Setouchi Areato Photo Writer List
Available Write Up: 156
The Setouchi region is so blessed with attractive places to visit and activities that it can sometimes feel difficult to decide on a destination, or put together a realistic schedule to fulfill your traveling ambitions. With that in mind, the staff here at Setouchi Reflection Trip have put their heads together to create a five-day tour of the western part of Setouchi designed for travelers wanting a broad introduction to the best of the region.
Blessed with a mild climate and abundant nature, Setouchi is a treasure trove of gourmet foods made from the best that the bountiful land and rich sea have to offer. Taking a food-focused journey through the Seto Inland Sea provides an opportunity to give your taste buds an experience they will long remember. Join us as we take you through just one possible permutation of a “foodies’ delight trip in Setouchi.” A feast for the senses served with a generous helping of cultural discovery.
A leisurely stroll through one of Japan’s most exquisite gardens sets the stage for a succession of historical and cultural sites on Shikoku island, the far shore of the Setouchi region. Over a three-day period, you can experience the history and culture thriving in the least visited of Japan’s main islands. Join us and discover that the gardens, architecture, food, and historical monuments do not merely exist in the background of everyday life on Shikoku, but rather, help form the very fabric of daily life.
“I was raised on stories about seaplane pilots. My grandpa always said there are no finer people. Their hearts are washed clean by both sea and sky. So they’re braver than sailors, and prouder than regular pilots.”
The Setouchi region, replete with places of great historical and cultural value, contains no less than four UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a wealth of equally fascinating yet lesser-known spots nearby. In the three day journey we have mapped out here, you’ll encounter a magnificent castle, an iconic shrine, a timeless memorial for peace, and one of the most significant birthplaces of modern Japan. The historical and cultural richness of these sites will stimulate and inspire, but the journey itself holds just as many unplanned delights and discoveries that will have you wanting to dig even further into this fascinating part of Japan.
Settling into a car seat allows a completely different type of travel experience, one perfectly suited to the Setouchi region with its treasure trove of rich history and culture far removed from the hustle and bustle of large cities. Regardless of your destination, world-class roads, bridges and ferries make traveling by car safe, easy, and relaxing. Having the freedom of a vehicle allows you to tailor your own course, at your own pace, through scenic countryside steeped in history and alive with culture. It’s an ideal way to see and experience the very best of the Setouchi region. The road trip assembled here covers four prefectures in the Setouchi area, highlighting a wealth of designated cultural treasures, as well as some magnificent scenery. Whether you take to the road by yourself, or share the journey with those near and dear, the amazing array of opportunities for cultural appreciation, education and gorgeous scenery, will provide memories to treasure for a lifetime.
It appears like a mirage out of the darkness. A mass of lantern lights illuminate the Japanese tower and other traditional buildings on the roadside. Enormous decorative koi carps flutter in the breeze. On the other side of the road, hundreds of glowing lanterns form the Japanese character for ‘festival’. This is the famous Irori Sanzoku in Yamaguchi Prefecture - a restaurant complex where the beat of festival drums sounds all year long.
There’s nothing quite like a luxury stay at a traditional Japanese inn. Exceptional service, exquisitely prepared food of the highest order, long soaks in healing hot water, and all the other touches make each stay in these establishments, known in Japan as “ryokan,” a hotel experience unparalleled anywhere in the world. It couldn’t get any better right?
What do you get when you combine hills, temples, cats, and bicycles?
“I don’t like looking at sunsets anymore,” says Michiko Yamaoka. The story is her mother’s, but she tells it as if she were there.
The Setouchi region hosts some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Japan. From mountain tops to the seaside, the diversity and richness of nature will tantalize your eyes, ears, and tastebuds. Even with just a few days to spare, it's possible to experience the breadth and depth of this unique and beautiful part of Japan. Here we introduce our best selection for a three day trip.
In French, auberge means inn. “In France people will travel to distant, famous restaurants to enjoy their cuisine. And French lunches will often last three or four hours, so people tend to stay overnight.” The maître d explains when I ask, “People stay in auberge?”
The elevator motor whirs into life. Inside, small lights track our ascent to the top. As we approach 297m, the compact elevator comes to a halt with a clunk. We have arrived. After walking through the heavily reinforced steel structure, an automated ceiling hatch slowly begins to slide open. I was about to experience the highlight of the Bridge World tour on Akashi Kaikyo Bridge – the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world.
