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)
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.
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.