How’s the weather?
Shimane enjoys weather from all four seasons. When you arrive here it’s going to be very hot. Temperatures in July and August usually hover at 35-38°C (95-100°F) with high humidity. September to November sees the mercury gradually drop, and Autumn is a favorite season for many, bringing warm, sunny days and long, cool evenings. In November the trees turn vivid shades of red, orange, and yellow.
Winter starts in December, although the real cold hits in early January, bringing with it snow, cold northerly winds, and grey winter days. The first snow usually falls in mid-December and continues intermittently until early March. Up to a meter of snow can fall in the mountain regions, though less usually falls closer to the shore. Japanese homes do not have central heating and possess minimal insulation (due to the summer heat), so winter can be quite cold, but you learn tricks to deal with it.
When spring arrives in March/April, the cherry trees come alive with bursting blossoms and beautiful colors. This new life coincides with the start of the school year and brings renewed enthusiasm. It’s a great time of year when everyone shakes off the winter heads outdoors.
How many people live in Shimane?
The population is just over 700,000 which means that we have a population density of 108 people per km². Compare this to the national average of 342 p/km² or Shinjuku’s ridiculous 5,868 p/km², and you will get a good idea of how rural Shimane really is. However, statistics alone can be misleading. Shimane isn’t all endless rice fields. We have 3 ‘urban centers’ spread through the prefecture in Matsue, Izumo, and Hamada, which you’ll never be more than 45 mins from. Matsue and Izumo have cinemas, malls, fast food, and a small but active nightlife. Hamada is smaller in comparison but it’s perfect for day-to-day needs. And for everyone in that area, Hiroshima is only a 90 minute drive away.
Do you have natural disasters?
Obviously nothing is ever certain in Japan, but here in Shimane we are relatively free from earthquakes. We have no active volcanos and the heavy summer typhoons that lash the east coast tend to wear out by the time they reach us.
This all looks great but what’s it really like living there?
The honest answer is it all depends on you. Even if you’ve been to Japan before for Study Abroad, Shimane will be very different from that experience. The way of life in Shimane, especially if you’re coming from a large city, is much slower and can take a while to get used to. It can also be frustrating at times not having access to foods and services you enjoyed at home. But the other side of the coin is that living here has some great advantages:
- It’s cheaper. When you compare transport, accommodation and expenses to being placed in a city like Osaka, living in Shimane leaves you with much more money to spend each month. You can use this to save, pay off loans, or to travel throughout Japan and Asia during the holidays.
- The local people. Of course, being foreign in the inaka can be a disadvantage at times, but in the majority of situations it leads to unexpected moments of generosity, kindness, and welcoming. This ‘specialness’ is a major part of our love for Shimane. After you’ve been here for a while, it’s really nice to walk around and hear people call out your name and wave from windows above!
- Other JETs. All of us come here wanting to discover Japan’s culture but a great off-shoot of living in tight-knit Shimane is the internationalisation that happens within our community. In the last few years we’ve had Americans, Irish, Australians, South Africans, Jamaicans, Finnish, Koreans, Kiwis, Kenyans, Chinese, Canadians, French and more. And when it’s time to blow off steam, we throw some pretty good parties!
- Nature. Shimane is beautiful, a mountain range rolling into the sea. Being in the heart of Japan we really do get all 4 seasons and the countryside is the perfect canvas.
- Time. We often hear from friends in Tokyo that they “love it… but it’s lonely; everyone is either too busy to meet up or they live 3 trains away”. The irony of living in the countryside is that it gives you more opportunities to hang out, not less. Also, the extra hours that you get from not spending your time commuting, free up your day to learn new hobbies, play new sports or just have fun with friends.