Located in the western part of Honshu (the main island of Japan) and made up of five prefectures - Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi - Chugoku region is truly an attractive area that is overflowing with wonderful tourist destinations. Below are five handpicked sightseeing spots that you must check out in this region.
1. Miyajima/Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima Prefecture)
Named as one of the three most scenic places in Japan together with Matsushima and Amanohashidate, Itsukushima is a picturesque spot that is floating in Hiroshima Bay at the western portion of Seto Inland Sea. The main highlight of this area is Itsukushima Shrine that is designated as a World Heritage Site. This shrine is believed to have been built in the 6th century, and the vermillion shrine building that was constructed by Taira no Kiyomori in the 12th century looks just like it is floating in the sea. The 16-meter tall great torii on the water, away from the shrine, is definitely a must-see feature here. Meanwhile, at the Omotesando Shotengai (shopping street) on the main street, there are rows of various shops, so you can buy souvenirs or try Hiroshima’s specialty oysters.
2. Kurashiki (Okayama Prefecture)
If you love strolling through streets that are filled with a Japanese vibe, then Kurashiki, situated at the southern part of Okayama Prefecture, is recommended for you. Kurashiki is a place that was under the direct control of the bakufu (shogunate) during the Edo period (1603 – 1867), so it served as the hub for products and trade. With mansions covered in white plaster walls, machiya (merchants’ houses) adopting the nuriya-zukuri style (a fireproofing design wherein the wooden parts of the structure have outer walls coated in mud daub and finished with white plaster) and the rows of willow trees along Kurashiki River, every part of this place is overflowing with the Edo atmosphere. Within this area, the district called Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is a popular spot that is dotted with a wide range of shops, museums and other establishments. There are also riverboats and rickshaws available here, so you can tour the area at a leisurely pace. Furthermore, the Ohara Museum of Art, the first private museum of Western art in Japan, is housed in a stately building and is a popular sightseeing spot.
3. Tsunoshima Bridge (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Located in the northwest corner of Shimonoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Tsunoshima is a place that is famous for its white sand and pine trees, and beautiful sea. Tsunoshima Bridge connects this remote island with Honshu. This 1,780m-long bridge offers a wonderful view of emerald green waters on both sides, landing it in the top spot of the “Kuchikomi de Erabu Nihon no Hashi Ranking” (Japan Bridge Rankings Based on Reviews) by a Japanese travel website. It is also known as a superb driving course where you can enjoy that fantastic feeling of dashing across the sea. You can also cross it on a bicycle or by foot. When you cross the bridge to Tsunoshima, head to its impressive highlight – the Western-style lighthouse that is made completely from granite. It is open as an observation deck, so you must go up to enjoy the glorious view of Tsunoshima.
4. Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine (Shimane Prefecture)
Japanese people have long believed that all the deities throughout Japan gather at Izumo Taisha (Izumo Grand Shrine) every October for a meeting. These deities that gather here once a year are thought to join the fates of people, and so this shrine is said to benefit matchmaking and marriage, thereby drawing in a lot of worshippers throughout the year. It probably need not be said that the history of this shrine is long, as it is so old that it is even mentioned in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters). The Honden (main hall) is built according to the oldest shrine architectural design in Japan, designated as a national treasure of Japan. Aside from this, there are many other must-see attractions at this shrine, including the biggest Oshimenawa (massive straw rope) in Japan, measuring approximately 13m height and 4.5t in weight and located in front of the Kaguraden (Kagura Hall), and the Otorii (giant shrine gate), located about 600m south of the shrine approach, and is one of the biggest torii gates in Japan with a height of about 23m.
5. Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori Prefecture)
The Tottori Sakyu (Tottori Sand Dunes) is recommended to those who want to fully enjoy a magnificent place of scenic beauty. Representing Japan’s biggest sand dunes that stretch 2.4km north to south and 16km east to west, these sand dunes have a maximum height of 90m. The beauty of these sand dunes that were created over the course of 100,000 years and its contrast against the Sea of Japan that spreads across its northern coast are, simply put, overwhelming! This place offers various leisure activities, such as camel riding, paragliding and sandboarding, and is home to such spots as the Tottori Sand Museum where sand sculptures called “sazo” are on display, so you can spend an entire day here.
There are many other attractive sightseeing spots in the Chugoku region aside from the ones listed above, so please try to visit them.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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