Translated by Ken
The Setouchi Region - Japanese Encyclopedia
Written by Mizzochi
Located in western Japan, the Setouchi region is surrounded by the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Historically, the area has prospered for its shipping industry. There are plenty of sites to visit, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Itsukushima Shrine, and the Setouchi Triennale.
Setouchi Region - Basic Information
Prefectures comprising the Setouchi region.
Setouchi refers to the region in western Japan that surrounds the Seto Inland Sea. It is composed of seven prefectures: Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, and Ehime.
With 700 islands dotting the sea, Setouchi is famous for its stunning scenery. In 1860, the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen remarked that the scenery was unmatched anywhere else in the world.
The Setouchi has plenty of historical and cultural sites, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Itsukushima Shrine. However, it's also home to the Setouchi Triennale, the largest contemporary art festival in Japan, held every three years.
The History of Setouchi
Miyajima Island, home to Itsukushima Shrine
The Seto Inland Sea has long been the center of Japan's shipping industry.
During the late Heian Period (794 - 1185), Tairo no Kiyomori—a powerful military leader—established a port to trade with the Song Dynasty in China. Then during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), several ports were built for cargo ships connecting Osaka with northern Japan.
Since the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), the region has flourished as a center for shipbuilding. The town of Kure is also the backdrop of the hit anime movie "In This Corner of the World."
With its rich history and culture, Setouchi has a variety of unique places that are worth visiting.
Sightseeing Spots in Setouchi
Hiroshima: The Peace Memorial Museum and A-Bomb Dome
The Peace Memorial Museum and Atomic Bomb Dome are located in Hiroshima. The city continues to testify about the horrors of war and the importance of peace.
Hiroshima: Itsukushima Shrine and Miyajima Island
A scenic view in Japan, Itsukushima Shrine is known for its iconic torii gate standing in the water. Founded in 593, the shrine was built to its current scale during the rule of Taira no Kiyomori.
Kagawa, Okayama: The Setouchi Triennale and Contemporary Art
Known as the mecca of modern art, the islands of Kagawa and Okayama are venues for the Setouchi Triennale. This tri-annual festival is popular for its unique blend of modern aesthetics and local culture.
Okayama: Visit Unique Sites in Kurashiki
Once a prosperous commercial town, Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture has several notable sites. The traditional buildings in the Bikan Historical Quarter have a distinct appearance with their white walls. Meanwhile, the Ivy Square is a shopping center renovated from a cotton mill. The Ohara Museum of Art displays works by renown artists such as El Greco, Picasso, and Monet.
Hiroshima, Ehime: Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido is a scenic road connecting Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures. It was even featured in CNN's "7 Best Bike Routes in the World." This beautiful cycling route includes seven bridges that extend across six islands.
Naruto Whirlpools, Dogo Onsen, and Chichibugahama Beach
Photo by Pixta
In addition to the places already covered, Setouchi has many other sightseeing locations. The Naruto Whirlpools are a spectacular sight to see. Dogo Onsen is said to be Japan's oldest onsen. And of course, Chichibugahama Beach is ranked one of the most beautiful sunset spots in Japan.
Taste Local Dishes From Setouchi
Photo by Pixta
The gentle waters make the Seto Inland Sea an ideal environment for oyster farms. In particular, Hiroshima is famous for this delicacy.
Getting the least amount of rain in Setouchi, Kagawa has long been a major producer of wheat. As a result, one of Kagawa's staples is Sanuki udon noodles.
Citrus fruit grows abundantly in Setouchi's temperate climate. Okayama is known for peaches and grapes, Ehime for mandarins, Hiroshima for lemons, and Shodo Island for olives.
Getting Around Setouchi
If you plan on traveling by train, we recommend using the JR-West Rail Pass.
For those with extra time, we recommend crossing the Seto Ohashi Bridge between Kojima, Okayama, and Sakaide, Kagawa. It is one of the world's largest road-rail bridges. Enjoy the view of the Seto Inland Sea as you travel across by train or car.
Boats are another mode of transportation. You can take a ferry out to Shodo Island and Naoshima Island or reach smaller islands via a high-speed craft. Another option is booking a cruise, such as guntû. You are sure to have an unforgettable experience!
Main image: View from Mt. Shiude in Mitoyo, Kagawa