Welcome to Kawamoto, the best kept secret in Shimane! Located in the very middle of Shimane with a modest population of 3,331 (March 2017), Kawamoto combines small-town friendliness and the relaxing pace of inaka (countryside) life with relatively convenient access to the cities of Hiroshima, Izumo and Matsue. There has been a settlement located here on the banks of the Gonogawa River for quite some time, but much of the town was destroyed by a massive flood in the the early 1970s. However, Kawamoto rallied and rebuilt. The town’s taiko group was formed at that time as well, as a way of boosting the spirits of the townspeople. Kawamoto is known as the “music town” with a renowned brass band legacy, and boasts an impressive state-of-the-art music hall which is used to host performances and special musical guests year round. The local product here is egoma, which is a wild-grown sesame seed. It shows up in a variety of local products including egoma oil (which is supposed to be good for your health) and even egoma cookies! (which are delicious).
Kawamoto is inaka living at its finest. JETs have been coming to this town for approximately 20 years and therefore the people living here are very accustomed to having foreigners in residence. They are very quick to include you in local activities and are extremely friendly and welcoming.
- Senganji: An uninhabited temple built into the mountainside overlooking Kawamoto–a light hike is required to experience the most picturesque view of the town.
- Museum 104/ Mizu no Kuni: This water-themed modern art museum is out of this world! Situated in the sleepy town of Sakurae, about a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute bike ride) from Kawamoto, this museum has some of the most impressive pieces of art and is sure to capture anyone’s interest. It also has a science room where you can explore the properties of water. Definitely a must see!
- Imai Museum of Art: Located just downriver from Museum 104, this small gallery boasts an incredible collection of Japanese paintings.
- Yuuyuu Furusato Kaikan: A large hall in which concerts and events regularly held. Tickets (such as for the all day Kagura concert in the Fall) can be bought at the Yuuyuu Kaikan, where the board of education is located.
- Yudani Onsen: Located along one of Kawamoto’s winding, narrow backroads, this is an adorable local onsen that has a large local following. Be sure to check it out!
- Inbara Michi no Eki: This market, information center and gathering area located along Highway 261 is a wonderful place to shop for local veggies / goods, hear about upcoming events, enjoy hot and fresh food prepared on the weekends and catch an event or two throughout the year.
- Smile: Grocery store, has a decent selection of produce and food used in Japanese cooking
- A-coop: Grocery store, carries normal selection plus some hard to find items like olive oil, butter, parmesan cheese, and other foreign foods.
- Popura: 24 hour convenience store
- Juntendo: Home goods store that sells tools, furniture, dishes, cleaning supplies, home and garden supplies, and plants
- Sundays: Drugstore, also sells some groceries and beauty supplies
- Wellness: Another drugstore, slightly larger than Sundays and with a point card.
- Indoor swimming pool (open year round)
- Gym (open year round)
- Outdoor swimming pool (open during summer)
- Mizuno Sports: Sports apparel and equipment
- The Support Center: This center offers aerobics classes and is where the “Father’s Cooking Class” is held (see below).
- Café du Soleil: A European-style cafe that serves mostly curry and pasta, with some tasty hot drinks and very good desserts. It’s usually only open for lunch on weekdays though, so it’s a bit hard to get there on an ALT’s schedule.
- Kan-chan’s: An ALT favorite; Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki made by the ever-smiling Kan-chan.
- Iwami-ya: A great little Korean restaurant, famous for their bibimbap, bulgogi nabe, and pudding.
- Shineizushi: Local sushi restaurant with amazing sushi set deals!
- Fukumura: Delightful bentos and other Japanese home-cooking favorites.
- Kawamoto Shokudo: A popular gathering place for enkais.
- Michi-no-eki has a restaurant called Info, with good-quality standard Japanese meals (soba noodles, omurice, curry, etc.).
- Tori-no-michi: an Italian cafe/restaurant that’s on the road between Kawamoto and Ohnan, around the midpoint. It has really good pasta and pizzas with some tasty drinks. It’s usually closed in inclement weather, but seems to be open later than a lot of places in the inaka.
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
- Taiko: The local taiko group is called Gogawa Daiko. Over the years many JETs have been involved with this group at some level and they are very welcoming to new members. The group plays all over Shimane and sometimes in Hiroshima! Taiko is a great workout and also great stress relief. If you are interested in other traditional Japanese musical instruments, someone in this group probably either plays it or knows someone who does. The group also provides a wonderful opportunity to make friends in the community.
- Father’s Cooking Class: This is a cooking class that meets about once a month and makes some delicious Japanese food! You don’t have to be a father or even male to participate in this class and the members are always excited to share their cooking expertise!
