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SHIMANE Hamada Some of the best beaches in Western Japan, and ancient music and dance

Some of the best beaches in Western Japan, and ancient music and dance

A very rural region populated with small mountain and coastal villages, Hamada has some of the best beaches in western Japan. Remote and traditional, yet less than two hours from Hiroshima , the town is also a hub for Iwami Kagura , a vibrant type of theatrical folk dance rooted in the Shinto religion. At night, the glimmer of local squid fishing fleets light up the sky.

Don't Miss

  • Iwami Kagura—some of the wildest traditional dance entertainment you'll ever see
  • Miles of white sandy beaches
  • Hiking the Chugoku Nature Trail

How to Get There

From eastern Japan, Hamada is best reached by highway or overnight bus. The main bus transport hubs for the area are Hiroshima Station (roughly two hours), and Kobe and Osaka Stations (less than six hours). The JR Rail Pass is accepted on the JR highway and overnight buses only.

Arriving from the west, Hamada is easily reached by train on the JR San'in Line (with some transfers). Journeys to Hamada Station take about two hours from Shin-Yamaguchi Station—a shinkansen stop—and about 90 minutes from Shimane's prefectural capital of Matsue .

Kagura crazy

Kagura is a traditional dance accompanied by ancient music, and from the minute you arrive in Hamada it seems that the town is “kagura crazy” — signs of this unique, colorful and dynamic folk entertainment are everywhere.

With roots in the Shinto religion, Iwami Kagura is very much a living tradition. The dancers portray the demons, deities, and heroes found in Japan's many myths and legends and the dance rituals are linked to the rhythms of the agricultural calendar. Performances are held throughout the year, not just during the festival seasons of summer and autumn.

Some venues are more accessible than others, but viewing tours are available for remote venues, although sometimes a small surcharge may apply. Drop into the Hamada City Tourist Association Center for booking and other assistance.

Hamada is home to many mask-makers who supply the hundreds of kagura groups in the region. Visit one of the workshops and maybe buy a mask or two.

Surf, hike, ski

Iwami Seaside Park is a five-kilometer stretch of white sandy beaches and blue seas that draws many visitors. A full range of water and beach-based activities are available or visit one of the quieter and secluded beaches or picturesque coves that dot the coastline.

The Chugoku Nature Trail, a hiking route stretching more than 2,000 kilometers through west Japan, passes through Hamada and over mountains and through gorges to the west and east of the city. During winter, a series of ski slopes are available within a 40-minute drive, making Hamada a convenient base for mountain sports.

Onsen resorts with healing waters and more

A post-hike soak in a hot spring is an excellent way to relieve your weary muscles. The area around Hamada is home to many small hot spring resorts. Arifuku, Mimata, and Asahi are three resorts that perform Iwami Kagura for visitors.

One hot spring resort worth noting is Kazenokuni, a large, modern resort high in the remote mountains, but close to the Hamada Expressway if driving from Hiroshima . Part of the complex is a workshop where you can see the local paper, sekishu washi, made by hand and even make some yourself. Used to repair valuable artworks, this UNESCO registered paper is unusually strong. Unique gifts made from it, and the paper itself is on sale in the gift shop.

Around the town

Hamada Castle was destroyed by its lord in 1865 to keep it from falling into enemy hands. From its prominent position atop a headland, there are great views of Hamada's surrounding inlets and bays. If visiting in spring, the area is popular for cherry blossom viewing.

Delicacies straight from the sea to table

From the castle, you can look down on the fishing port and fish market. Located only 100 meters from the dock where the fishing boats unload their catch, the market's eateries offer a huge range of seafood that only hours ago was swimming in the sea. A wide range of seafood-based souvenirs are on sale, and on Sundays, kagura is performed.

Family-friendly activities

Aquas, a huge aquarium near the beaches of Iwami Seaside Park and its big play area, Aquas Land, will keep kids and adults occupied for hours.

High above Hamada City is the Hamada Children's Museum of Art, a large modern museum devoted to art for and by children that hosts regular workshops. Nearby is Yuhi Park, with a range of eating establishments and a big playground.

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