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Yamaguchi Travel Guide Harmony of history and natural beauty

Kintaikyo historic bridge on rainy day in Iwakuni town, Yamaguchi, Japan

Welcome to picturesque Yamaguchi prefecture. Located in the west of Honshu Island, this historical area is unmarked by the neon signs and hustle and bustle that is found in the more tourist-run areas of Japan. The capital city is Yamaguchi, while the largest city is Shionoseki. Yamaguchi prefecture presents a quiet and peaceful atmosphere perfect for relaxing after a long day of golf. And what better place to be in than an area that is full of hot springs to loosen up those sore muscles?

Things to do

Hagi Yamaguchi, preserved streets in a samurai town

Yamaguchi Prefecture offers a country-side dipped platter of nature, architecture and history. With each site boasting its own ranking and position amongst Japan’s site-seeing locales, whatever you choose will not disappoint.

Historical architecture is a main theme throughout Yamguchi. You can cross the five-arched Kintaikyo bridge (錦帯橋), which was built way back in 1673. Or perhaps take a walk through the well-preserved Hagi Castle Town (萩城城下町), strolling the same streets as Samurais once did in the Edo period. In Yamaguchi you have the chance to visit one of Japan’s national treasures: Rurikoji Temple (瑠璃光寺), a 31m tall, five-storied pagoda. Ranked in the top three of Japan and with free admission and 24hr access, this Buddhist temple is a must see.

For a more nature-themed outing, visit the Akiyoshido limestone caves (秋芳洞). Not to disappoint, this is Japan’s largest and longest explorable limestone cave. Once you have finished exploring the dark depths of the caves you can talk a walk through Akiyoshidai (秋吉台), the largest karst plateau in Japan. In simple terms, a very vast and impressive rock garden across beautiful rolling fields.

Events and Seasonal Happenings

Yamaguchi has an event on every month of the year with its busiest festival times peaking in August and November. No matter what time of the year you visit, you will be able to partake in some kind of festivity. Perhaps one of the abundant firework festivals in August, or the Yanai Festival with street parades of umbrella dancing in November.

However, if it is the famous Japanese cherry blossoms that you wish to see, a trip must be scheduled in early April. Every year people come from all over Japan to view these pink clouds of flowers lining the river by the Kintai bridge.

Flavors of Yamaguchi

Plate of fugu puffer fish in Yamaguchi

While all prefectures in Japan have their own special dishes and flavours, Yamaguchi takes on the challenge as being one for the more adventurous. Fugu, or Japanese pufferfish, (famous for being toxic if not prepared properly) is a specialty in this area. Recommended to be eaten sashimi style (raw) you can rest assured that it will always be prepared by expert chefs licensed in the art of preparing Fugu for you to enjoy safely.

The Karato Fish Market, marked by the Yamaguchi’s signature pufferfish, is the place to go to buy some fresh sushi – and where can you get fresher than from a fish market! Once you are done with your feasting of sushi, you can wash it all down with some Yamaguchi brewed sparkling sake. Sparkling sake is sweeter and easier to drink than your standard sake and Yamaguchi boasts two of the popular brands for you to try: Dassai Happou Nigori-Shu 50 ( 獺祭 発泡にごり酒50) and Nene (ねね).

What to Bring Back

Hagi Pottery and purple flowers

You will definitely be checking the alcohol allowance for any flight back after trying Yamaguchi’s sparkling sake. A few bottles will make for excellent gifts – and for a merry night.

Want something a little longer lasting? You can pick up your own Hagi ware items. Hagi-yaki is form of porcelain produced mainly in Hagi town and has a very simplistic and earthly appearance, very popular in traditional tea sets.

Where to Stay

Yudaonsen UBL Hotel Matsumasa  Is an onsen hotel where you can stay in traditional Japanese rooms (or opt for western bedding) complete with tatami matting. Convenient location with plenty of access to shops, Matsumasa hotel is a 10min walk from JR Yuda Onsen station (10mins by train from Shin Yamaguchi station).

Hagi No Yado Tomoe A beautiful traditional ryokan that offers hot spring baths, a Zen garden, massages and on-site authentic food served to your room or in private dining rooms. This hotel is an 8min walk from JR Higashihagi station.

Wrap up

Cherry blossoms over famous arched bridge in Yamaguchi

Yamaguchi prefecture is that long desired alternative to the usual overcrowded tourist hot spots. It provides serenity amongst nature where you can relax and unwind, as well as opportunities to access historical sites that are some of the top rated in Japan. All this along with the abundance of hot springs, there is no way you cannot leave this prefecture feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Getting there

From Tokyo: While accessible from Tokyo by train, bus and ferry, the most convenient route is by plane with 10 round-trips offered daily from Haneda airport, taking only 1hr and 30 minutes to reach Yamaguchi Ube. Flights are offered by ANA and JAL airlines and an average ticket one way will cost anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000yen. Alternatively, Shinkansens can be used but will increase the travel time to 4.5-6 hours.

From Osaka: If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder, you are covered to use the JR Sanyo Shinkansen which departs Shin-Osaka → Shin-Yamaguchi. Trip is about 2hrs (one-way trip is approx. 12,000yen).

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