Hagi: See World Heritage Sites and Savor Tasty Cuisine in Yamaguchi
Hagi, a city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, produced many key figures in Japan's Industrial Revolution during the Edo Period. The city itself offers tasty cuisine and hands-on pottery experiences. This article also features interesting places worth visiting in the city!
Hagi City: Hands-On Activities and Tasty Local Food
Japanese history underwent a major transition during the second half of the 19th century. The Meiji Restoration in 1868 saw Japan transform into a modernized country after many years of samurai rule.
Hagi, a city in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is known as a historically significant town. During the 19th-century Meiji Restoration, the city produced many leading figures who were instrumental in this turning point for the country.
There are presently five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the local area, including the castle town itself. Visitors can enjoy gourmet cuisine and a kimono-wearing experience.
This article showcases recommended places in Hagi where visitors can enjoy hands-on activities and sample tasty local dishes.
Hagi Meirin Gakusha: Your Adventure Begins Here!
The first must-visit place in Hagi is the Hagi Meirin Gakusha. This renovated wooden schoolhouse belonged to the former Meirin Elementary School.
During the Edo Period, children of the samurai class were educated at a special clan school called Hagi Domain School Meirinkan. It played a key role in Hagi's development into an important town.
Visitors can look inside the main school building and Building Number Two. In addition to a souvenir shop, cafe, restaurant, and information center, the main building has exhibitions highlighting Hagi City and the school's history.
Building Number Two is home to the World Heritage Site Visitor Center and the Bakumatsu Museum, which details the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
There are many things to see. This includes an exhibition of important documents related to Japan's Industrial Revolution, a display highlighting history in the Edo Period, technical documents, and a hands-on experience corner.
At the Tourist Information Center in the main building, staff can assist visitors in several languages.
By first learning about the historical background of Hagi at the Hagi Meirin Gakusha, you'll enjoy various spots in this article with even greater gust
Hagigoyomi: Each Dish is Prepared with Love!
The first place for a meal on this Hagi trip is a restaurant inside Meirin Gakusha's main building called Hagigoyomi.
The menu offers a variety of items, but locals especially recommend the Hagi Gozen.
At first glance, the Hagi Gozen appears to be a small wooden box. But remove the cover, and you'll see various delectable items, including fresh sashimi from the Hagi area, Choshu Wagyu Beef, Choshudori chicken, and Fugu Chawan-mushi (savory egg custard). Each of the nine compartments inside the box features a unique menu item (see photo above).
While savoring each item, you can't help but feel the shop's dedication to excellence. Needless to say, everything is delicious!
Unrinji Temple: A New Mecca for Cat Lovers!
Hagi's Unrinji Temple is a must-see attraction for cat lovers.
Located in the suburbs of the city, Unrinji Temple has a history spanning 400 years.
In recent years, it has gained popularity among cat lovers. This is due to the wooden-carved cats visible from the temple gates. There's also a cat carving in front of the temple's main building at the top of the stairs.
It's quite curious to see so many cat-related objects on display inside the temple.
Actually, the head priest of the temple is crazy about cats. Not only does he have pet cats, but he also collects wooden-carved felines and other related items. With an array of cat posters and books, the temple resembles a cat museum (see photo below).
All of the items sold at the temple—including omamori charms, goshuin (*1), and ema (*2)—are embellished with feline motifs!
In addition, there are plenty of cat-related goods for sale in the temple precincts. Cat lovers may need to exercise caution and not get carried away with their spending!
*1 Goshuin: a large seal stamp offered to worshippers at a temple or shrine to commemorate their visit.
*2 Ema: a small wooden plaque at a Japanese shrine. Worshippers write down their prayers and wishes and hang them at the shrine. It's believed that the deities will then receive these wishes.
Pottery Daikeian Higuchi Kiln: Make Your Own Pottery!
Hagi ware ("Hagi-yaki") is a type of traditional pottery created in Hagi City and the surrounding area.
