7 THINGS TO ENJOY IN YAMAGUCHI
1. Strolling in kimono
-Kimono Week in Hagi Premium (Hagi City)
In Hagi, a castle town that has retained some of its Edo period (1603-1867) atmosphere, from October 1 to 22 you will have the opportunity to rent a kimono, wear it and walk around town. Along your way, volunteer photographers will take your picture amid the scenery of a castle town, free of charge.
Place: Around Hagi City
Fee: Rental Kimono / Fitting Service (charged)
Nearest Station: JR Higashi-Hagi Sta.
-Yamaguchi City Saikotei Kimono Experience
Yamaguchi City’s tourist center, “Yamaguchishi Saikotei,” also offers a kimono rental service. You will need to make reservations. Wearing the kimono (or the samurai clothes that are also available), you can walk around and take pictures at historical spots near the Ichinosaka River. We recommend the five-storied pagoda (National Treasure) of Ruriko-ji Temple. Its grounds are perfect for experiencing each season’s particular flavor and charm.
Fee: 2,800 yen / 3,600 yen
Business hours: 9:00-17:00 (Weekday), 8:30-17:00 (Saturday, Sunday, and holidays)
Closed: Thursday (or the following day when it falls on a national/substitute holiday), December 29-January 3
Nearest Station: JR Yamaguchi Sta.
2. Handmade souvenirs
-Ouchi-nuri lacquerware chopsticks experience (Yamaguchi City)
The technique for creating lacquerware objects called collectively “urushi-nuri” is one of Japan’s representative traditional crafts and among them Yamaguchi’s “Ouchi-nuri” stands out. Try your hand at creating a pair of chopsticks you can take with you in Yamaguchi Furusato Heritage Center. And don’t neglect to also check out the “Ouchi-ningyo” dolls, much beloved as symbols of a happy marriage. (For the Ouchi-nuri workshop/experience, reservation is necessary.)
Fee: 860 yen
Business hours: 9:00-22:00 (last entry 17:00)
Closed: December 29-January 5, August 14-16
Nearest Station: JR Yamaguchi Sta.
-Make your own goldfish chochin paper lantern (Yanai City)
These uniquely goldfish-shaped chochin (paper lantern) is a trademark of the city of Yanai and one of its traditional crafts. You will see them swaying gently against the white walls of old storehouses built during the Edo period. You can make your own original chochin at “Yanai Nishigura.”
Fee: 800 yen / 900 yen (depending on the course)
Business hours: 9:00-17:00 (registration open until 16:00)
Nearest Station: JR Yanai Sta.
3. Take a picture at a great spot
-Motonosumi Inari-jinja Shrine (Nagato City)
Even CNN (in the US) included this shrine in its list of “Japan’s 31 Most Beautiful Places” and it is easy to see why: 123 bright red torii gates meandering up the steep seaside rock create an out-of-this-world image. Also worth mentioning is the offertory box at the top of the tall tori, five meters high, considered to be the hardest in Japan to throw money into – perhaps because it will grant your wish if you actually succeed in your toss?
Business hours: Sunrise to Sunset (closed at night)
-20 min from JR Nagato-Furuichi Sta. by taxi
-40 min from JR Nagatoshi Sta. by taxi
-60 min from Chugoku Expwy. Mine IC by car
-Tsunoshima-ohashi Great Bridge (Shimonoseki City)
Connecting Honshu and Tsunoshima Island, this 1,780-meter bridge is a sight to see and photograph! Frequently appearing in commercials, films, TV programs, and others, it can be crossed either by car or by bus from JR Kottoi Station. Be sure to check though because there are only a few buses doing the course.
-15 min from JR Kottoi Sta. by bus
-30 min from JR Takibe Sta. by bus
-70 min from Chugoku Expwy. Shimonoseki IC by car
4. Experience the mysteries of nature
-Akiyoshidai Plateau Area (Mine City)
This is Japan’s biggest karst, a landscape formed from the dissolution of limestone. Somewhere in the depths of time, this was a coral reef but the changes to the earth’s crust made it rise to the present day’s 200-400 meters. In this grass-covered plateau, countless limestone stand one next to the other, creating strange and wonderful shapes as far as the eye can see. Furthermore, 100 meters beneath the plateau there is the huge Akiyoshido cavern, created from the same limestone.
Akiyoshidai Plateau Area: Free
Akiyoshido cavern: 1,200 yen
-40 min from JR Shin-Yamaguchi Sta. by bus and get off at Akiyoshido Bus stop
-10 min from Ogori-Hagi Road Akiyoshidai IC
5. Try unique local dishes
-Kawara-soba (all over the prefecture, centering on Shimonoseki)
This is a buckwheat noodle dish served on kawara, or a tile that is usually used on roofs, instead of an iron plate to warm it. Green (tea-flavored) soba noodles are served with thinly sliced omelet, sweet-cooked beef and other toppings. The combination of the tile’s warmth with the noodles’ crunchy texture is enticing! Legend has it that this type of cooking comes from the times when samurai went off to war and brought kawara with them on the battlefield to cook their meals on.
-Mandarin oranges hot pot (Suo-Oshima Island)
The Inland Sea’s Suo-Oshima is famous for its mikan mandarin oranges that locals use in a rather novel way: in a hot pot with fish! The fruit takes away the edge of the fish’s smell and the result is excellent. Not to mention that since the mikan are used unpeeled, the dish’s nutritional value is said to be high.
-Yamaguchi local sake
Sake brewing is one of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s prospering businesses. “Dassai” is its most famous offering, but each area has its own and if you are looking for something that complements perfectly the region’s cuisine, you should definitely give the local sakes a try!
6. Walk undersea to Kyushu
-Kanmon Pedestrain Tunnel (Shimonoseki City)
Honshu’s westernmost spot, Shimonoseki, and Kyushu’s northernmost spot, Kitakyushu, are separated by a rather narrow stretch of water called Kanmon Straits. And underneath it, connecting the two prefectures is the Kanmon Tunnel through which trains, road traffic and, in what is a rarity in the world, foot traffic also passes. If you are looking for a different experience, you can walk from one side to the other and in effect, walk in the bottom of the sea!
Shimonoseki is rich in fish and seafood with most prominent being the fugu, or blowfish. Karato Fish Market facing the Kanmon Straits is open to travelers and allows you to see from up close the treasures of these seas on your plate as in sushi, kaisen-don (bowl with fish or seafood on a bed of rice), etc. Our recommendation is to have a hearty lunch at the market and then walk it off by going to Kyushu!
Business hours: 6:00-22:00
15 min from JR Shimonoseki Sta. by bus and get off at Mimosusogawa Bus stop
Karato Fish Market “Iki-iki Bakangai” (“Sushi Battle” – pick any pieces from various shops in the market)
10:00-15:00 (Friday and Saturday)
8:00-15:00 (Sunday and holiday)
7. Trace the footsteps of historical figures
-Shoka Sonjuku private academy (Hagi City)
Choshu-han, the Edo period domain that is today’s Yamaguchi Prefecture, has played an important role in modern Japanese history since many figures prominent in the country’s modernization came from it. In the domain’s center, the castle town Hagi has plenty of historical landmarks, most famous among which is the Shoka Sonjuku private academy where intellectual Yoshida Shoin taught persons who would become the Meiji period’s politicians, leaders of industry and other key figures who devoted themselves to the creation of modern Japan. The academy is one of Hagi’s five sites that have been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage lists as “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.”