Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi are three prefectures facing the Seto Inland Sea that are full of charm, from sunny and peaceful landscapes to local cuisines that make use of super-fresh seafood and seasonal produce. As prefectures that grew from maritime trade, they have many areas with historical value that are worth exploring. This is the ultimate course for sightseeing around Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi if you want to dive into the real Japan or gain experiences that you'd never get in a big Japanese city. Take a look!
What Are Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi Like?
Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi Prefectures are located in western Honshu, and face the Seto Inland Sea that lies between Honshu and Shikoku. The area has trains that run along the coast, such as JR Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train) and JR Sanyo Main Line operating between Shin-Osaka and Hakata, and is easy to get around using the Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited rides on JR trains and buses.
Okayama Prefecture is known for Okayama Korakuen, which is one of the country's three most beautiful Japanese gardens, and Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. Hiroshima is famous worldwide for the Atomic Bomb Dome that tells the story of the tragedy of war, and Itsukushima Shrine, known for the great torii (shrine gate) built in the ocean. Yamaguchi is a major producer of fugu (pufferfish), a luxury ingredient for Japanese cuisine that is in season from fall to winter and should be tried at least once while in Japan.
Following is a model itinerary to see Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi.
Day 1: Arrive at Okayama Station (Shinkansen)
This trip around Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi starts at Okayama Station on the JR Sanyo Line. Once at the station, head to the Korakuen Garden Gate (East Gate). You'll be taking a local bus from there, but not to worry as there is a bus information desk where you can ask questions if you're unsure of what bus to take.
Enjoy Traditional Japanese Scenery at Okayama Korakuen and Okayama Castle (approx. 100 minutes)
From Okayama Station, go to Okayama Korakuen - one of Japan's three most beautiful gardens - on a direct bus or a regular city bus. It takes about 10 minutes. There are two entrances, main and south, but make sure to go through the Main Gate.
As you walk through the main entrance, the scenery hidden by trees suddenly open up, revealing a beautiful garden. The best place to take photographs is the photo spot by the Gojusan-tsugi Koshikake Chaya on the shore of a pond with Okayama Castle in the background. The sight of red-crowned cranes strolling around the grounds twice a month from fall to winter is not to be missed. There are popular guided tours of the garden offered in English and Chinese (reservations required).
Opening hours: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (7:30 am - 6:00 pm between March 20 and September 30, last entry 15 minutes before closing)
Admission: 400 JPY/adult, 140 JPY/senior (65 and older) *free for high school age and younger (until March 31, 2019)
Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama
Walk out the South Gate of Okayama Korakuen, cross Tsukimi Bridge, and to the left is Okayama Castle, with its majestic jet black walls. Inside the castle there is an area where you can dress up in costumes of lords and princesses (free) and take photographs, as well as a chance to make your own Bizen ware, which is a traditional craft of Okayama. (1,230 JPY in addition to entrance fee)
Opening hours: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm (last entry 5:00 pm)
Closed: December 29 - 31
Admission: 300 JPY/adult, 120 JPY/elementary and junior high school students
Address: 2-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama
*560 JPY/adult for a combined ticket for Okayama Korakuen and Okayama Castle
Pay Your Respects to a Shrine with a Hisotry of More than 1,700 Years at Kibitsujinja Shrine (approx. 40 minutes)
It takes about an hour from Okayama Castle to Kibitsujinja Shrine on a bus and a train.
This shrine has a long history going back more than 1,700 years. The deity that is enshrined here, Okibitsuhiko-no-mikoto, is said to be the figure on which Momotaro was based, an extremely famous Japanese children's tale about a boy born from a peach (momo) who goes to battle demons with the help of a dog, a monkey, and a Japanese green pheasant.
