Coming to Yoshika as a JET can be a bit of a shock at first. Many people’s image of Japan is of bustling metropolises, high speed bullet trains, and cutting edge technology. However, Yoshika couldn’t be farther from that image. Full of endless green rice fields, winding mountain roads, and the sound of thousands of frogs croaking at night, Yoshika is the very picture of rural Japanese life.
Children walk to school with bells on their backpacks to ward off bears, and you’ll often have to stop your car as a pack of monkeys comes running across the street. Many residents still burn wood every night in order to heat their bath water (Don’t worry though, that’s only in very old houses!). It all can come as quite a surprise, but Yoshika is an interesting place to visit and a wonderful place to call home!
Tucked away between scenic green mountains, Yoshika is a small town located in the southwestern corner of Shimane. Yoshika is a bit off the beaten path, quite far away from the prefecture’s larger cities, and even many people from Shimane are unfamiliar with the town. However, despite its relative obscurity, Yoshika is a charming town with warm people, beautiful scenery, and convenient access to Shimane’s neighboring prefectures.
Yoshika was formed in 2005 after a merger between the town of Muikaichi and the village of Kakinoki. Yoshika consists of five main areas: Kuragi, Muikaichi, Asakura, Nanokaichi, and Kakikonoki. Yoshika has a population of about 6,800 people, but it’s population is spread out over a fairly large area. More than 40% of the population is over the age of 65.
Life in Yoshika is slow paced, and there are only a handful of main stores and shops. There is are a few small markets, a large hardware store, a bakery, a bank, a pachinko parlor, a karaoke, and a number of good restaurants. In 2010, Yoshika’s very first and only 24 hour convenient store opened, and it has, in fact, made life here incredibly more convenient!
There are no trains in Yoshika. And buses only run a few times each day, so driving is a neccesity. Despite being a rural town, Yoshika is very conveniently located with easy access to Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and a bullet train station. Yoshika is a great place, but if you end up craving the bigger cities, it’s not hard to make a day trip.
While many people don’t know about Yoshika, it does have two main claims to fame. It is home to the Takatsu River, the cleanest river in Japan. And more recently, it is the hometown of the designer of the Tokyo Skytree (the tallest tower in the world and second tallest structure), Kichi Sumikawa.
- The Takatsu River – Often cited as the “cleanest river in Japan”, the Takatsu River originates in Yoshika. There is an information center and park at the source of the river. In the summer, there are a few good spots where you can enjoy swimming in the cool, crystal clear water.
- Oidani Terraced Rice Field – Yoshika has no shortage of rice fields, but this rice field is a historical site more than 600 years old. Rice is still cultivated here each year, and there is a viewing area great for taking pictures.
- Hirodachi Waterfall – At 22 meters tall, the Hirodachi Waterfall may not be the largest waterfall, but its scenic location makes it well worth checking out. There is a small hiking path up into the mountains leading up to the waterfall, and there are also a number of smaller waterfalls along the way.
- Fuketani Gorge – While not for those with a fear of heights, the Fuketani Bridge connects Yoshika with Yamaguchi Prefecture. The bridge runs over 80 meters above the gorge below and is a very impressive sight. There are also a number of hiking paths and nature trails on both sides of the bridge.
- Yurara Hot Spring – Yurara is a very nice modern onsen featuring both indoor and outdoor baths. In addition to baths, it also has a sauna, a variety of different indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a restaurant, Japanese and western style hotel rooms, and a gift shop.
There are number of sports facilities open to Yoshika residents. The Muikaichi Sports Park has tennis courts, a baseball field, putting range, and a training room with a huge trampoline. The Onohara Sports Park in Kakinoki also has tennis courts, a driving range, gateball field, and an all-purpose ground that can be used for baseball, soccer, and a various other sports. As previously mentioned, Yurara has indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Additionally, if you enjoy camping there are a number of scenic campsites around the town. Campsites for tenting and rentable log houses are both available.
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
- Shuji (Japanese Calligraphy)
- Taiko (Japanese drums)
- Ikebana (Traditional flower arrangement)
- Yosakoi (Japanese dance)
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
Yoshika is a small rural town, and at first it may seem like there isn’t much to do. If you’re looking to go to the movies or go shopping in your free time, you’ll have to drive quite a bit. However, if you look around town, there are a good number of things to do in your free time. There are a number of evening sports leagues including badminton and volleyball that are always looking for more members. In addition, there are relay races and a marathon each year that JETs have often participated in. In the winter time, there are a few nice ski resorts just a short drive away.
There is only one JET in Yoshika, so if you’re looking to meet up with other JETs, you can meet up with the Tsuwano and Masuda JETs in less than an hour’s drive. The people in Yoshika are very friendly and welcoming, so past JETs have often gotten involved in the community visiting kindergartens, teaching English conversation classes, participating in weekend school events, helping to harvest rice fields, and many other interesting activities. If you look for them, you will find a wealth of new experiences and things to do in Yoshika!
Festivals and Town Events
- Yume Hana Marathon (Late April) – The town’s annual race featuring a number of courses ranging from 2km to a half marathon.
- Fireworks Festival (August) – Watch kagura and other performances, eat Japanese festival foods, and watch fireworks over the Takatsu River in Kakinoki
- Kinsai Minsai Festival (November) – A festival in both Muikaichi and Kakinoki with music, food, shops, and various other entertainment.
Restaurants and Nightlife
For such a small town, Yoshika has a surprising number of good restaurants and izakaya. Keep in mind that with a few exceptions, most of the restaurants only have a handful of tables, so if you spontaneously decide to go out on a Saturday night, you may find that there literally is not a single open table in town! Highlights include:
- Shige – The town’s main izakaya frequently used for parties and events
- Ebisu Hanten – A Chinese restaurant with good food also often used for parties and events
- Cook – A small restaurant with great hamburgers
- Gen – A diverse menu with really good steak
- Dominicana – A quaint Italian restaurant specializing in pizza and pasta. The restaurant has a great atmosphere and the owner is very friendly.
- Ramen Taisho – The local ramen shop
- Sanzoku – While technically just over the border in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Yoshika is the closest town to this interesting restaurant. It’s name literally translates to “the bandit’s den” and the atmosphere alone makes it worth a visit. It’s famous for oversized rice balls and giant yakitori.
- Ikyu – A good Okonomiyake restaurant
- Toritei – A nice restaurant specializing in yakitori.
Besides going out for dinner, Yoshika has very limited options for those looking to go out for the night. Tinkerbell, the town’s karaoke, is the main (if only) late night option. Open until 2AM every night, this is the go to after party destination.
While Yoshika is pretty far from Shimane’s larger cities, it is located just minutes away from both Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. The highway can also be accessed within minutes, making road trips to Kyushu or Osaka very simple (Just be wary of the high tolls!). If you want to avoid paying tolls and don’t mind driving on windy mountain roads, larger cities with shopping malls and movie theaters are about an hour drive away. In the winter time, traveling can be a bit more difficult, and it’s good to remember that some of the more rural roads are not plowed very often.
To/From Yoshika by Car
- Hiroshima – 90 minutes
- Hiroshima International Airport – 90 minutes
- Shin-Iwakuni Station – 60 minutes
- Osaka – 5 hours
- Kyushu – 3 hours