There’s so much more to Japan than Tokyo and Kyoto. Take a journey with me to the Setouchi area of Japan. This is the largest inland sea in Japan and comprises of 3,000 islands spread amongst 7 prefectures- Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama, Hyogo, Ehime, Kagawa, and Tokushima.
Popular cities you’ll find in this area include Kobe, home of Kobe Beef located in Hyogo Prefecture and Hiroshima, located in Hiroshima Prefecture. On my first trip to Japan, I discovered that there is more to this area than these two cities.
In Hiroshima, you will be steeped in history learning about the infamous day the bomb was dropped on the city, through the documentaries, pictures and artifacts at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum is well curated and showcases a detailed timeline of the events leading to that infamous day so take time to go through it all.
After Hiroshima be sure to visit the island of Miyajima. This was my favorite stop as it was magical for its beautiful temples, the iconic tori on the water, it’s lush forests and water trickling on the island and more. If you love hiking this is a great place to do it and you will see others on the path as well.
While Itsukushima Shrine is the most popular shrine on the island, high up in the sky is the temple Daisho- In. The lush green foliage in and around the temple not to mention the water running around the area made it all the more spiritual. Don’t forget to pray for what your heart desires while there.
Do not leave the island without grabbing a Momiji Manju cake! I love desserts and this dessert hit the spot. It came in a variety of flavors such as chocolate and apple. Get the freshly made ones which taste much better than the prepackaged ones.
The countryside is probably not on your list of places to visit and I must admit there really is no reason why you would visit Onomichi. However, should you want to relax in the lap of luxury the place for this is at Bella Vista Marina and Spa. Put simply the views from this hotel are incredible and the rooms are top notch. Not to mention they have their own marina for boat lovers sailing around the sea. Needless to say, Bella Vista is the ultimate stay in luxury.
Eventually, I found myself meandering in Kurashiki, a small town located in Okayama Prefecture which reminded me of Venice, Italy with its canal. You can catch a boat ride down the canal dotted with historical buildings on its banks. The best part of this area is the access to parks for quiet meditation located in the area.
If you crave adventure visit the Iwa Valley. If the winding road where you can catch a glimpse of the rocks and river rushing below is not thrilling enough for you try crossing the Kazura Vine Bridge. This was by far the scariest thing I did in Japan. If you’re afraid of heights look forward and never look down at the rocks and crashing water below. I found solace in knowing that while the bridge is thousands of years old, it is refurbished from time to time. Catch this BBC Travel Show video on it.
Lastly, relaxation can also be found at the Dogo Onsens (public bath houses) of Matusyama in Ehime prefecture. There are 2 famous ancient onsens in the area not to mention the numerous hotels with their own onsens. Should you decide to go to an onsen, don’t forget to grab your robe from your hotel. In fact, you’ll notice everyone in town clad in a robe.
If You Go:
Try for an authentic Japanese experience and stay at a ryokan like Oborozukiyo
Eat- Whatever you do eat okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. Quite possibly my favorite meal throughout my stay
- Himeji Castle- built with booby traps to protect itself from attacks. None ever occurred but we have this beautiful castle to visit.
- The Itsukushima Shrine- Get there early in the morning before the 11am crowds and experience the spirituality of the shrine in quiet. It, of course, helps to have a guide around to help you understand the different areas of the shrine.
- Miyajima Brewery- Great beer and they also have a restaurant as well
- Doppokan Brewery- The gin here is to die for! Take a tour and try out their different sakes and beer.
Ready to go to Japan after reading this? Email us your request at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get started on an itinerary for you.