There are many shrine buildings on the grounds centered around the Honden (main shrine building) and Haiden (hall of worship), both of which are National Treasures. The Okamaden is famous for the ritual of telling one's fortune by the sound that a pot (okama) makes. The straight corridor that is 360m long is particularly impressive. The best place to take a photograph is from the side of the Minami Zuijin-mon, an Important Cultural Property that stands midway down the corridor. You can take a photograph with depth from a slightly high position.
Surrounding the shrine is a rural scenery with beautiful rice paddies dotted around a valley between low mountains. There is a cycling path in the area, and rental bicycles are available at key locations such as the station. Rent a bike and ride around if you have time.
Opening hours: 5:00 am - 6:00 pm (gates close at 6:00 pm)
Address: 931 Kibitsu, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama
Official Website：http://www.kibitujinja.com/ (Japanese only)
Enjoy Strolling around Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter with Its Historic Landscape (approx. 120 minutes)
After Kibitsujinja Shrine, take a train for about an hour to Kurashiki Station, then walk about 15 minutes to Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter retains a historic landscape, and is a place where you can get a sense of how Japan was between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Be sure to experience the Kurashiki River Boat Ride (fare: 500 JPY/adult, 250 JPY/age 5 - 12). Don a kasa-boshi (straw hat) and take a leisurely ride on Kurashiki River, and you may feel like you have slipped back in time.
One of the other pleasures of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is the food! Be sure to purchase the Hakuto Soft (430 JPY), a soft serve ice cream full of the juices from seasonal Shimizu Hakuto, a high-grade white peach from Okayama, at Kudamono Komachi Soft Cream Parlor at the entrance to the Historical Quarter. It is an outstanding soft serve with a smooth texture and light taste with a delicate sweetness that brings out the flavors of the peach to the maximum.
Kudamono Komachi Soft Cream Parlor
Opening hours: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Address: 2-22-15 Achi, Kurashiki-shi, Okayama
Official Website：http://www.kurashiki-yoimachi.co.jp/yoimachi/softcream_p.html (Japanese only)
If you want to enjoy Japanese sweets while having fun, try the Murasuzume-making experience at Kikkodo Bikan Quarter Branch. You can make Murasuzume, which is a Japanese treat of sweet bean paste wrapped in a crepe-like batter, on an iron plate warmed to 180°C. The Jumbo Murasuzume, which is only available for those participating in the workshop, is about seven times the size of a regular Murasuzume. It contains shiratama (small dumplings made with rice flour) in addition to the sweet bean paste. One of the appeals of making the Murasuzume yourself is the differing texture of the crepe-like wrapper depending on how it is grilled. The piping hot, crispy texture can only be enjoyed in the store.
Kikkodo Bikan Quarter Branch
Opening hours: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm (workshop area: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm)
Closed: January 1 (workshop closed December 31 - January 2)
Workshop fee: Regular size (3 pieces) 600 JPY, jumbo size (1 piece with shiratama) 1,200 JPY
Address: 2-22-13 Achi, Kurashiki-shi, Okayama
*Must be elementary school age or older to participate in the workshop
Official Website：http://kikkodo.com/?mode=f6 (Japanese only)
If you're looking to take photographs to post on social media, get the Kurashiki Denim Street specialty, Denimuman (350 JPY). It is a stunning nikuman (steamed bun with meat filling) of chewy bread dyed the color of denim with piping hot meat filling.
Kurashiki Denim Street
Opening hours: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm
Address: 1-10-1 Chuo, Kurashiki-shi, Okayama
Contemplate the Tragedy of War at the Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (90 minutes)
It is about 75 to 80 minutes on a regular train and shinkansen from Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter to Hiroshima. For lunch, try one of the ekiben (meal boxes to be eaten on a long-distance train), such as the Okayama specialty Kuri-okowa Bento (900 JPY) or Momotaro Matsuri-zushi (1,000 JPY), which are indispensable for travel in Japan.
It is about 20 minutes on a city bus from Hiroshima Station to the Atomic Bomb Dome, which was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1996 as an important asset that tells the story of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Seeing the ruins of the dome up close gives one a sense of the overwhelming destructive power of nuclear weapons.