- English Conversation Class: Not specifically a Japanese cultural activity but still an important part of active life here in Kawamoto. The class was begun by the first JET that came to Kawamoto and has been going strong ever since due to the tireless efforts of Nakagawa-san, a local farmer and philosopher. Several of the members are fluent in English and happy to offer assistance with everyday issues that crop up – another great way to connect to the community.
- Michi no Eki Knitting Group: Meeting on Saturdays from 9am – 4pm, these skilled ladies are willing to share a cup of tea and teach anyone how to knit well.
- Ikebana Lessons: Once-a-month flower arranging class
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
- Family Dinner: A once-every-two-weeks tradition where local JETs in Ochi District (Ohnan, Kawamoto and Misato) get together for dinner to catch up, vent, share stories or just relax!
- Innertubing down the Gogawa River (Summer)
- Skiing/Boarding (Winter)–Mizuho Highlands is just a 40 min drive away!
- Kawamoto Sports Club: Choose from a number of sporty activities such as futsal, aerobics, kendo, and much much more. Club membership will give you participation discounts and regular updates on new programs or activities.
- Kawamoto Walking: Sign up and walk a 3,5,or 7 kilometer course with your friends and neighbors. There’s loads of interesting local spots to hike to as well, like Senganji (the abandoned temple on the hill which is rumored to be populated by obake, monkeys, and bears) as well as local beauty spots like Dangyokei gorge and Kannon Waterfall.
- Dancing: There is a social dance group that meets every Thursday night from 7.30pm-9.30pm. The people are very friendly and it’s loads of fun. They meet at ‘Yuu Yuu Furusato Kaikan’ which is the same building the Eikaiwa is held at. It’s social dance (5 international standard dances and 4 Latin American dances + blues and jitterbug). Sometimes they also go for dance parties in other towns or have parties in Kawamoto.
Festivals and Town Events
Summer Matsuri: The Summer Festival is held on the last Saturday in July and it’s called ええな祭り (Ehna Matsuri). It features has singing, dancing, kagura and lots of delicious food stalls. The night rounds off with a beautiful fireworks display.
Obon Festival: The traditional Japanese festival of Obon is celebrated in both Kawamoto and also in Inbara (at the Michi-no-eki). It features Kagura (you can never escape the Kagura!), taiko, and traditional yosakoi dancing.
All Night Kagura Matsuri: This is held in November at the Mishima Shrine. It begins about 10 pm and continues throughout the night until about 6am, culminating in a performance of Yamato no Orochi. Oden, yakitori and alcohol are sold and everyone turns out to watch the “gods entertainment”. Iwami kagura is huge out here so by all means, check it out!
Fall Festival weekend (first weekend in November) features:
Saturday morning: The city ekiden (long-distance relay race)
Saturday afternoon: Mikoshi – An annual festival during which mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded throughout town, carried by various local groups (including the rowdy high school baseball team).
Sunday: Sangyosai – Held in the middle of town, this festival celebrates Kawamoto’s local industries. It’s likely you will be working at the festival, which gives you a great opportunity to soak up the atmosphere. It’s great fun and a brilliant opportunity to take part in mochi maki – having hard bags of mochi hurled at your head from above for good luck. You’ll also have a chance to see all your students in normal clothes and vice versa.
Sakura Matsuri: The sakura (cherry blossom) festival. Usually around the end of March/start of April and lasting a week, this famous Japanese appreciation of the transience of life can be more fun than you might expect – especially during the night-viewing, when everyone lets their hair down and celebrates the end of the winter and the coming of spring.
Being a small town, Kawamoto lacks dance-until-dawn night clubs, but there are still a few gems that are open late enough to have a good night out:
- Blue River: A spacious karaoke bar with a fabulous host, amazing drinks, and impressive song selection.
- Bon: A “cozier” karaoke bar with a family-like atmosphere. Prizes can be won at karaoke.
- By car: 1.5 hours
- By bus: It takes 2hrs to get from Kawamoto train station to Hiroshima Bus Center, and around 2hrs 15min to get to the Hiroshima shinkansen (bullet train) gate
- By car and bus: 40 min drive to Oasa (大朝インター) bus station + 1hr 10 min bus to Hiroshima Station
Izumo: 1.5 hrs by car
Oda: 35 min by car
Misato: 20 min by car
Ohnan: 20 min by car
Nagoya: Take the bus to Hiroshima (taking the last bus from Oasa is fine) and nightbus from Hiroshima (the JR bus leaves at 9:45 from the shinkansen gate and gets there a bit before 7am)
Day bus to Osaka: leaves from Oasa bus stop (free parking) 2 times a day (morning and afternoon), 5 hr ride
Overnight bus to Tokyo: leaves from Oasa bus stop (free parking), 11 hr ride