Yamaguchi is a prefecture resting on the west side of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Its capital city—also called Yamaguchi—has been aptly nicknamed “the Kyoto of the West,” but there is much more to see across this beautiful prefecture too.
Whether you might like to visit phenomenal natural and architectural wonders above and below ground, dress in an exquisite kimono, wield a sword like a samurai, chant and eat like Zen monk, work with your hands making traditional crafts, or participate in the harvest on a Japanese farm, we’ve got something for you in Yamaguchi.
1. Pleasure Boat Cruises at Kintai Bridge
At the 345-year-old Kintai Bridge (Kintaikyo) in Iwakuni, you can enjoy the grandeur of the restored wooden arch bridge itself, but you can also cruise the river under it on a pleasure boat and take in the natural surroundings, including Mt. Yokoyama and Iwakuni Castle at its peak.
These cruises take you down the river on a slow ride among beautiful foliage in autumn, through festival music and fireworks in summer, and between snowy hills in winter. Should you visit in spring, you’ll be immersed in the 3,000 sakura, blooming cherry trees, on the riverbanks. On summer evenings, you can also watch the ukai, or cormorant fishing, done in spectacular traditional fashion.
- How to get here: Take a bus from Shin-Iwakuni Shinkansen Station (15 minutes), a bus from Hiroshima Bus Center (50 minutes), or a taxi from Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport (20 minutes).
- Address: Near the Kintaikyo bridge, Iwakuni city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 741-0062
- How to book: Call +81-827-28-2877 to book. Mini sightseeing rides last 20 minutes and cost ¥500 (or ¥300 for elementary school students).
- More info: Kintaikyo Cruises (in Japanese only)
2. Goldfish Lantern Making in Yanai
Lantern festivals are a popular summer tradition all over Japan. The one in Yanai, which takes place every year on August 13, lanterns shaped like goldfish that you’ll only see on this scale here.
This has been the case for centuries and, to this day, the old merchant district in which the festival takes place reflects this art. Among the historical houses and buildings, you will find hundreds of lanterns and stores that sell them.
However, what better way to remember your trip to Yanai than to make your own goldfish lantern? The workshop at Yanai Nishigura, for adults or children, will help you do just that and take home a piece of Yamaguchi tradition.
- How to get here: It’s a 10-minute walk from Yanai Station.
- Address: 3700-8 Yanai, Yanai city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 742-0021
- How to book: Reservation required for groups of 10 or more. Lantern workshops from ¥800.
- More information: Yanai Nishigura (in Japanese only)
3. Drinking Matcha in a Traditional Tea Room
You can’t leave Japan without trying one of its finest drinks: matcha (ceremonial powdered green tea).
On the grounds of the beautiful Hofu Tenmangu Shrine, you will find the tea room Houshouan. Here you can enjoy this wonderful beverage while relaxing in a traditional old-Japan-style room overlooking a four-season garden sure to amaze regardless of when you decide to visit.
- How to get there: It’s a 15-minute walk from Houfu Station on the Sanyo Main Line.
- Address: 14-1 Matsuzakicho, Hofu city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 747-0029
- How to book: No booking required. Fee is ¥500 which includes matcha and traditional Japanese snack.
- More info: Houshouan (in Japanese only)
4. Kimono Wearing
Like when visiting Kyoto, experiencing the streets of “the Kyoto of the West” while wearing traditional kimono really makes you feel like part of the painting-like scenery.
Visit Saikotei for your chance to not only to wear kimono, but also to learn the complexities of how to do so. Select your favorite patterns, style, and materials to immerse yourself in a truly Japan-only experience for women, men, and children.
- How to get here: Take a taxi from Yamaguchi Station (7 minutes).
- More info: Saikotei (reservation required)
5. Zen Buddhist Cuisine and Practice
Sotoshu Gensai-ji, a temple in Yamaguchi City, is a must-visit location for anyone passionate about temples or Zen. In this very unusual Zen temple, not only can you watch the monks at work and in ceremonies, but you’ll also be able to practice what they do under the guidance of the temple’s English-speaking master. Learn how to write and recite sutra (the teachings of Buddha) and live like a monk for a day.
A day-return experience (5 hours) here costs ¥25,000, with overnight stays at Yuda Onsen Sansuien priced at ¥50,000. Sansuien is an accommodation with a beautiful Japanese rock garden, and caters to groups of 2 to 20 people.
- How to get here: Take a chartered taxi provided from Shin-Yamaguchi Shinkansen Station to Gensai-ji, or take a taxi (15 minutes) from Yudaonsen Station on the Yamaguchi Line.
- Address: 4-10-20 Yoshikisabata, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 753-0816
- How to book: Contact the Yamaguchi Tourism Convention Association via email at email@example.com or +81-83-933-0088. Group sizes 2-20 people.
