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Western Honshu Travel Guide

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  • Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Plan Your Western Honshu Vacation

Like disparate siblings, the two coasts of western Honshu have distinctly different personalities. Taken together, they embody the ancient and modern—those two seemingly bipolar time frames that exist in a more profound juxtaposition in Japan than perhaps in any other country in the world.

While the southern coast, or San-yo, has basically gone along with Japan's full-steam-ahead efforts

to set the pace for the developed world, you can still encounter pockets of dramatic old-world charm among the modern and shockingly new. The San-in coast, on the other hand, has largely escaped the scourge of overdevelopment, yet you may be surprised to learn that everything you'd want in a city can be found up there, concentrated in and around lovely Matsue.

Happily, neither coast is short on history, religious significance, scenic beauty, or culinary delights. Hiroshima survived one of history's most horrible events to become a lively, famously friendly, forward-looking city. Kurashiki has a remarkably preserved old-style district that can whisk you back to Edo times with a stroll down willow-draped canals and stylishly tiled warehouses. Hagi is a scenic bayside town that for 500 years has been the center of Hagi-yaki ceramics, coveted light-color and smooth-texture earthenware glazed with mysteriously translucent milky colors.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Photogenic icons Beside Miyajima, the O-torii rises from the Inland Sea. An hour from Matsue is the austere Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine reputed to ensure marital happiness.
  2. Fabulous seafood Great seafood abounds oysters (kaki) in Hiroshima; anago (conger eel) in Miyajima; uni-don (sea urchin over rice) in Hagi; mamakari (a sardinelike fish) in Kurashiki; and little black shijimi clams in Matsue.
  3. Lessons of the past Although A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima is held in great reverence, the city has embraced the future with its energetic multinational vibe.
  4. Gardens Okayama is home to one of Japan's top three gardens, the spacious and lush Korakuen, which surrounds the stunning black U-jo, or "Crow Castle."
  5. The people Though English is not widely spoken and foreigners may draw stares, locals will go above and beyond to help puzzled tourists.

When To Go

When to Go to Western Honshu

San-yo is the sunniest region in Japan, and almost any time is a good time to visit. The northern shore, or San-in, does get a strong dose of...

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