stores. For cycling enthusiasts, most of the city is bicycle-friendly with dedicated sections of the sidewalk, you just have to get used to the hills! Because Hamada is a fishing town, there are lots of fishing stores to provide all your seafaring necessities!
- Previous JETs have also taken part in basketball teams and practiced taekwondo with local residents at the martial arts center in town.
Art, Music, Culture:
- The Sekkio Bunko Hall holds a variety of concerts, movie screenings, and other cultural exhibitions, including plays, performances, recitals, high school and junior high school choral competitions, and a host of other cultural events. Across the street from the Hall is a Yamaha Music Store that sells pianos and keyboards, guitars and violins, and other brass instruments, in addition to offering music and singing lessons. There is a frame, painting, and art supply store near City Hall and a huge stationery and art store towards the east end of the town (near the entrance to the expressway), as well as a yarn and hobby crafts store near the station.
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
- In recent years, some JETs have participated in taiko groups. Kanagi has a women’s only taiko group which welcomes foreign members.
- Calligraphy is another favorite pastime for Hamada JETs with some of our work displayed in a calligraphy art show at the local art museum!
- For JETs interested in the martial arts scene, there is an opportunity to train with local residents in taekwondo, judo, and other arts.
- JETs have also participated in dance classes and yoga classes at the community gym, La Peare near the station.
- The Iwami countryside has ample opportunities for experience in farm life. Some JETs have accompanied school groups and neighbors in rice planting and harvesting adventures, providing a truly unique Japanese experience.
- Hamada’s aging population means that there are ample opportunities to engage with the elderly public at community events, which vary from flower arrangement shows to excursions at local sightseeing spots.
- City Hall often hosts cooking demonstrations where JETs are invited to share international cuisines with young and old alike, and there are also eikaiwas that JETs can participate in for interested residents.
- Iwami Kagura is perhaps the most traditional Japanese cultural experience you can have as a Shimane JET, and Hamada is exceptional for offering a chance to view kagura festivals year-round. There’s even a kagura costume-making shop near Kanagi where you can view traditional costumes and see the mask-making process. This is located in the Kinto-no-Sato complex.
- Many of the towns that make up Hamada City, like Yasaka, offer classes to learn about the rich culture of the Iwami region. These are open to everyone and many JETs take advantage of these opportunities to engage with the local community.
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
If you’re craving more of the homegrown kind of comfort, you’re in the right place! Hamada JETs are close-knit and supportive of each other, with varied tastes that include gaming, book-swapping, movie nights, and lots of cooking in or eating out! There are weekend trips for out-of-town shopping or sightseeing, going as far as Hiroshima and Iwakuni. The Shimane AJET Christmas Party is traditionally held in Hamada, with folks from all around Shimane coming to celebrate. In the warm summer months, we ofter visit the beach or go cliff-diving in the secret spots around the seaside. Year-round, Thursday night is sushi night, followed by ice cream at 31 Baskin-Robbins. In the winter, Sunday nights are onsen night, for relaxing in the hot springs before the work week starts.
Restaurants and Cafes
If there’s one thing that Hamada has its fair share of, it’s restaurants with good personality and even better food! There are plenty of Japanese restaurants, izakayas, and mom ‘n pop places to suit everyone’s tastes. And although the number of foreign eateries isn’t huge, what we do have makes up for that with quality. Here’s just a few of the places that JETs have grown to love:
- Sushizou: Inviting, cheap and delicious are just a few of the reasons to come here! This kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi restaurant serves high-quality sushi at cheap prices. The friendly staff are very familiar with foreigners; JETs have been getting together here every Thursday night since 2006! If you go (and you should!) make sure to try the grilled salmon sushi with mayonnaise.
- Shun Po: Located near Hamada station, this izakaya is one of the most popular in Hamada. They primarily specialize in small plates of Asian food, similar to a Spanish tapas restaurant. Everything from their dumplings to fried avocado and cheese is delicious! It isn’t the cheapest izakaya in town, but the quality is excellent.
- Kizuna: A 2-minute walk from the station, this tiny, adorable restaurant specializes in a Japanese dish called “okonomiyaki”–usually described as a savory pancake. And the friendly owners are nothing but smiles. We teach their kids!
- Daikichi: Run by a young friendly man from Hiroshima, this yakitori (or grilled meat) restaurant serves delicious skewers of meat and sides like baked potato topped with cheese and sour plum sauce. You have to come early though–there are only 3 tables and it fills up quick!
- Cafe Michelle’s: This French restaurant serves salads, sandwiches, and the most amazing hot chocolate and parfaits. It’s run by a young woman named Miyuki who speaks really good English (and French) and loves talking to foreigners. This is one of the most popular JET hang-out spots!
- Ahmed’s: When you’re craving something with a bit of heat! Ahmed’s serves real Indian curries and naan at good prices. There’s also a karaoke machine and an unusual collection of stuffed animals that decorate the restaurant, which is run by friendly staff who enjoy chatting to customers.
- Coffee House: Situated on Route 9 leading out of Hamada (beside CoCo combini), Coffee House serves delicious bread and Illy coffee drinks at great prices. They also do take out cups–a rarity for Japanese coffee houses.
- Miro: This bakery is located right outside the station and serves delicious breads, pizzas, sandwiches, and other pastries. It’s also famous for its homemade bagels!
- Kitchen Pocket: This tiny restaurant is hidden away beside the BOE. Get there early for lunch (there are only 6 seats) and enjoy whatever the menu of the day is. Always fresh and delicious.
- Harukaze: If you find yourself in Misumi during the winter months when Pasar Moon is closed, you can have the pleasure to fill up on a big bowl of tan tan men ramen with extra char su at this delicious and popular local restaurant.
