Iinan is a town made up of five smaller towns snuggled in the mountains. These towns are: Akagi, Akana, Tombara, Kijima, and Shishi.
Each has their own history and way of doing things, but you’ll find that overall everyone is very friendly. Iinan is primarily composed of farming areas (rice, apples, etc.) and has a collective total population of a little under 5,500 people encompassing about a 240 square kilometer area (about 90 square miles). There are several small rivers, including the Tombara and Akagi River, as well Kijima Lake, and several mountains. For information please see the Iinan Town Website (Japanese).
- Ippuku Soba: This is the original Ippuku Soba restaurant in Japan. A few years back this restaurant became rather well known as having some of the best Soba in all of the Chuugoku region in Japan. It now has locations in both Izumo and Hiroshima, but the original establishment remains. You will not be disappointed by the quality and taste of what this restaurant has to offer. It is conveniently located on the border of Iinan’s two major inner-areas: Tombara and Akagi on Route 54.
- Mt. Kotobiki: This mountain is a town treasure. So much so in fact that it is even mentioned in the Tombara Jr. High School’s school song! It is both a camping area from April until March and fairly well known ski resort in Shimane from December to February. So, if you’re into either skiing or snowboarding, this is the place for you! If you’re not so adept at either sport, they also offer lessons for all ages. The staff is very helpful and encouraging to newcomers!
- Apple Orchard: During the Summer and Fall apple season it is possible to visit the Akana Orchard and pick apples for a small fee. Akana is famous for its delicious apple juice and this is where it’s made! (You can also pick blueberries).
- Furusato Nature Walk: On Mt. Kotobiki they run a nature walk program designed to optimize healthy living. Your “nature guide” will personally design an exercise hiking regiment for you based on your health and body type as well as a healthy meal plan to suit during your stay. The program is completed with trip to one Iinan’s three onsens. For more information please see this program guide: http://infom.org/forestmedicinebase/japan/iinan/index.html
- Atariya Izakaya (See night life)
Other Places of Interest
Yaki Niku: There is a locally owned Yaki Niku restaurant located directly on left-hand side of the Ippuku Soba Restaurant. It is relatively inexpensive for Yaki Niku, delicious, and the owners are very nice and attentive.
Sweet shop in Akana: In downtown Akana there is a locally owned sweet shop that makes rather delicious Japanese cakes and other dessert items. Reasonably priced, it is located across the street from the San-in Goro bank in the downtown area.
- Kinugake Hotel: There is one small hotel located in the Akagi area. It is hard to miss as it is the tallest building in Iinan, right on Route 54, and has a large flower painted on the side (a peony–as this is one of the town symbols of Iinan). The hotel also has a restaurant where you can several things from Curry and Rice to Ramen.
- Liquor store: There is a small liquor store next to the Tombara A-Coop (grocery store) that carries a wide selection including a few imported items such as Malibu Coconut Rum and Kahlua.
- Onsen: There are three onsens in all of Iinan: The Ramune on Mt. Kotobiki, the Katanoyu in Kijima, and one located off route 273 (intersecting Route 54) in Tombara.
- Mt. Kotobiki Ski Resort and Camping (see town highlights)
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
It is possible and fairly easy to get involved in cultural activities in Shimane, but they are far a few between in Iinan. Iinan JETs have participated in Taiko circles and Tea Ceremony lessons, but they must often leave the Iinan area to do so. Asking the town office or Board of Education is a good idea as they will often have a printed schedule of events for the month usually detailing several cultural activities.
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
Festivals and Town Events
There are several festivals held throughout the year but these are a few worth noting:
- Flower Festival: Akagi/Akana – mid-May
- Hange Festival: Akagi/Akana – first week of July
- Tombara Festival: Last week of July
- Fall Festival: Tombara – November 7th
- Obon Festival: Akagi/Akana and Tombara – Held in mid-August
Restaurants and Nightlife
Atariya: This is a locally owned izakaya (Japanese drinking place that also serves food) situated in the heart of Tombara. The people are friendly, they have a wide variety of drinks, and the food is pretty good as well as inexpensive.
One thing that is quite different from other areas of Shimane is that there are only two JETs in the entirety of the town. One thing us Iinan JETs are often asked is, “Oh no! How do you escape?” Well, if you’re really that desperate, Iinan is luckily surrounded by many other towns such as Miyoshi City in Hiroshima Prefecture to the South, Unnan City to the East, Oda City to the West, and Izumo City to the North.
Miyoshi: Miyoshi city is about a 45 minute drive from the center of Iinan and is home to a moderately sized shopping center, a delicious Indian food restaurant (Taj), a fairly decent bakery, and Karaoke. Some people may try to tell you Curry King in Izumo is the best ever and the local godsend to Shimane Prefecture–but don’t believe them. Taj is by far superior.
Unnan: Unnan is a large place that seems small as it is rather spread out. In Unnan, you can find a gym, a large grocery chain called “Mishimaya” that carries a wide selection of your basic cooking needs, a Sushi restaurant, Chinese food restaurant, among other things. If you’re interested, it is often possible to take Korean lessons in Unnan (held once a week). Please ask the Unnan City CIR for more information on this subject.
Oda: You will not find much more in Oda the you may be able to find in either Unnan and Izumo. The have a large shopping center or mall, “Aeon”, among other things. However, on the border of Oda and Iinan is Mt. Sanbe, home to the famous “Sanbe Burger” Restaurant. It is about ten minutes over the border of Shishi (a smaller area of Iinan), and about 40 minutes by car from the center of Iinan. Sanbe Burger is probably the best burger in all of Shimane, if not the entire country of Japan. Made with 100% Shimane Beef, you will not be disappointed.
Izumo: Izumo is just like any other large city–it’ll have just about everything you’re looking for. Here are some of the things you will not find in either Unnan or Miyoshi:
In Izumo, there are two large malls, “Aeon” and “Youme Town”. In the Aeon basement grocery store you can find many imported items as well as a decent liquor selection. There is also a movie theater at Youme town that is pretty nice as well. As these are both large shopping centers, they sell a variety of items including electronics, home furnishings, bicycles, among other things.
Iinan: There is an adult indoor soccer league and volleyball circle you can join if you would like to be involved in the community in a more active way! (Please ask a few people or the Board of Education for more info!)