- More info: Gensai-ji (in Japanese only)
6. Hagi Pottery Making and Decorating
Japan works hard to maintain its rich cultural traditions. One of the great ways to do it is by encouraging people to experience firsthand its many crafts.
Pottery painting is one of those trades that has become an art, and in Hagi, well known for its particular style of pottery, you’ll get to try your hand at making your own pottery and decorating it, helped by professionals every step of the way. After all, there’s no better way to learn about tradition than to experience it for yourself.
- How to get here: It’s a 7-minute taxi ride from Higashi-Hagi Station.
- Address: 31-15 Nishinohama, Horiuchi, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture
- How to book: Booking can be made by phone (Japanese only) — see website for more information. Painting experience from ¥945.
- More info: Jouzan Kiln (in Japanese only)
7. Hagi Glass Making
While in Hagi, take a break from strolling the marvelous historic district of this coastal castle town and try your hand at making glass.
This craft has been developed locally for over 150 years, giving life to amazing everyday items and art. Many workshops around the city introduce you to this fascinating process with hands-on seminars and fun courses. But bring some comfortable clothes—you’ll work hard!
- How to get here: From Hagi Bus Center, take a 13-minute bus ride to the Koshigahama bus stop and walk a further 10 minutes. Alternatively, take a train from Higashi-Hagi Station to Koshigahama Station (4 minutes) and then a taxi (5 minutes).
- Address: 1189-453 Koshigahama, Chinto, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture
- How to book: Glass blowing ¥3,600 (delivery separate), glass sculpting or accessory making ¥1,550
- More info: Hagi Glass Studio (in Japanese only)
8. Cave and Karst Landscape Exploring
Mine is a city rich in natural parks and cave systems, as it is part of Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park, the largest karst landscape in Japan. Hike through the grassy hills with sinkholes known as dolines and explore the caves underneath with splendid mineral formations, including Japan’s premiere spelunking experience, Akiyoshi Cave. This geological landscape is 300 million years in the making and calls for adventure.
- How to get there: The park can be accessed by bus. From Yamaguchi City, it’s a 40-minute bus ride from the Shin-Yamaguchi Shinkansen station, or a 60-minute bus ride from Yamaguchi Station. From Mine Station, it’s a 25-minute bus ride. There's also a reasonably-priced "Karst Taxi" service for transport in and around the park. Akiyoshi Cave is wheelchair accessible.
- Address: 3108 Mitochoaka, Mine city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 754-0302
- How to book: No booking required. Entry ¥1,300 (or ¥860 for minors)
- More info: Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park, Akiyoshi Cave
9. Strawberry and Blueberry Picking
Berries have become more popular in the last couple of decades in Japan, and so has berry picking. Children and adults alike visit the countryside and gather strawberries, blueberries, or other seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s a great way to get fresh air and connect with the food we eat, learning about where it comes from and how it’s grown.
At Hana no Umi in Sanyo-Onoda City, you can experience a Japanese fruit farm, harvest fruits and vegetables, learn new ways to prepare them, eat your fill at the on-site café, and take back some for yourself and for gifts.
This small city has also more to offer, with popular spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Sue and Wakayama parks as well as Kirara Beach with its amazing restaurants and glass-making factory.
- How to get there: Take a taxi from Habu Station on the Sanyo Main Line (7 minutes).
- Address: 3392 Habu, Sanyoonoda city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 757-0012
- How to book: Farm entry free but individual experiences charged. Schedule: Strawberry picking (early Nov–May), blueberries (mid-June–Aug), vegetable harvesting (June–mid-July), potatoes (end of May–late June, mid-Nov to early Dec), sweet potatoes (mid-Sept–mid-Nov).
- More info: Hana no Umi
10. Samurai and Iaido Sword Experience
In the port city of Shimonoseki, part of the historically important Chofu clan, the local lord’s mansion and gardens is a place you can visit today. Free the warrior in you with the opportunity to wear samurai clothing and armor. Furthermore, to truly fill a warrior’s shoes, learn the basics iaido, the martial art of mental presence and swordsmanship to react immediately to a threat, even from a seated position. The discipline involves—at lightning speed—standing up (if necessary), drawing the katana, striking the opponent, cleaning the blood from the sword, and replacing it in its scabbard. Watch a demonstration, and even practice with the use of a sword yourself under the guidance of a master swordsman.
- How to get here: Take a taxi from Shin-Shimonoseki (Shinkansen) or Shimonoseki (JR) stations (12 minutes).
- Address: 4-10 Chofusoshamachi, Shimonoseki city, Yamaguchi Prefecture 752-0970
- How to book: Price of ¥32,000 for a group of 4 (please discuss if more) which includes iaido experience and garment. To book contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- More info: Chofu Mori Residence (in Japanese only)
Yamaguchi is one of the most amazing areas of Japan. Don’t miss out on this treasure chest of fun, tradition, history, culture, and mind-bogglingly beautiful sights that’s too-often overlooked by foreign visitors in favor of locations that are more internationally famous.