There's an ancient saying in the Japanese tea ceremony that goes, "Ichiraku Nihagi Sankaratsu." This means that Kyoto's Raku-yaki is ranked number one, Hagi-yaki is second, and Saga Prefecture's Karatsu-yaki is third. In other words, Hagi ware pottery ranks among the best in Japan. Likewise, it has been loved by tea masters for centuries.
The techniques of Hagi ware continue to be passed down to today's generation. Several spots in the city allow visitors to make their own Hagi-style pottery. One of these is Pottery Daikeian Higuchi Kiln, located near Shoin Shrine.
At the Higuchi Kiln, traditional Hagi-yaki craftsman Taikei Higuchi will explain the workshop to participants. There's also a translation device to help overseas visitors understand the contents of his talk.
After showing examples of Hagi ware pottery, Mr. Higuchi gives individual instructions to each participant.
At many of these Japanese kiln workshops, the participant's pottery can only be shipped within Japan. However, overseas shipping is an option at Higuchi Kiln. International visitors can look forward to receiving their pottery creations after returning home.
Mr. Higuchi's works of art are on sale at the Higuchi Kiln. Each piece of pottery is an exquisite one-of-a-kind item. If you see something that catches your eye, buy it before someone else does!
Enjoy a Kimono-Wearing Experience in Hagi
Even today, Hagi retains the charm of an Edo Period castle town. It's the perfect location for strolling while wearing a kimono. The city actually won the grand prize at Japan's first-ever nationwide Best Cities for Kimono Award in 2019.
In 2015, the Hagi castle town was chosen as a World Heritage Site as part of UNESCO's Sites of Japan's Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding, and Coal Mining.
Visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of a World Heritage town dressed in a beautiful kimono.
If you decide to rent a kimono, we recommend Kimono Style Café located inside the Kido Takayoshi (Katsura Kogoro) Old Residence. This is a 130-plus-year-old kominka (traditional Japanese home) renovated into a joint cafe-kimono rental shop.
You'll find over one hundred kimonos and yukatas (summer kimonos). The friendly staff will be happy to help you put on your kimono.
While strolling along the city's historic streets, you can take many interesting and memorable photos.
As you leisurely meander along the streets of Hagi castle town, you'll encounter cute souvenir shops and many historic buildings.
Our writer recommends Edoya Yokocho street, which passes in front of Kimono Style Café (see above photo). With its beautiful white plaster walls, neatly trimmed shrubbery, and other unique features, this area transcends time and space by showcasing the town's glorious past. It's also ideal for taking an attractive photo of a kimono-clad passerby.
Resort Hotel Mihagi: Soak up Stunning Ocean Views!
Resort Hotel Mihagi is located close to Hagi's Kikugahama Beach and ten minutes on foot from the Hagi Castle Ruins, a World Heritage Site.
In addition to being a convenient hub for Hagi sightseeing, the view of Kikugahama and Mount Shizuki from the lobby is impressive. There's also a path leading directly to the beach.
The top floor has a rotenburo (outdoor bath) offering stunning views of the Sea of Japan. Some rooms come equipped with their private mini-rotenburo.
When you take a dip in either of these outdoor baths at dusk, you can enjoy gazing at the changing colors of the sky. While basking in this romantic feeling, you'll certainly forget about your daily troubles.
After a relaxing bath, you can look forward to a luxurious banquet meal. From fresh seafood and fugu (puffer fish) caught off the shores of Hagi to Choshudori chicken raised nearby, the dishes always use local ingredients. The entrees are delicious, and the portions are generous!
Hagi Is the Ideal Travel Destination for History Lovers!
For Japanese people, Hagi is a famous town due to its Bakumatsu history (final years of the Edo Period) and the Choshu (Hagi) Domain.
Of course, overseas visitors to Hagi will have opportunities to learn more about the Edo Period and the history of Japan's Industrial Revolution.
Additionally, they can enjoy gourmet cuisine and hot springs alongside kimono-wearing experiences and samurai culture. You'll undoubtedly feel the warm hospitality of the locals.
Hagi makes the perfect travel destination, so please drop by and enjoy a visit!
Sponsored by Hagi City
Written by Jacky Chen