The area to the south of the Atomic Bomb Dome is Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with various monuments, such as the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace (Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims) and Children's Peace Monument. The beautifully maintained park has the serene atmosphere of a place dedicated to the souls of those who have lost their lives.
Within the park is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which collects and exhibits material related to the damages inflicted by the atomic bomb. In this museum, you can see articles left by the victims and other materials that represent the atrocity wreaked by the world's first nuclear weapon to be used.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Opening hours: 8:30 am - 6:00 pm (closes at 7:00 pm in August, at 8:00 pm August 5 - 6, and at 5:00 pm December to February, last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: December 30 - 31
Admission: 200 JPY/adult, 100 JPY/high school student
Address: 1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima
*The Main Building is closed until spring of 2019 for renovations. Only the East Building is open to visitors during that time.
Dinner at Mitchan Sohonten (approx. 90 minutes)
For dinner on the first day, go to the okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) restaurant, Mitchan Sohonten Jizo-dori Branch, which is about a 15-minute walk from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Okonomiyaki is a specialty food that Hiroshima is known for. Meats, vegetables and special fresh noodles are stacked on top of a batter made with flour, and steamed and grilled. Mitchan Sohonten, which has seven branches in the prefecture, is said to be where Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki originated.
There is a 12m-long griddle in front of the counter seating so you can see the staff making the okonomiyaki right in front of you. The standard Soba Niku Tamago (noodles, meat, egg) (800 JPY) and the DX Special (1,500 JPY) that is packed with various ingredients, should be eaten while hot, with plenty of the restaurant's signature okonomiyaki sauce poured over them. The sweet and savory sauce has rich flavors and goes so well with the fresh cabbage, meat, fish and noodles that you may get hooked!
The juicy Grilled Oyster (900 JPY) made with fresh oysters, which are a local specialty of Hiroshima, is great as a side dish or as an accompaniment to your drinks. The plump oysters that are cooked on the griddle are enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon juice. The English and Chinese menus are helpful when placing your order.
Mitchan Sohonten Jizo-dori Branch
Weekdays 5:30 pm - 11:30 pm (L.O. 10:30 pm), Saturday 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm) / 5:00 pm - 11:30 pm (L.O. 10:30 pm), Sunday, National Holidays 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm) / 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 9:30 pm)
Address: 8-4 Komachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima
Stay in a Convenient Hotel in the City
For your overnight stay in Hiroshima, a hotel in the city would be convenient, as you will be traveling again in the morning. As a representative city of Chugoku region, Hiroshima has many hotels perfect for both business and leisure. You won't have any problems finding a hotel in the city.
Day 2: From the World Heritage Site Miyajima to Yamaguchi
Miyajima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is a part of Hiroshima Prefecture, and is one of the Top Three Scenery of Japan. Itsukushima Shrine, which is the highlight of the island, is registered as a World Heritage Site. The itinerary for the second day takes you from Miyajima to Yamaguchi.
Visit Itsukushima Shrine and See the Fantastic Views from Mt. Misen (approx. 180 minutes)
Check out from the hotel at 8:00 am, and take the train and ferry for about an hour and 10 minutes to arrive at Miyajima.
First, visit Itsukushima Shrine. It is a Shinto shrine with a history of more than 1,400 years, and is famous for its appearance of floating on water when the water reaches to just below the floors at high tide. At low tide, you can walk to the Torii Gate to the north of the shrine, which is usually partly submerged in water.
