- Iwakuni City in Yamaguchi Prefecture is most conveniently reached by local train from JR Shin-Iwakuni Station (a Shinkansen stop) or bus from Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport.
- When departing Ehime Prefecture, fly from Matsuyama Airport, or take a local train from JR Matsuyama Station to JR Okayama Station.
Blessed with spectacular scenery, the Setouchi region provides the visitor with a range of opportunities both to get physical and to enjoy a relaxing experience of traditional Japan, far from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Spanning three prefectures, this itinerary takes both perspectives into consideration, and offers a mix of excitement and quiet relaxation. To get the blood pumping, take to the sea in a kayak and discover a new perspective on one of Japan’s most famous sites. Rent a bicycle, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Seto Inland Sea on two wheels. To relax, sample the gourmet cuisine of Yamaguchi Prefecture and oysters on Miyajima. In Ehime Prefecture, immerse yourself in a steaming hot bath at Japan’s oldest hot spring, and stroll the streets of Uchiko-cho, transported to another time. We think that every traveler will find something to enjoy.
Spanning the clear waters of the Nishiki River in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the Kintai-kyo Bridge is a continuous five-arch structure of a uniquely impressive type. Over 193 meters in length and five meters in width, the main structure of the bridge was made using traditional Japanese building techniques, and was built to last. This superb man-made structure is surrounded by gently sloping mountains, offering the visitor beautiful views in every season: In spring you can look forward to sumptuous cherry blossom, and in summer, the fascination of traditional cormorant fishing. In fall, multicolored leaves provide a magnificent backdrop to the bridge, while in winter, it is set off against a blanket of pure white snow. Cross the bridge marveling at the skill of Japan’s traditional craftspeople, and take in some of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s finest scenery with a refreshing stroll along the riverbank.
The Gourmet Delights of Yamaguchi (Kawara Soba and Fugu)
Kawara soba and a variety of fugu dishes are the representative gourmet dishes of Yamaguchi Prefecture, and are not to be missed by the visitor. Kawara soba is a regional dish consisting of green tea soba noodles topped with shredded omelet and beef simmered in a salty-sweet sauce, presented on a hot roof tile, or kawara. Extremely popular locally, the dish often appears on the family dining table. The tastes and textures of this local specialty are sure to delight every diner. Fugu dishes are another Yamaguchi gourmet delight that a visitor must sample. We recommend the fugu sashimi, a luxury dish that is often presented to guests at fine Japanese restaurants. The preparation of the sashimi is truly an art, with flesh cut so finely that it can be seen through arranged beautifully on a plate for presentation. Top with some momiji oroshi (grated daikon radish and chili) and sliced spring onion, dip in a little ponzu sauce, and enjoy!
Three Miyajima Experiences not to be Missed(Oysters at Kakiwai / Sea Kayaking / Itsukushima Shrine)
Welcome to Miyajima, a historical center of traditional Japanese spirituality. But we haven’t forgotten earthly pleasures, and so the first of our three Miyajima experiences is the island’s oyster cuisine. The restaurant Kakiwai, which specializes in local oysters, is a must. Located on a slight rise, its windows offer an excellent vantage point on the unruffled waters of the Seto Inland Sea, the streetscapes of the island’s interior, and the Five-Story Pagoda and the adjacent Senjokaku (a 1,000-tatami-mat hall). Enjoy a harmonious marriage of oil-marinated oysters and local Hiroshima wines in the perfect surroundings as you take in the spectacular scenery of this beautiful island.
Next on the list is sea kayaking. Passing close to the Great Torii Gate and viewing the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shrine from the sea is an experience that is simply not available any other way. Short tours of just over an hour are available, allowing you to fit this unique experience in during a short break from your regular sightseeing.
And the third essential Miyajima experience must be a visit to Itsukushima Shrine itself. The unique structure of the shrine is built to protrude into the ocean, and at high tide the entire complex appears to be floating on the surface of the water. A stroll through the vermillion corridors of the shrine, spanning a total length of around 275 meters, brings the mysterious beauty of this special location alive.
Atomic Bomb Dome / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
An essential destination for every visitor to Hiroshima, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is located at the very heart of Hiroshima City, and is a green space established to honor the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and to express the wish for world peace. This area was Hiroshima’s bustling central business district before the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. A peace memorial ceremony is held on August 6 every year in the square in front of Kenzo Tange’s Memorial Cenotaph to the victims of the bomb, and large numbers of people from throughout the world gather to pray for peace.
