Introducing Hiroshima & Western Honshū

A land of exquisite ceramics, tranquil mountain villages and urban vibrance, Western Honshū is most known for the legacy of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But this region, known as Chūgoku, offers much more. The Inland Sea (Seto-nai-kai) prefectures of Okayama and Hiroshima boast charming coastal communities, islands dotted with modern art and cities with room to breathe. Superlative museums crowd the canal quarter of Kurashiki, while Bizen abounds in kilns. Yamaguchi prefecture, a trade hub at the end of Honshū, has its ‘Kyoto of the west’ and limestone caves. Shimonoseki delights in fresh seafood, especially the potentially fatal fugu (blowfish). The Inland Sea, meanwhile, is a peaceful microcosm ringed by the twinkling night lights of Honshū and Shikoku.

Shimane and Tottori prefectures, part of an area once pejoratively termed ura-nihon (Japan’s rear), are especially hospitable. Former gateways for continental culture, they now enjoy a slower pace dedicated to onsen (hot springs), rugged nature and quiet mountain towns. With an original castle in Matsue and sand dunes in Tottori, the Sea of Japan coast is like a leisurely historical park stroll. Izumo Taisha, one of the oldest and most important shrines in Japan, is the rendezvous for Shinto’s myriad gods.

The Chūgoku mountain range divides Western Honshū. On the southern San-yō coast (literally, ‘the sunny side of the mountains’), the mild Inland Sea weather nurtures populous cities; to the north, the San-in coast (literally, ‘in the shade of the mountains’) is on the cooler Sea of Japan, where nature takes priority.