Opening hours: 6:30 am - 5:30 pm (closes at 5:00 pm in December, 12:00 am - 6:30 pm on January 1, closes at 6:30 pm on January 2 and 3, closes at 6:00 pm between March 1 and October 14)
Admission: 300 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/high school student, 100 JPY/elementary and junior high school students
Address: 1-1 Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima
Once you've visited the shrine, walk through Momiji-dani Park to the Miyajima Ropeway station (round trip: 1,800 JPY/adult, 900 JPY/child (age 6 - 11). You'll take two ropeway gondolas from here to get to the summit. The majestic scenery from the ropeway and from an altitude of 433m at Shishiiwa Observatory near the Shishiiwa terminus are breathtaking!
On your way back, enjoy some food along the shrine approach road to Itsukushima Shrine that is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. The Age-Momiji (180 JPY), which is Hiroshima specialty sweet, Momiji Manju, deep-fried in a crispy batter, is available at Momijido Main Branch, and are perfect for eating while strolling around. They are fried right then and there after you place your order so you can enjoy them fresh. The sweet and fluffy sponge and the crunchy texture of the batter are so perfect, one may not be enough.
Momijido Main Store
Opening hours: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm (*changes by season)
Address: 448-1 Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima
Official Website：https://momijido.com/ (Japanese only)
The Oyster Curry Bread (400 JPY) at BIG SET Miyajima Main Branch is a voluminous item containing two large oysters from Hiroshima. The combination of the smooth curry sauce and the plump oysters is fantastic. Get the curry bread that is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and go to the ferry stop to take a ride back to Honshu while enjoying the ocean breeze.
BIG SET Miyajima Main Store
Opening hours: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Address: 853-2 Miyajima-cho Hamano-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima
See the Beautiful Yamaguchi Scenery from Kintai Bridge and Iwakuni Castle (120 minutes)
After Miyajima is the last destination of this trip, Yamaguchi. It will take about 90 minutes on a ferry and train to Kintai Bridge, a scenic spot that is representative of Yamaguchi.
Kintai Bridge (admission (round trip): 300 JPY/adult, 150 JPY/elementary school student) over Nishiki River, which is so clear you can see the pebbles on the riverbed, is a beautiful bridge with five arches on stone pillars, and has a history of more than 340 years. It is depicted in ukiyo-e paintings by world famous artists such as Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, so its beauty is known worldwide. Be sure to note the intricate details on the back of the bridge too.
Cross Kintai Bridge and take the Iwakuni Castle Ropeway (round trip: 550 JPY/adult, 250 JPY/child) to get to Iwakuni Castle, one of Japan's most famous mountain castles. Looking at the panoramic view that spreads out below the mountain from the castle tower is sure to make you feel like the lord of the land.
Opening hours: 9:00 am - 4:45 pm (last entry 4:30 pm)
Closed: Maintenance days for Iwakuni Castle Ropeway
Admission: 260 JPY/adult, 120 JPY/elementary school student
Address: Yokoyama, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi
*A combined ticket for Kintai Bridge, round trip on Iwakuni Castle Ropeway and entrance to Iwakuni Castle is 940 JPY/adult and 450 JPY/elementary school student
Official Website：https://www.iwakuni-kanko.com/kikko/shiro/ (Japanese only)
Savor the Specialty Iwakuni Zushi (approx. 60 minutes)
Shiratame Bekkan is a restaurant in a great location right in front of Kintai Bridge. It is a great place to try the traditional Iwakuni zushi, which has been handed down through the generations in Iwakuni. Iwakuni zushi is a beautifully presented chirashi zushi (rice bowl dish with a variety of ingredients sprinkled on top) with colorful toppings such as tai soboro (minced sea bream cooked in soy sauce), sansai (edible wild plants) and kinshi tamago (thin omelet cut into strips), all layered like a cake. The recommended menu item is the Iwakuni Zushi and Cold Renkon Noodles (1,500 JPY), a set of regional cuisine consisting of Iwakuni zushi and noodles made from lotus root. The sushi and the light, slippery noodles go perfectly together. There are English-language menus so be sure to ask for one.
