With so much to see in Japan, you would be forgiven for not immediately thinking of Yamaguchi prefecture when planning your next Japan trip. Some travellers may not have even heard of Yamaguchi, which is located in the Chugoku region in the most Western area of Japan’s main island. However, we’re here to show you that Yamaguchi is a must-visit for anyone wanting to explore the hidden beauty of Japan. Here are 5 reasons to visit Yamaguchi.
1. Akiyoshido Cave
Akiyoshido Cave, located in the city of Mine, is a massive limestone cave system that spans over nine kilometres with one kilometre being open to the public. You can take the Sightseeing Course where you will be able to see the magnificent views the cave has to offer. These include its underground waterfalls, moss-covered limestone and beautiful blue water that flows through the cave. The cave has three entrances: the Akiyoshido Entrance, which is located closest to the bus stop and is the most popular, the Kurotani Entrance and the elevator entrance, which has an observation deck with amazing views. The cave is well-lit and the course is easy to enjoy, even for inexperienced hikers.
Akiyoshido Cave is located beneath the Akiyoshidai Plateau, which is a vast quasi-national park. The plateau used to be a coral reef an estimated 300 million years ago during the Paleozoic Era. As a result the area is dotted with limestone formations that have been formed from years of erosion. It now creates a truly unique landscape, rarely seen in Japan. You can enjoy the Akiyoshidai scenery by car or by the various hiking trails across the quasi-national park.
【Admission fee】 ¥1300
【Opening hours】 8:30 am-5:30 pm, everyday
【Access】 Take the bus from Shin-Yamaguchi Station for 45 minutes and get off at Akiyoshido Bus Terminal
2. Kintai Bridge
Kintai Bridge, located in Iwakuni, is comprised of five wooden arches stretched across Nishiki River. This magnificent structure was built during the Edo Period. It was rebuilt in 1953 after it was damaged during a typhoon and has undergone major renovations since then to keep the bridge strong. During the four seasons the landscape changes significantly, creating a different atmosphere. There are beautiful cherry blossoms along the river side during spring, vibrant red foliage in autumn and snow covering the bridge in winter. Another point of interest nearby is Iwakuni Castle, which can be seen from the bridge. Iwakuni Castle can be accessed by ropeway and has a viewing platform that provides gorgeous views of the bridge from above.
【Admission fee】¥310 (Kintai Bridge) or ¥970 (Kintai bridge, ropeway and Iwakuni castle)
【Opening hours】8 am-5 pm, everyday
【Access】From Iwakuni Station, take the Iwakuni bus for 20 minutes and get off at Kintai Bridge (Kintaikyo)
3. Motonosumi Inari Shrine
Motonosumi Inari Shrine is made up of 123 torii gates and located on top of a cliff along the northern coast of Yamaguchi. It provides a picturesque view of the Japan Sea and the shrine’s bright orange gates create a beautiful contrast with the blue of the sky and ocean, as well as the green of the surrounding nature. There is an offering box placed at the top of the final torii gate, which is by far the tallest, standing at approximately 5-meters tall. Upon reaching the last torii gate, you can make a wish and attempt to toss a coin into the offering box. However, it is said that only coins that successfully make it into the offering box will allow your wishes to come true, which creates a delightful challenge.
【Official website】 https://visit-nagato.com/en/sightseeing/naturalwonders/motonosumiinarishrine/
【Opening hours】 5:30 am-5:30 pm, everyday
【Access】Motonosumi Shrine can’t be accessed by public transport. It is recommended that you rent a car or take a taxi. It takes about 40 minutes to get there by taxi from Nagatoshi Station.
4. Tsunoshima Bridge
Tsunoshima bridge connects Japan’s mainland to Tsunoshima Island and is the second longest bridge in Japan. The bridge is popular among photographers and drivers due to its perfectly straight length and breathtaking scenery. Additionally, there are parks on either side of the bridge with viewing platforms that offer exceptional views of the entire Tsunoshima bridge. These are excellent photo spots from both sides of the bridge. Equally, Tsunoshima Island itself is a must-see in Yamaguchi. Some of the popular tourist attractions on the island include its brilliant white beaches, lighthouse and nature museum.
【Access】The bridge and island are best accessed by car or bus and is toll free. The blue line Kotsu bus can be taken from Kottoi Station to the Nishi-Nagato Hotel. This will bring you close to the start of the bridge and takes 15 minutes. Lastly to get to Tsunoshima Island continue on the blue line bus and get off at Tsunoshima.
Fugu, otherwise known as blowfish, has been a Japanese delicacy for nearly 20,000 years. Although it is known in the West for being poisonous, many Japanese believe that blowfish is actually the best-tasting fish. Shimonoseki, a city on the south-west corner of Yamaguchi prefecture, is famous for its blowfish and was the first place where the blowfish ban during the Edo period was lifted. At Shimonoseki, you’ll be able to find many restaurants serving blowfish prepared in a variety of manners including hot pot, deep-fried or tempura-battered. However, the most popular way to eat blowfish is thinly sliced and raw, wrapped around scallions and dipped in a ponzu citrus sauce. It is a dish that is beautifully presented and very satisfying to eat. Furthermore, since only licensed chefs are allowed to serve blowfish in Japan, you can eat your fill without the worry.
How to Access Yamaguchi from Tokyo
There are several ways to access Yamaguchi from Tokyo. The easiest option is to take the Nozomi bullet train to Shin-Yamaguchi Station. This takes about 4 hours and 27 minutes and costs ¥21,230. Another option, which is the cheapest, is to take the night bus from Tokyo to Yamaguchi Saikyobashi. This takes around 13 hours and 23 minutes and costs around ¥12,000 (the price fluctuates depending on the day and season). Another alternative is to take the Nozomi bullet train from Hiroshima to Shin-Yamaguchi. Altogether this takes around 30 minutes and costs ¥5,170.
Yamaguchi is a hidden gem with a lot to offer. With beautiful serene beaches, unique rock formations and architecturally stunning bridges, Yamaguchi is well worth the detour. So why not put Yamaguchi on your list the next time you come to Japan?