Magnificent rock formations and tree-covered mountains line the gorge. A gentle current carries us down river. It is a picture of paradise. But perched on the side of the two-man inflatable, my heart is racing like a juggernaut.
The Hotel New Awaji Awaji Hamarikyu – or Hamarikyu for short – sits on Awaji Island that connects Osaka and Kobe to Shikoku. With its prime location looking out over the Seto Inland Sea and fronting a beautiful sandy beach, the hotel offers guests a chance to enjoy some of the best views in the region while relaxing in pure luxury.
Catching a taxi to the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art from downtown costs just 1,300 yen. Time-permitting, you could enjoy sea breezes while walking along the waterfront to the museum. I did the reverse, ending my visit with a twilight, weaving through joggers and strolling past the fishermen, as I followed the water back to the city center.
Hyogo prefecture produces 30 percent of all nihonshu, a.k.a. sake, in Japan. Famed for its pure, delicious water — a crucial ingredient in quality sake — the region continues to generate some of Japan’s most celebrated sakes. And with companies like Kiku-Masamune and Hakutsuru in the region, it’s no wonder.
Crossing the Seto Inland Sea by road, my friend proposed we break our trip in Ikuchijima island and visit the Kosan-ji temple complex. After a few minutes scrolling through my phone I was intrigued.
Alright, I’ll admit it — I’m an Onsen addict. I just love long soaks in mineral rich water, the heat of the water working its way down into bones, the feeling replenishment like a sponge squeezed dry — it gives me a feeling of lightness and purification. A seductive mix that has me constantly searching for opportunities to indulge.
Watching the pirate ship pull up to the dock below our balcony at Ochi Kochi — a chic ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Tomonoura — we could already feel the tidal ebb and flow of the port town embracing us.
Having got lost more times than I care to recount, arriving at the Akiyoshidai Karst plain in Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Mine City was more challenging than I’d expected, but then again, navigation isn’t really more forte. Still I managed to locate the plain and decided to park at the bottom for an energetic releasing walk up the hill as a release from being car bound for hours. After bit of a hike I was welcomed by the sight of rolling hills, peppered with white limestone.
Standing in the parking lot outside Joei-ji, the temple compound appears majestic — a stark contrast to the color and organic shapes and curves of the natural landscape surrounding it. With Yamaguchi City behind me, it feels as though I’m about to embark on a forest adventure into the hills, the temple acting as a gateway to the green beyond.
Driving through the early morning darkness along a coastal highway, the road and surrounding woods seem alive with wildlife. Following a slow, sharp turn on the narrow road, I was suddenly confronted by a huge wild boar standing center stage and dazed by my headlights. All the while, strong winds whistle through the branches beside the road as the hog and I stare at each other. The darkness hides everything but the animal before me, and I feel like I’m deep in the wilderness. In reality though, I am just moments away from the famous red gates of the Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Karato Market is Shimonoseki’s user-friendly version of Tokyo’s huge Tsukiji wholesale fish market. However, in my opinion Shimonoseki wins hands down, by merit of both its location, and its openness to all buyers.
If you’re looking for the hidden gems of Japan’s art scene, you’ll want to put Art Base Momoshima high on your list. Headquartered on the island of Momoshima, just a short ferry ride from Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, Art Base grew from the ideas of internationally acclaimed artist Yukinori Yanagi, also known for his work on Inujima, another art island off the coast of neighboring Okayama Prefecture.
As our cab climbs the mountainside to Hanajyukai, my partner and I watch the beautiful seaside town of Takamatsu vanish behind a screen of trees. It will make a reappearance, of course — and quite a dramatic one — as Hanajyukai is famous, among other things, for its breathtaking bird’s-eye view.
A stone’s throw from Hiroshima Station and the Shinkansen ticket gates, the Sheraton is the perfect place for visitors looking for both convenience and luxury during their stay in Hiroshima.
Reminiscing with your partner, or doing the rounds of travel stories with friends, more often than not you will be reaching first to those places, and experiences that have etched themselves deepest in your memory banks. A stay at Shodoshima Island Ryokan Mari will be one of those places, a memory relayed time and time again. It is just that good!