Opening hours: 11:00 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm, closes when sold out)
Address: 1-5-16 Iwakuni, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi
See the Five-Storied Pagoda at the Iconic Ruriko-ji Temple (approx. 50 minutes）
After the lunch of Iwakuni zushi, take a regular train and shinkansen for 130 minutes to the famous Ruriko-ji Temple.
When you enter the grounds, to your right you will see the 31.2m tall five-storied pagoda of Ruriko-ji Temple that is designated as a National Treasure. While Japanese five-storied pagodas are commonly painted vermilion, this pagoda, which was built more than 570 years ago, is distinguished by its beige colors that evoke a sense of the simple beauty cherished in Japan. Be sure to take a photograph of this beautiful scenery enhanced by the seasonal colors of the surrounding forest. It is lit up until 10 pm so the view at night is wonderful too.
Ruriko-ji Temple Five-Storied Pagoda
Opening hours: All day (light up: Sunset to 10:00 pm)
Address: 7-1 Kozan-cho, Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi
Enjoy the Yamaguchi Specialty, Fugu, with Local Sake (100 minutes)
From Ruriko-ji Temple, take a train for about 30 minutes to the final destination, Kaisen Choshu Ogori Branch.
Yamaguchi is known as a source of the luxury food ingredient, fugu (pufferfish), and you can get fresh fugu at reasonable prices here. In Japan, skilled chefs who have passed strict national exams specifically to handle fugu remove the poison so you can safely enjoy the flavors of this wonderful fish.
Fugusashi (1,800 JPY (excl. tax)), the king of fugu cuisine, is sashimi. The cuts are small yet firm and plump. Enjoy it with ponzu (citrus-seasoned soy sauce) for a light and refreshing flavor. There are many other fugu dishes, such as Fugu Tempura (680 JPY (excl. tax)) and Fugu Skin (500 JPY (excl. tax)) available at affordable prices. Local Yamaguchi sake, such as Dassai (made with rice milled down to 23%) (1,280 JPY/glass (excl. tax)), which is popular both within and outside of Japan, and Toyo Bijin (680 JPY/glass (excl. tax)), which international celebrities have tasted, go perfectly with fugu. Don't forget to try the chef's recommendation, Seafood Futomaki Sushi (1,080 JPY (excl. tax)) a large sushi roll with plenty of seafood cut so large you'll be amazed by the size. Be sure to savor this hefty and satisfying item.
Kaisen Choshu Ogori Branch
Opening hours: 5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Address: 1231-4 Ogori Shimogo, Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi
Return Trip from Shin-Yamaguchi Station
One you've had your fill of fugu and local sake, walk about five minutes to Shin-Yamaguchi Station to head back. This ends the model itinerary.
Other Recommended Spots
There are many more places to visit in Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi. Here are some highly recommended spots that you can add to your itinerary if you have more time.
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi, Okayama: About 90 minutes from Okayama Station by train and taxi.
One of Japan's most famous mountain castles located at an altitude of 430m. Designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.
Senkoji Temple in Onomichi, Hiroshima: Approx. 90 minutes by train or shinkansen from Hiroshima Station.
A famous temple in Onomichi, known as a place of scenic beauty. Famous for its panoramic view of the city and the Seto Inland Sea.
Ini Tanada in Akiota, Hiroshima: Approx. 60 minutes by car from Hiroshima Station.
A landscape that is counted as one of the top 100 rice field terraces of Japan. The beautiful scenery of small rice field terraces will delight the eye.
Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Nagato, Yamaguchi: Approx. 90 minutes by car from Shin-Yamaguchi Station.
The sight of 123 bright red torii lining a path along the coast is famous worldwide.
Kanmon Straits Cruising in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi: Approx. 60 minutes from Shin-Yamaguchi Station by shinkansen and local train.
Take a boat ride in Kanmon Straits between Honshu and Kyushu, and enjoy the coastal scenery.
Be sure to refer to this itinerary when visiting this wonderful area where you can discover a simple, unadorned side of Japan.