As part of my ninja romp through the obstacle course at Adventure Forest in Gotsu City, I also checked out Arifuku Cafe in the Arifuku Onsen area. It’s one of three places in the very charming, tiny townscape that I wish I would have saved more daylight to walk around and take pictures of. I sort of blame the cafe, because even for having only seen a tiny portion of the stylish amenities, my friend and I stayed there a long, long time, completely swept up in the quiet, relaxing atmosphere and our conversation.

Here in the regular cafe space, there are some roof tiles to write wishes on. The Iwami area–that is, the western block of Shimane Prefecture–is a well-known spot for producing quality rooftiles.

You can enjoy a view of some of those roof tiles by sitting outside with your feet soaking in a little basin of hot onsen water, which flows throughout the little town area and sends steam up from the streams.

Ah, the charming townscape.

But what’s back through that door?

An indoor hall of rooms, behind which are the decorated rooms with beds which you can rent out for nighttime or daytime use.

And parallel to it, an outdoor hall with doors leading to the onsen rooms named after the Seven Lucky Gods, rented out by the hour for private use.

These make a great little introduction to onsen culture for visitors to Japan who are shy about bathing with strangers, and who don’t want to pay for a full ryokan experience. The sizes of the rooms and characteristics are reflected in the prices (the lowest ones run 1,500 yen per hour for one to two people), and not all have access to the outside. Even the indoor ones, however, are situated by sunlight windows. The bath water, naturally extremely hot near its source, can be adjusted with cold water to suit your preferences, but the natural light and wood tones give it a warm atmosphere as well. The pH 9.0 water is known for its cleansing properties and gives your skin a soft and springy texture like rice cakes.

After a dip in the onsen, my friend I thought we’d just get drinks in the cafe and then be on our way, but as I mentioned before, we stayed quite a while. I specifically chose the chairs I thought I’d be least likely to get cozy in and doze off in, but we got too comfortable anyway! Along this cafe is supposed to be a good spot for specialized coffee roasted with bamboo charcoal, my friend went with a hot cocoa and I went with a ginger ale with a generous amount of very tasty fruit.

For being a relatively small city, sandwiched between Hamada and Oda, Gotsu has no shortage of stylish and satisfying cafes or fancy onsen facilities. Kaze no Kuni Onsen Resort was also a favorite!


Way out along the mountains overlooking the beaches of the little town of Gotsu, there are ninja lurking in the forest…

…or at least, you’ll feel like a ninja as you make your way through “Adventure Forest,” an obstacle course that is free for both children and adults to use, and provides a good workout no matter what your age. There are occasional challenges in addition to the course of 20 local mythology themed (or at least, name-inspiring) obstacles, and although there are detours for all of them, where’s the fun in that? I did them all and had a great time, but I wish I made use of some of those small muscle groups more often–they get so overlooked when you’re not climbing ropes or scaling trails of logs!

For all the J-Pop or singer-songwriter fans out there (or anyone who enjoys some easy, uplifting tunes), I’d like to introduce a musical duo called Kotonoha, made up of a couple native Shimaneians* named Moe and Yuka.

This first video was features western Shimane in the towns of Tsuwano, Masuda, Hamada, and Gotsu.

This one takes place on the Oki Islands.

And here’s one in Izumo.

More information here on the website, though it’s all in Japanese:

Shimane map: Oki, Matsue, Izumo, Gotsu, Hamada, Masuda, Tsuwano

These a few of the places where you might be able to take part in a homestay during the 23rd Japan-America Grassroots Summit in Summer 2013. This is a very good opportunity for any Americans of any age, occupation, or language level to visit Japan and have a very authentic experience, so please look into it and pass the information along to anyone you know who may be interested.

*Or as some of the CIRs and I have taken to referring to ourselves, “Shimaniacs”