Mihama is a small and beautiful town in Wakasa, 20 minutes south of Tsuruga. It has a population of about 13,000 spread over an area of 150 kilometers in a sprawl of small villages.There are many great places to explore, by car, foot or ideally, by bike. Mihama makes for a great day trip, especially for outdoor adventures.
The Town Hall, Fire Station, Clinic, Post Office and Welfare Centre are all clustered together forlornly in the middle of some paddy fields and are signed off Route 27. The local community center, Chuo Kominkan, offers various courses like cooking, kimono wearing, and ikebana. You can sign up for a Japanese tutor, get involved in calligraphy classes, or sign up for other things from the Tsuruga Center. There are a lot of family run stores on the main street selling everything you could possibly want, including several barbers.
There are 2 on Route 27: A-COOP
A-Coop is newer, bigger and more expensive. It is open from 10am to 8pm and different times during holidays, usually closing at 5pm. It has a local farmers market section and the only real supermarket in Mihama even though you can find many locally owned stores that sell different kinds of locally grown foods sometimes.
If you're really watching the yen, shop at Plant 2 in Kaminaka or V-Mart in Tsuruga if you can be bothered to drive there.
There is a Stationery store and a clothes store near the junior high school on Route 27. The Stationary has a large red sign outside.
Fukui Bank is near the junior high, on the town's main street a block back from Route 27.
DYI HOME/GARDEN STORE
There are 3 Home and Garden Stores on the 27 some are locally owned and there is the big chain known as Komeri.
They are very friendly but a bit expensive.
YELLOW HAT in Tsuruga is cheaper.
ITOCHU has the cheapest gas in town.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Despite its rural appearance, Mihama has a few things in the way of entertainment that are worth checking out if you're in the area. There are quite a number of roadside cafes, convenience stores and restaurants to cater to the Route 27 traffic but most close early. This is just a small selection. For drinking, Tsuruga or Obama are better bets but there are a handful of bars. And if you want Yoshinoya, Atom Boy, Mr.Donut, McDonalds, KFC, Mos Burger, 8-ban Ramen ... Mihama doesn't have any of these.
WAKASA SEASIDE BREWERY
Yes, Mihama brews its own beer (Chidorien's Original). You can sample it and eat hops and barley while there, also there's a whole restaurant complex in the same building. The brewery draws coach loads of visitors so it must be doing something good. Be careful however, it closes early. By Car or Bus: Along route 27 before the main part of town (heading South). By Train: A long hike from Higashi Mihama station.
PALAZZO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Fine dining in inaka! The atmosphere is fun and attracts a young crowd. This is the only restaurant in Mihama that is open past 8pm. The pastas are tasty, and huge. The pizza is authentic Italian style and delicious. Try the 4-cheese Pizza! Count on two or three people. Most anything on the menu will cost you about 1,500 yen. Open until 11pm 7 nights a week.
The friendly owner also runs the Sing Sing ramen restaurant by the Wakuno flyover in Tsuruga. Both are hugely recommended. By Car or Bus: Along route 27 on the left side, before the brewery (heading South). By Train: A long hike from Higashi Mihama station.
Great restaurant serving seafood. The donburi (rice bowls) topped with sashimi or crab come recommended. It's at the Imaichi trafficc lights halfway back to Tsuruga on Route 27 - look for a big crab.
A superb cafe with a fantastic range of cakes and sandwiches too. It's right next to the large Kansai Electric office building at the Mihama Station traffic lights. The best bread for miles around ... beats Patisserie Aigetsudo on the road to the town hall hands down. Try the pastrami baguettes ...
The better of two European restaurants near the Family Mart on the edge of town on Route 27 in the Tsuruga direction. Look for a yellow cabin.
The other restuarant near Merci. It is a brown/red building.
Next to the bookstore near the school. Has a black and white sign in kanji and says udon in hiragana.
ICHIMARU and the wooden brown one at the Goichi traffic lights have pricey reputations.
There are loads in the Kugushi area and favorite ones include Ikkyu and the Hirose hotel (the massive one on the waterfront). These places may do meals for smaller parties - the food is gorgeous.
There are a few around. The one on the corner of the station road is pleasant enough and recommended by teachers. At the railway crossing near the Goichi traffic lights, there are two more specializing in seafood and ramen/grilled meat respectively. The last one does a mean and cheap vegetable broth too. Cafe Mimi in the Saigo hotel on Route 27 seems to be popular.