- Miyakawa: Also in Mizumi, this small izakaya is run by a friendly Japanese woman and her husband and it serves many of their secret family recipes. Lots of vegetarian-friendly food, and there’s not a single item on the menu that isn’t delicious.
The nightlife in Hamada is pretty entertaining, with a variety of izakayas, bars, and even a bowling alley and karaoke place. Whatever your preference, you’ll find something to your liking on any given night in the city–be brave and try something new, or pick up a flyer and have a new weekend and evening experience! Here are some of the favorite spots around town:
- Rum’s Bar: A popular watering hole located near Hamada Station, Rum’s Bar offers a seemingly endless choice of whiskey and spirits from around the world, as well as other popular beverages and a selection of lunch and dinner foods. The staff are friendly and there’s also no cover charge. Occasionally, there will be a live-band performance or concert by local and non-local DJs. The party’s always happening at Rum’s!
- Vampire Palace: This favorite local establishment is permanently uniformed in Halloween decor, complete with flying bats and orange and black hangings and red cushioned seats. It’s a great bar for nomihodai, and the staff is young and friendly.
- Madder: This local bar is a great place to throw some darts, have a few drinks, sing some karaoke, all while watching a sports game on the big screen.
- Mama-San’s: So called after the chain-smoking and ever welcoming owner, Bar Elf (it’s real name) is the closest thing you will find to a ‘pub’ in Hamada.
- JAC: Hamada is unique for having its own bowling alley. Bowl a few frames in this friendly locale, which also has an arcade and a karaoke bar on the second floor.
- If you’d rather stay in and keep it casual, pick up the latest movie or CD release at GEO, a great DVD/CD rental store bookshop near Hamada Station.
Festivals and Town Events
Festivals are a unique aspect of Japanese culture where the whole community really comes out to celebrate the city and each other in a fun, relaxing and contagiously cheerful atmosphere. Each city is known for its own kind of festival, organized by members of the community or a special host, so be sure to sample a bit of all of them during your stay!
- Hamakko Summer Festival: The biggest of Hamada’s festivals, this yearly event is celebrated at the Hamada Harbor, complete with delicious food stalls and other local samples. You can try your hand at games or watch the dance and music shows. The summer festival usually happens days after new JETs arrive in Hamada and it’s a must see. It feels like the entire town is there, including nearly all of our students, who usually run up to say ‘harro!’ and show off their coolest clothes! Break out your summer yukata and dress for the occasion, which is complete with a spectacular fireworks display over the harbor.
- Fall Festivals: The fall festivals are a delicious sampling of the local fare, and they variously incorporate moon viewings or other natural events to celebrate the fall season. There are several nearly every weekend, and they’re a great opportunity to travel to neighboring towns and villages. This subset includes the Yasaka Trade Festival, the Asahi Furusato (Hometown) Festival, the Kanagi Sazanka Festival, and the Hamada BB Nabe Festival, which celebrates the culture of nabe, that delicious stew that warms stomachs everywhere in the winter.
- School Festivals: These school festivals are a great way to engage with the community and with your students. Elementary, junior high schools, and senior high schools all have school festivals and sports festivals. The sports festivals are unbelievably fun and you can cheer on your (or other ALT’s) students as they compete in games and races. School festivals include cultural shows, choral concerts, and brass band shows, and some schools will go over the top with science shows and haunted houses and art projects that are open to the public! The University of Shimane, located in Hamada, also has an annual univeristy festival where you can see dance and music shows, taste delicious foods, and meet university students.
- Hamakko Spring Festival: That features a lively culture parade with people dressed up in traditional costumes carrying mikoshi and performing traditional dance. JETs are often invited to participate and dress up in traditional Japanese clothing.
- Additionally, in the precious hanami viewing weeks, you can find special places all over the city to picnic and drink under the cherry blossoms!
Getting Out and About
Hamada Station has great train access to other parts of Shimane. But if a big metropolis is what you’re craving, Hiroshima is only 1 ½ hours away by car, or 2 hours by bus (which run roughly every hour from Hamada station). If you want to go even further, there are three buses which leave throughout the morning for Osaka (6 hours) and a night bus to Tokyo (12 hours).
Things to do in Shimane
- Sightseeing! Shimane has some important and beautiful historical towns and cities. It’s one of the highlights that makes the Iwami area experience that much more to write home about–you’ll never forget the places you visit, the little nooks and crannies you run into in the hillsides and along the trails, or the beautiful temples and shrines that dot the inaka. Plus, there’s a great network of active and interested JETs all over the region who are eager to show folks around. Make sure you get to know these other JETs in Shimane and you’ll have your own personal tour guides, too.
- Onsens! Shimane, along with Tottori prefecture, is lucky to have the best hot springs in the Chugoku region. ALTs spend many cold winter nights relaxing here–there’s nothing quite like sitting in an outdoor tub with snow falling down around you.
- Outdoor adventures! Hiking, camping, and barbecuing are all popular pastimes here. Shimane also has many beautiful beaches for the summer.
- Road trips to neighboring prefectures! All you need is a car , some friends, and a sense of adventure! JETs in Shimane tend to do a lot of road-tripping. Shimane borders Tottori, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, and Okayama Prefectures, which make up the Chugoku region. There’s always plenty to see and friendly people to meet (and stay with!). If you want to leave the main island of Japan; Shikoku and Kyushuu islands are a very close drive away and make for a great road trip if you have a 3-day weekend. Some of our favorite cities to visit are Hiroshima, Iwakuni, Okayama City, Yonago, and other sightseeing spots. Each are a good weekend trip away, or even a day-trip for the especially well-travelled, and all of these sites (and more) offer unique experiences and memories.