Southern Chugoku Region
The San-yo Area is the southern part of the Chugoku Area, facing the Seto Naikai (Inland Sea). It includes three prefectures: Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and Okayama (it actually extends to Hyogo Prefecture, which is covered in the North Kinki section). Although this coastal region is largely industrialised today, it still has some places of great beauty and historical interest as well as the city of Hiroshima, famous for more tragic reasons. Hiroshima can be reached in 1 hour 20 minutes from Tokyo by air or 5 hours by San-yo Shinkansen (bullet train). To Okayama the times are 1 hour 10 minutes and 4 hours respectively.
The atomic dome in Hiroshima is framed by the Peace Memorial
This castle town's heyday was from the 14th to the 16th century, when it was the home of the warlord Ouchi family. Ouchi-nuri lacquerware and Ouchi dolls are two famous crafts which carry the name. The family sponsored the famous sumi-e (ink painting) artist Sesshu in the 15th century, who designed the lovely garden at the Joeiji temple. They also supported Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary who brought Christianity to Japan in the 16th century. Xavier Memorial Park has a modern Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the saint. The 5-story pagoda of Rurikoji temple was built in 1442 and has been designated as a National Treasure. The city holds a version of Kyoto's famous Gion Festival in July.
The picturesque castle town of Tsuwano to the west has original white-walled samurai residences and other structures from feudal times. Also of interest is Yasaka Shrine, whose sagi-mai (heron dance) event in July attracts visitors. The town has many folk crafts, in particular the high-quality sekishu paper.
Hiroshima is best known for being the first city to suffer an atomic bomb attack at 8:15am, August 6, 1945. Some 200,000 people died as a result and the entire city was razed. Only a few concrete buildings were left standing, though unusable, and one of these is now a symbol of the city. The Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall, the ruins of which are now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, was near the epicenter of the blast. It was made a World Heritage site in 1996. It is located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park, along with a museum, a hall and a cenotaph. The park is on a delta of the Motoyasu and Hon Rivers. A ceremony held each year on the anniversary of the bombing attracts thousands of visitors. After the war, the city was rebuilt and is now the hub of the Chugoku Area. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is a port on the Inland Sea. It has some nice gardens and parks such as Shukkeien garden and Hijiyama Park. Kaki (oysters) and a type of savory pancake called okonomiyaki are specialities of the city.
The red torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima is one of Japan's most photographed sights.
Hiroshima is a good base for visiting Miyajima island and Iwakuni. Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima, can be reached in about 20 minutes by train from Hiroshima. With Mt.Misen at the center, the island is covered in forests which turn to brilliant colors in the autumn. The island is best known for Itsukushima Shrine, built on the waterfront. The main hall and several subsidiary shrines, all connected by bright red passageways, are actually built over the water so that they seem to float at high tide. The 16m-high red torii gate built 160m into the bay is the symbol of the shrine. It is one of the Nihon Sankei, the three most famous views in Japan (along with Matsushima in Sendai and Amanohashidate in Hyogo Prefecture).
Iwakuni is a further 20 minutes south by train. The site of one of the United States airbases, it is a mostly industrial city. Kintaikyo, also known as Soroban-bashi (abacus bridge), is an amazingly photogenic bridge across the Nishiki River near Iwakuni Castle. Originally built in 1673, the 193m bridge is made up of five wooden arches on stone piers and uses no nails to hold it together. The castle is a modern reconstruction of the 1608 original.
The Kintaikyo Bridge in Iwakuni is a remarkable structural achievement.
Okayama Castle was first built in 1573 but today the modern reconstruction, known as Ujo (Crow Castle) for its black color, is a side attraction for visitors to the Korakuen park. One of the three most famous landscape gardens in Japan (along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Kairakuen in Mito), it was built in 1702 by the local daimyo (baron) and opened to the public in 1884. The grounds include teahouses, a noh stage, ponds and waterfalls.
Within easy reach of Okayama, Kurashiki has been a commercial center, especially for the local textile industry, for centuries. Many old houses and kura (warehouses) have been preserved along the city's tree-lined canals and the Kurashiki River. Some have been turned into museums and galleries where you can see examples of folk crafts from the region. 45 minutes by train on the other side of Okayama, Bizen is famous for its bizen-yaki pottery.
- See our page on the government's official websites for each prefecture and major city: Guide to Japan's Regions and Cities