A karaoke bar down by Kugushi beach.
Also there are rumors of another karaoke bar near the station.
This is a list of annual events and festivals in the Mihama area. They are mostly small village celebrations, but they may be worth a look if you are around.
HIRUGA SUICHI TSUNAHIKI MATSURI (Underwater Tug-o-war), in Hiruga.
2nd or 3rd weekend of January. The young men of the village brave the January temperatures of Lake Hiruga for a tug-o-war dressed only in loincloths. The rope represents the “Daigya”, an evil and mighty sea serpent, which according to legend threatened the harmony of Hiruga.
The aim of the tug-o-war is to pull the rope with hands and teeth until it is torn apart. Once the serpent's body has been ripped in two, the battle is won and the village is safe again, until next year.
UWASE-JINJA NO SHINJI (Divine Service of Uwase).
April 8th Uwase shrine lies in Kiyama, between Mikata and Mihama. This festival celebrates the Dance of the King and includes flutes and taiko drumming.
ITSUKI HIROSHI MARATHON
3rd weekend in April. OK, so it's not really a festival, but this is a road race of various distances of 1.5km to 20km. Your teachers will be very impressed if you join in! Even if you don't, pop down and have a look. It's along the road to Nyu, Mihama Genden and Shiraki and is a beautiful run. Also, the marathon is named after Mihama's Favourite SonTM, Itsuki Hiroshi. He's a famous enka singer who hails from Mihama (you can see his house and a portrait of him near Kawaraichi traffic lights). He usually puts on a charity concert the night before, and as he's a showbiz personality for the past couple of years he's invited some of Morning Musume to sing too. Morning Musume! In Mihama!
MIYASHIRIO JINJA MATSURI
May 1st Another Dance of the King, this time at Miyashiro Shrine.
KODOMO KABUKI (in Hayase)
May 5th An all day festival with the local Hayase kids dressed in full kabuki gear.
3rd weekend in June. Again, not a festival but a mass walk on the same lines as Mikata's Two Day March. 3/5/10km courses available, around Lake Kugushi. There is a smaller community walk in May too.
KUGUSHI BOAT FESTIVAL (in Kugushi)
July 13th Some sort of children's boat festival.
MINATSUKI MATSUKI (in Hayase)
July 27th A few stalls and lanterns to celebrate the old month of June
KUGUSHI BEACH FIREWORKS
August - the Friday of Obon. Good and not as crowded as Tsuruga, Oi or Fukui fireworks.
SUGAHAMA OBON MATSURI (in Sugahama).
August 15th. The local “All Souls” day. A boat with lots of costumed people aboard gets launched. You can see the boat and the mikoshi portable shrines they use at the festival all year round in the big building at the edge of Sugahama village.
THE FIVE LAKES OF MIKATA AND THE RAINBOW LINE
See the Mikata guide for extensive information on the lakes.
Just north-east of the lakes is the Tsunekami headland. This is also a really good place to cycle as the road winds its way along the rocky coast. Tsunekami is famous for beautiful sunsets and a pine forest. By Car: from Route 27, turn off at Mikata Station onto Rte.162. Take this road past Mikata lake, through a tunnel, and then turn right. Just follow this coast road.
Mihama means beautiful (mi) beaches (hama).The main town beaches (Kugushi/Matsubara/Wada) are nothing special, but the other beaches are really nice places to sunbathe, swim and surf.
SUISHOHAMA AND DAIYAHAMA
Famous beaches which attract visitors from as far a field as Osaka. At the end of spring the sunsets are the best I've ever seen. Despite the oil spill in January 1997, the sand looks white and clean still, although I'm told you have to watch where you sit in places, despite the extensive clean-up. Also, with a bit of imagination, you can forget that the nuclear power station lurking at the far end of the bay really exists.
The best time to go swimming is probably August, when the jelly fish slink off to deeper water to do whatever jelly fish do for a month. The traffic on Rte.27 at this time is awful. The peak time is late afternoon on weekends. The beaches are also great for fireworks on summer nights, and quiet contemplation any other time.
By Car: Take Rte.27 from Tsuruga. Shortly after the first tunnel from Tsuruga, you come off the flyover on to the old Rte.27 and you'll see a big blue sign (in English) to Mihama Genden to the right. Follow this coast road. The beaches are about 10 minutes away by car (on a light traffic day). Also there are buses (see above). There is car parking but its expensive (1500yen in summer) and there are a few cafes and bars.
