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!

I am currently on vacation and will return to reply to comments and provide new content later. Until then, please enjoy an excess of doodles and comics about my daily life in the San’in region. See you in mid January!

I love onsen, and am founder and president of the “Hello My Onsen” club here in Shimane. That’s really just a fancy name based on a funny typo for a small group of JET participants who go to hot springs around Shimane together. Well, so far our little club has only gotten together once, but even if we don’t go together, we’re united in the spirit of love for hot mineral water and decorative baths! Not to mention good skin, as Shimane is once again rated as the best prefecture for beautiful skin.

EDIT: Just to make sure this isn’t misunderstood out of context, yes, they are gender-seperate! Like I said, this feels so normal to me now that I forget how weird I used to find the idea.

I am currently on vacation and will return to reply to comments and provide new content later. Until then, please enjoy an excess of doodles and comics about my daily life in the San’in region. See you in mid January!

Just so it’s clear–this wasn’t at a hotel, but a local center with a public bath, it’s highly unlikely you’d see anything unless you happen to be looking at the windows (which I was, seeing as I was still new to the area and observing everything). Even then, it was just a shadow. Don’t need to be afraid to use the onsen! Unless you’re really, really far out in the mountains somewhere, but I have no such experiences to speak of.

Following up the previous post about the first shrine and temple visits of the new year, this is a report on my visit to Kamosu Shrine.

Not that it looked like this when I visited at night. Thanks, Wiki!

Kamosu Shrine (an Izanami shrine–and one that the people of Matsue are most proud of) is the oldest shrine with Taisha-tsukuri architecture, which is particularly known for its roof design unlike that of the curved roofs of temples borrowed from Chinese style. Like most Shinto shrines, it is not just one shrine–rather, many little houses for different Kami, with a primarily one facing the entrance of the shrine. Vistors don’t enter them, but instead stand in front and peer in from windows or doors, if they happen to be open. Furthermore, the main focal point for the offerings isn’t even the true shrine itself. Instead, the main shrine (the honden) is behind this room and elevated. Kamosu’s honden is a National Treasure.

One of the key points about Taisha-tsukuri shrines is that based on the angle of the ends of the crossed sections on top, you can tell whether the diety being honored is male or female. That doesn’t make much sense in words, so take a look at a couple of the smaller shrines within Kamosu:

Click to follow to photo source and more photos of Kamosu Shrine (Japanese)

After watching the end of Kouhaku Uta Gassen–the biggest musical event of the year, over 4 hours of popular performers in a men-versus-women singing competition–and bringing in the new year with soba noodles and watching the ringing of the joyonokane on TV (a Buddhist ritual to cleanse humanity of the 108 sins and temptations), we set out at around 12:30am on January 1st to do our visit. It was like shrine visits any other time of the year–rinsing your hands before entering, tossing money before the kami, then praying in the bow-twice-clap-twice-wishful-thinking-bow-again style, and repeating the process at any of the smaller kami houses throughout the shrine.

Here's a little of my pocket money. Now can I get rich this year, please?

Also like any other time of the year, you can buy o-mamori (good luck charms and talismans) and draw omikuji fortunes, but the ones being sold at New Years are new, and many people return the previous year’s good luck charms so they can be burned.

Time to pick out this year's omamori...

Nevertheless, heavy emphasis is placed on many firsts of the year, and the visit felt special. It helped that the weather created a certain mood–it was a windless night with slowly falling snow, the moonlight was hazy, and the features of the shrine seemed to glow under a light layer of snow. Unlike larger shrines around Japan that were packed with people even at midnight, Kamosu was nearly silent. Even the miko (shrine maidens) offering New Years amazake (sweet rice wine) moved silently with sweet smiles, and spoke in soft voices like whispers.

Would you care for some sake and brown rice?

Oh, but this was different. Brown rice was being offered with the sake? We asked the miko what the significance of this was, and their pleasant atmosphere seemed to shatter into confusion. These miko probably had no idea why they were serving rice–after all, contrary to what popular culture might lead one to believe about the fine upbringing of holy maidens, these girls were most likely high schoolers who took on a part time job for the New Year season.

After our brief visit, we took a drive over to the Tamazukuri Onsen area to take a 1am visit to the outdoor ashiyu (hot spring foot bath) as the snowfall gotten thicker. We stayed under a covered roof for this visit, but it’ll be nice to go back when the weather is warmer to use the ashiyu in the stream! This was my first time at trying out the waters at Tamatsukuri, which are said to have some of the best minerals for your skin in all of Japan (on that note, according to POLA research done last year, Shimane is the best prefecture in Japan for beautiful skin!).

Our local hot springs--highly recommended!

Today is my first day back at work, but the season of firsts will still go on until about January 15th or so. I still have time to write another entry about my other firsts of the year and how else I celebrated Japan’s most important holiday of the year!