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Chūgoku 中国
Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima
Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima.

Introduction

The Chūgoku region is the Western part of Honshū, comprising the prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane and Tottori. The southern coast, bathed by the Seto Inland Sea is known as the San'yō (山陽) region, or "sunny side of the mountains", in contrast to the San'in (山陰), the shady side to the north.

Although the area does not have any city over 1 million inhabitants, sightseeing isn't scarce. The prefectures of Yamaguchi and Hiroshima have particularly lots of small, attractive, historical towns.

The biggest city in Chūgoku is Okayama, which has a famous black castle reconstruction. Nearby Kurashiki is one of the little-known jewels of Japan, with beautiful canals, plenty of museums, admirable Edo-era warehouses, and even greco-roman edifices.

Following the San'yō railway line westward, stop at the castle town of Fukuyama on the way to Tomo-no-ura, a picturesque fishing village on the Inland Sea.

Built on the steep slopes of Mount Senkōji, Onomichi is a messy-looking port, but one commanding great views. Its temple walk on the ridge of Senkōji-san are definitely a highlight of the region.

The San'yō Expressway forks off at Fukuyama towards Onomichi, where it becomes the Nishi-Seto Expressway crossing the Inland Sea all the way to Shikoku on a compact archipelago. On the third island from Onomichi, Ikuchi-jima, lies Kōsanji, Japan's gaudiest temple. It was built single-handedly by a former business manager in 1936 and is exceptional for incorporating reproductions of some of Japan's most famous temples, a complex of nearly 20 buildings altogether, including a copy of the sumptuous Yōmei-mon Gate from Nikkō's Tōshōgū Shrine.

Everyone coming to Japan knows about Hiroshima, the city onto which the world's first atomic bomb was dropped in August 1945. The bomb has destroyed pretty much all the historical monuments, although the castle was later reconstructed. Apart from the A-Bomb Museum and Peace Memorial Park, the city also possess two fine art museums.

A stone's throw away from Hiroshima, Miyajima Island is home to one of Japan's most famous view, the floating torii of the Itsukishima Shrine.

Iwakuni, just 45 min from Hiroshima, is a town divided between its samurai heritage, an old picturesque bridge and a US military base.

Yamaguchi city, the diminutive capital of Yamaguchi prefecture, has been called a "little Kyoto", due to its rich historical heritage.

The last city at the western tip of Honshū is Shimonoseki, the crossing point to Kyūshū and national capital of fugu.

Going up the San'in coast from Shimonoseki, you will reach historic town of Hagi. Samurai from Hagi played an essential role in the history of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration. A bit further inland is the delectable Tsuwano, also renowned for its samurai quarter, and famous for its colourful carps swimming in the waterways along its old streets, and for its old steam train.

Izumo Taisha is one of Japan's great shrines. It is said that all the kami (gods) of Japan assemble there for one month every year. An hour away from Izumo, Matsue has one of Japan's few remaining original castle, and a pleasant samurai quarter, where British writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) lived for a year.

Attractions

Attractions are listed geographically, from west to east (left to right) and roughly from north to south (top to bottom).

West

Hagi
Hagi Museum (photo by As6022014 - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Hagi is a pleasant little town, suitable for strolling and biking. It has several historical places, like the Jokamachi's old samurai residential quarter, the temples of the Teramachi district or the ruins of the castle in the Shizuki-koen...Read more
Yamaguchi
Yamaguchi
very good The small capital of the Yamaguchi prefecture (pop. 130,000) acted as alternative capital to Kyōto during the late Muromachi period (1467-1573), when the war raged around Kyōto and noblemen sought refuge in Western Honshū's...Read more
Iwakuni
Iwakuni
outstanding The old castle town of Iwakuni, 40 km south of Hiroshima, is home to one of Japan's most famous traditional bridges, the Kintai-kyō, as well as well-preserved samurai quarters. It is also the location of one of the two US Marines...Read more
Shimonoseki
Shimonoseki
very good Capital of the fugu (blowfish), the industrial town of Shimonoseki doesn't have any compelling attraction, though its history and strategic location at the tip of Western Honshū are of considerable interest. It is off the coast of Shimonoseki...Read more

Other attractions

very good Tsuwano

Central

Matsue
Matsue
outstanding Matsue is the capital of Shimane prefecture, one of Japan's least densely populated region. One of the striking feature of the town is its geographic position on the Ohashi river, right between Lake Shinji-ko and and Lake Nakanoumi...Read more
Izumo-taisha Grand Shrine
Izumo-taisha Grand Shrine (photo by Blue Lotus - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
very good The remote town of Izumo, 33km west of Matsue, is home to Japan's oldest and largest Shinto shrine, Izumo Taisha - although it only comes second in importance after Ise Jingu. The shrine was established in times immemorial...Read more
Miyajima
Miyajima
must-see The floating shrine of Itsukushima, more commonly called Miyama-jima, is one of Japan's three great views, and possibly the most photogenic one. The shrine is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list...Read more
Hiroshima
Hiroshima
very good The mere name of Hiroshima usually brings to Western minds images of atomic devastation and its terrible after-effects. Indeed, 6 August 1945 will remain a tragic memorial day for many generations to come, as the first nuclear...Read more

East

Takahashi
Takahashi
very good Takahashi is home to one of Japan's 12 original castles, Bitchu-Matsuyama-jo Castle, as well as the beautiful Zen gardens of the Raikyu-ji Temple. The town has retained some traditional districts with white samurai and merchant houses...Read more
Okayama
Okayama Castle  (photo by 663highland - e Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
very good Okayama is home to one of Japan's three finest garden, the Kōraku-en Garden. Its name means "taking pleasure later", from the Chinese proverb that "the lord must bear sorrow before his people, and take pleasure after them"...Read more
Kurashiki
Kurashiki
outstanding Just 16km from Okayama, Kurashiki (pop. 432,000) boasts one of Japan's best preserved historical neighbourhood and is indeed well-worth visiting. One kilometer south of the station the area surrounding the old canal is a jewel of old...Read more
Onomichi
Onomichi
very good Locked between the Inland Sea of Japan and the hilly spine of Western Honshu, Onomichi is an agreeable stop between Hiroshima and Okayama. Its temple walk commands stunning views on the Inland Sea and its islands...Read more

Other attractions

good Fukuyama
very good Tomonoura

Wa-pedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

good : moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
very good : recommended - to visit if you have time
outstanding : outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
must-see : best of the country - shouldn't be missed
best in Europe : one of the world's great cities (beyond rating)

Natural attractions

good : interesting
very good : recommended
outstanding : highly recommended
must-see : world-class
※ : UNESCO World Heritage site UNESCO







               

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