Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shimane by numbers

or, everything you ever wanted to know about Shimane (but were afraid to ask)

I live in Shimane Prefecture. It's not a well known place, in fact I had lived in Japan for 2 years before I had even heard of it.


Shimane Prefecture, along with the other 46 Prefectures, was created in 1871 when the Meiji government redrew the political boundaries. Shimane was formed by combing the 3 former provinces of Izumo, Iwami, and the Oki Islands. These old provincial identities remain strong today which is why I rarely mention Shimane, rather Iwami, Izumo, or the Okis.

The size of Shimane is 6,707 sq. kilometers. which makes it the 18th largest prefecture. It is roughly the same size as the county of Devon in England, or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Shimane has a population of roughly 761,000, making it the 2nd least populated prefecture.
That is roughly equivalent to the population of Devon. Actually that figure is probably a little smaller as it is a few years old and Shimane continues to depopulate. People are still moving to the big cities, and as far as I can tell the reason is often for work and "convenience"! Not exactly sure what convenience is, but personally I don't find indentured servitude and rabid consumption at all convenient!

The population density is 114 people per square kilometer, which is the 4th least densely populated prefecture. (compare that to Tokyo, with a population density of more than 100 times that)

A walk to Kojindani 5047

79% of Shimane is forest. Almost none of it is original forest, and this century an awful lot of cedar and cypress plantations have been planted. Being mostly forest, and not heavily populated is probably why Shimane often has the most bear sightings per year in Japan.

my humble abode

Shimane has the cheapest building land prices in Japan. The average cost is 27,000 yen per square meter (approx $250), and as that is the average it means much cheaper building land can be had.

This is my house. I'm not going to give you the price, suffice it to say it cost the same as one years rent for the tiny apartment we lived in in Kyoto. The house is more than 10 times larger than the apartment. Actually, because of Japans strange property market the house was free, we just paid for the land. The house is more than 50 years old which means in japan it has no value.


It is what could be called a "fixer-upper", but perfectly habitable when we moved in. Since adding insulation and a woodstove it is very comfortable, and I am gradually renovating and remodelling it.


  1. The name of your blog makes perfect sense now. I didn't realize you were in Shimane (being too lazy to look up place names when you have referenced them). I recently finished Hearn's book.

  2. Wow, i didn't realize that Shimane had so many bears. i suppose I should've paid more attention while hiking.

  3. Al.... i'm trying to do for Iwami what Hearn did for Izumo :)

    Ted.... I've heard bears a couple of times, but I've yet to see one here.... and I'm trying to!!

  4. Hey jake,

    Thanks for this post. Nice house you've got there, and your neck of the woods sounds wild !


  5. Hi Ken... I like the house.. its has character. All the neighbors said we should knock it down and build a new one... ha!

  6. I am just reading your blog for the first time and reading it makes me natsukashii for Shimane. I lived in the town formerly known as Yokota (now I believe it is Oku-Izumo?) for two years. I have lived in Gifu City for quite a while now. Other friends tell me Gifu is inaka, but how I miss REAL inaka. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh my gosh! I was in the other part of Okuizumo, Nita, for two years :) such a beautiful place.

  7. I walked through Yokota a few years ago. 3 days walking down the Hi River :)
    I also get surprised by what some people consider inaka!

  8. Your blog makes me wish I didn't go to college and rack up so much debt...

    I would love to be a farmer in Japan and just make pottery all day. Maybe make beer and sake too!

    I gotta say that I really admire your outlook, and it's great to hear that their are minds living in Japan who are showing others that ultra-consumerism is just poison. I bet many of your friends in Japan really look up to you...

    ...or think you're a crazy, wild Gaijin, lol.

  9. crazy gaijin is the most common reaction.....

  10. Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!