Setouchi region is the area surrounding inland Setouchi Sea. Much like the Mediterranean Sea, the area has a mild climate and a variety of produce, such as olives, citrus fruits, oysters and much more. You will find unique natural, cultural and historic spots in Setouchi like the Miyajima floating shrine gate, Naoshima island, filled with modern art, the Naruto straight whirlpool and Himeji Castle. One of good ways to enjoy travelling to the region is a self-drive tour, allowing you to explore your way at your pace. By combining it with a cruise, you can visit many islands in the area as well.
Kobe is one of cities to open the door to westerners after the Edo samurai period. The city has the historical area of Kobe Kitano Ijinkan District (foreigner’s residence district) with the remains of 19th century mansions. One might not be aware of Kobe city, but Kobe Beef and Nada Sake Brewery have become household names around the world.
Awaji Island is the 6th largest island in Japan and connects Honshu, the largest island to Shikoku to the south. It is connected to Kobe by the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (an almost 4km long bridge that has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world) and is connected to Shikoku by Oonaruto Bridge. So through Kobe Awaji Naruto Expressway, you can drive across the inland sea. In the strait between Naruto, Tokushima and Awaji Island, you can see the Naruto whirlpools which form twice a day due to the rapid tidal movement. In recent years, Awaji Island has becoming famous for onions. The Awaji Onion Beef Burger filled with Awaji onion has won prizes at Burger Festa from 2011 to 2013. In case you are big ice cream lover, you can taste onion soft ice cream in Awaji.
Tokushima is famous for Awa Odori, the dance festival held from the 12th to the 15th of August every year. Awa Odori is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists every year. Groups of dancers and musicians go through the street chanting and singing like “The dancers are fools, the watchers are fools. Both are fools alike, then why not dance?” If you are visiting Tokushima outside the festival period, you can see Awa Odori at Awa Odori Kaikan.
Otsuka International Art Museum is an unique museum which collections are more than 1,000 reproductions of Western masterpieces on ceramic boards. By using a special technique, the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, the Guernica and many more masterpieces were replicated on the ceramic tiles in their original size. One of the highlights of the museum is the complete reproduction of Michelangelo’s ceiling and the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in full scale.
Shimanami Kaido is about 60 km pathway between Imabari on Shikoku and Onomichi on Honshu. It passes over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea and is traversable only by foot or bicycle. The beautiful scenery and well designed road is increasingly getting an attention of cyclists. Bike rental is available.
Hiroshima is famous for its peace memorial, because of the atomic bomb dropped in the city in 1945. The City’s experience is symbolised by the Atomic Bomb Dome. The Dome building and the hypocenter were only 160 metres apart, however the dome avoided complete destruction, and stands to this day. People in Hiroshima have decided to leave this dome as a symbol of peace. Through the viewing of the Dome, peace memorial and museum, you can experience the sombre history of the second world war, and the events which lead to Japan becoming a peace pursuing nation.
Today’s Hiroshima has many sightseeing spots famous all over the world like Miyajima. Okonomiyaki, a popular food in Osaka, is also famous in Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is usually cooked by vegetable, pork, noodle, egg and dough, where one in Osaka does not include noodle. People in the town will talk about the taste differences of the two Okonomiyaki enthusiastically.
You can cross to Miyajima Island or Itsukushima by frequent ferry services from Hiroshima which are covered by the JR pass. The island is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is said the history goes back to 6th century. At high tide, the red shrine gate emerges from the sea, and at low tide, it is possible to walk out to the gate on foot.
Kurashiki has many sightseeing spots to enjoy. In Kurashiki’s historical area, you can enjoy the beautiful cityscape with it’s white painted walls. At Ohara art museum, you can view both historical European art and modern art. This museum is famous for Claude Monet’s “water lily” and El Greco’s “annunciation”. Kojima area in Kurashiki is known as the town which started jeans manufacturing in 1960s in Japan. On a 400 metre street, called ‘Jeans Street’, there are numerous jeans specialist shops including custom made jeans shops.
Shodo Island is the second biggest island among more than 300 islands in Setouchi region, following Awaji Island. Shodo Island is, according to Japanese myth, one of the first islands born to the gods in the creation of Japanese land and is currently sister island of Milos, Greece. The island is also famous for cultivation of olives. While you are on the island, you can visit Olive Park and enjoy various olive products.
What makes Naoshima unique as a destination is its modern art museums, architecture and sculptures around the island. You can also stay in Benesse House Naoshima – a luxurious hotel run by a modern art foundation. Setouchi Triennale art festival is held every 3 years.
Himeji castle was registered as a world cultural heritage site in 1993 because of its beautiful white exterior, the state of preservation and the unique Japanese style. The castle is often called “White Heron Castle” due to its stunning appearance. The current structure was built 400 years ago, the castle has not been damaged by any war despite many upheavals in history. It is very unique and precious and holds the title of one of the three premier castles in Japan.
Arima Onsen is the oldest hot spring in Japan. Hot water naturally gushed out of the earth in this region with no digging required. The hot mineral water contains 7 active ingredients which are beneficial to our health. One of the attractions of Arima hot spring to play games with “geiko-san” (Japanese traditional and professional female entertainers at drinking parties). Enjoy Japanese hot spring and traditional games with “geiko-san”.