Setouchi Areato Photo Writer List
Available Write Up: 140
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!
Kankakei Gorge, located in the center of Shodoshima Island, possesses the sort of evocative beauty that any master artist would gladly claim as their own. The stark cliffs and expressive rock formations provide a unique canvas that brings out the best of the stunning vegetation of the island.
I must confess, I’m a bit of a noodle freak. See a line forming at a ramen shop, I will jump on it, sure to be a winner. The same goes for udon and soba, which between them account for half my diet I imagine. Still, when summer rolls around, there is only one noodle I simply must have close at hand — soumen, the string-thin noodle, served chilled with a refreshing dipping sauce. Satisfying, like a cool sea breeze for the stomach.
No matter what way you cut it, Japan’s rise from a feudal society into its hyper-modern form has been an amazing transformation. Like many people, I was familiar with the basics of Japan’s journey to becoming a modern country – samurai rebellions, sending bright men to learn from advanced countries, and so forth – but I hadn’t really been to many of the historical sites where the nuts and bolts of this epic change took place.
A short walk from Shimonoseki’s famous Karato Market along the Straits of Kanmon, is the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan (Sea Aquarium). From the wonders of high-speed penguins — and there are oh so many penguins — to the re-creation of the natural habitat thriving below in the straits, to the performing sea lion and dolphins, this aquarium has something fun and educational for all ages.
If you’re looking to curl up in the lap of luxury, Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland will deliver on a silver platter.
The father and son moved silently between the chopping board and the fryer. It looked like a dance – each movement choreographed to perfection. With speed and precision, their metal chopsticks shimmered as they transferred each ingredient from the fryer to the plate.
Tucked away on the quiet island of Omishima in the Seto Inland Sea lies Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine — ancient Shinto sanctuary, and holy pilgrimage destination for Japan’s warriors for more than 1,400 years.
Surprised to see the Miyajima ferry veering so close to the famous vermilion gate of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, I rushed onto the deck for a better view.
Just a brief bus ride and a ropeway ascent from Himeji station, the beautiful Mt. Shosha hosts a mixture of Buddhist and Shinto buildings. While it was established as a major center for Buddhism in 966, the name Engyo-ji refers to the entire mountain covered with sites, buildings, and statues of devotion.
When it comes to Hiroshima, there’re a few things every visitor needs do – visit the Peace Memorial Museum, see Miyajima, and eat okonomiyaki. That delicious combination of noodles, cabbage, eggs – and whatever else you want – grilled hot, layered onto a crepe, and drenched in Otafuku sauce will get you every time.
As a longtime admirer of medieval arms, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum, especially as it’s located in Setouchi city, Okayama Prefecture — an area with a millenia-long reputation for producing Japan’s finest blades.
Three samurai meet with three old women in a mountain pass.
At first glance, Kotohira strikes me as just another small town in the Japanese countryside. But as it turns out, this township of 10,000 people boasts not just one, but two historic gems.