FISHING AND KERYUU NO SATO
If you like fishing, then Mihama must be good as it offers lakes, the sea and rivers. To the south of Mihama along the Mimi river, south of Shinjo village, you can fish for‘ayu' (sweet fish).
The rules for fishing seem a little vague. The river runs through quite secluded areas, so there are no wardens or policemen to answer your questions. Apparently you don't need a license if you are not using a net. The ayu fishing season is May to September. (Myotsuji in Obama is also recommended for ayu as the water is less muddy and the fish tastier than in the Mimi).
Further up the river is Keryuu no Sato, a trout farm and fishing center. Here you can rent an area of the river and beach and a BBQ, and all the equipment you need for a day's fishing, drinking, sunbathing and eating trout. Bring your own beer. By Car. Take Rte 27 from Tsuruga to Mihama town. After you pass the A-COOP supermarket there will soon be a large sign in romaji to Shinjo at Kawaraichi traffic lights. There's also a big blue and yellow picture of a trout. Follow the sign, turning left. You will soon see the Mimi river on your right. Keep on this road until you reach the fish farm (about 10kms). If you want more information and your Japanese is good, phone the Mihama town hall 0770-32-2000.
NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS
More distraction than attraction, but the nuclear plants at Nyu and Shiraki both have visitor centers. The emc2centre at the Monju plant in Shiraki has a giant cinema screen. Both the plants are famous for scandal ... the Mihama tourist board achieved notoriety for airbrushing the Nyu plant out of advertisement pictures of Suishohama beach. More seriously, after a big sodium leak in 1994, the Monju plant hasn't been restarted since.
Apart from the lakes, exploring the villages in the area makes for a great trip. If you cycle up the mountain to Keryuu no Sato and beyond, you'll eventually reach Makino in Shiga Prefecture. Just over the top of the mountain are a couple of reservoirs and if you carry on down the other side of the mountain you get to Lake Biwa.
There is a gentle walk up to Byobu waterfall. Cycle or drive to Shinjo village south of Mihama. Turn right up Byo river past some rice paddies and into the woods. It takes about 30 minutes and should be marked by signs with 4 kanji characters. It's a small waterfall- about 3 meters high- but the area is attractive and there is a small statue of Buddha hidden nearby. You might also want to consider climbing Tenno-san (30/40 mins), the large solitary hill by the sea that looms over Mihama. There are paths up from Sakajiri and Kino villages and there's a small shrine on top. In fact, most of the local hills have paths and shrines.
There's also the local Nosaka Mountain where the JHS kids climb every year. If you're lucky you'll go when it's not raining. It's about a 2.5 hour hike to the top and I think there's a guest house at the bottom of the mountain. There's another picturesque torii on a rock in the sea just past the Hirose hotel towards Hayase village.
Take Route 27 from Tsuruga towards Obama. It takes about 20 minutes and Mihama is the first main town (you will pass through Higashi Mihama village). The main part of town is after the second tunnel. Obama is about 45 minutes drive. I think the town line officially starts near the Palazzo restaurant if you're coming from Tsuruga.
Take the train from Tsuruga on the JR Obama line. There are trains about every hour between 06:31 and 22:20. Last trains out of Mihama: to Tsuruga at 21:46 and Obama at 22:41. You should check the times carefully coming home late at night, because there are no taxis parked at the smaller stations. The trains take about 20 minutes to Tsuruga (¥320) and 40 minutes to Obama (¥570). If you're going to do a big trip, you might want to check www.hyperdia.com for train details.
There are 10 buses a day from Tsuruga station bus stop 2. Four of them continue to Mikata , the other six go to Hiruga, one of Mihama's villages. They're more expensive than the trains and take longer, but if you've just missed a train they might be worth considering. Also the buses can take you to the Lakes directly if you're not driving - otherwise it's a brisk walk from Mihama, Mikata or Kiyama stations. Another reason to take them might be if you want to drink at the brewery as there's a bus stop outside.
A separate bus goes from Tsuruga station to Shiraki, and can take you to Suishohama beach. There are only a handful of these buses a day but could be useful if you don't have a car or want to drink on the beach. Annoyingly, there are no direct buses between central Mihama town and Suishohama but you could always hang around in the bus shelter at Sata and wait for a connection.