The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was originally a prefectural government building that was partially destroyed by the atomic bomb. The dome-shaped steel frame that remained saw the building come to be called the Atomic Bomb Dome. It stands as a symbol of the pledge to seek peace, and even today bears witness to the horror of the bombing.
Take to the air! SETOUCHI SEAPLANES is a company offering sightseeing flights using amphibious planes. Guests take off from the water for a 50-minute flight, seeing the sights from a vantage point high above the Seto Inland Sea. One of SETOUCHI SEAPLANE’s five planes is called L’ala Rossa, or Red Wing, and was painted red under the supervision of Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, based on his animated film Porco Rosso. SETOUCHI SEAPLANE’s fleet features carpeted floors, leather seats, and luxurious interior fittings. Come and enjoy a luxury experience in the air in a cabin designed for comfort.
Just a seven-minute walk from JR Onomichi Station, ONOMICHI U2 is a one-stop complex where you can stay, shop, and eat. HOTEL CYCLE in the complex is a 100% cyclist-friendly hotel, allowing riders to check in without dismounting, and even take their bikes to their rooms. Within ONOMICHI U2, you will also find a restaurant and café, in addition to Shima Shop, which offers local Setouchi arts and crafts as ideal souvenirs. Relax here in comfort and enjoy the food and culture of Setouchi. Or visit the Giant Store, to rent the latest and most popular bicycles from Giant, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, and take in the Setouchi atmosphere on two wheels.
GIANT STORE Rent-a-Cycle
※Bicycles rented at the ONOMICHI U2 Giant Store can only be returned to Giant Store Imabari, located within the JR Imabari Station facility.
※Bicycles rented at the Rent-a-Cycle Terminal at Onomichi Port can be returned to any of 13 Rent-a-Cycle Terminals located along Shimanami Kaido.
Shimanami Cycling (Ikuchijima and Kosan-ji Temple)
Renting a bicycle and taking a refreshing cycling trip offers the perfect way to reinvigorate yourself when footsore from your travels. The Shimanami Kaido, which connects Onomichi City (in Hiroshima Prefecture) and Imabari City (in Ehime Prefecture), features a well-maintained 70-kilometer bicycle path spanning the Seto Inland Sea. Cyclists can stop at the islands along the way and enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the unique atmosphere of the island towns.
We recommend the course that takes you from Onomichi to Ikuchijima, taking around an hour and a half. While on Ikuchijima, don’t miss the Shiomachi shopping district with its charmingly retro shops, and especially the spectacular Kosan-ji Temple, constructed by a businessman who made his fortune in the steel industry as a memorial to his mother. At the rear of the temple grounds, wander the Miraishin no Oka, or The Heights of Eternal Hope for the Future, a 5000-square-meter sculpture garden and walking area constructed entirely of dazzling white marble imported from Italy.
Dogo Onsen Honkan
The Dogo Onsen Honkan is the public symbol of Dogo Onsen, which boasts a 3,000-year history, and is said to be Japan’s oldest hot spring area. The Honkan has been awarded three stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japan, and is the first public bathhouse in Japan to be designated an Important Cultural Property. The facility offers two bath areas, the Kami no Yu and the Tama no Yu, and visitors can choose from four courses, depending on bathing time and rest area. There is a large communal rest area on the second floor, and a private room on the third floor. Take a break from the bath and enjoy a taste of Japan’s unique hospitality, with traditional sweets to be sampled and yukata available for hire.
Strolling the Steets of Uchiko-cho
Uchiko-cho is a small town with a population of only 16,000, located in the southwest of Ehime Prefecture. The town’s Yokaichi and Gokoku areas feature numerous well-preserved historical buildings spanning the 1700s to the early 1900s, including the Uchiko-za, a fully operational kabuki theater which visitors are able to explore. The charming and nostalgic townscape is fast becoming a popular walking spot for sightseers. For those wishing to stay longer and enjoy the unhurried pace, we recommend “Ori,” an inn situated in a refurbished traditional building that was preserved for many years as a townhouse. The interior, which has not been modernized, reflects the charm of the Meiji Period streetscapes outside, and offers an experience of a more traditional Japan. Time spent here will grant the visitor a deeper experience of travel in Japan.
Video and Photographs by Kelley Ferro Productions
Oysters at Kakiwai
HART ADVENTURE CENTER
Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The Hill of Hope (Kosanji Museum)
Dogo Onsen Honkan
Uchiko Old Town
Uchiko-za Theater (Kabuki Theater)