Map of Setouchi region. Image Source: Japan Travel.
Setouchi region is included in the Seto Inland Sea and three main islands in Japan namely, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The region is less crowded, packed with Japan’s beautiful landscapes and historic cities which are perfect for those who want to escape the busy city life. For first-timers, if you are not sure which prefectures you should visit, you may refer to this sample itinerary. You can customize the itinerary according to your preferences and do tons of research so you’ll know what to expect. Check out our 3 Days 2 Nights sample itinerary to off-the-beaten-path Setouchi region.
Day 1 (Yamaguchi)
Your first pit-stop to begin your three days journey starts at Tsunoshima Bridge, Yamaguchi. This is one of the highly acclaimed bridges in Japan because you will constantly see this bridge on Japan’s tv commercials. Tsunoshima Bridge is Japan’s second-longest bridge that extends to 1,780 meters long. It is an ideal spot for any drivers to drive out here as the view of the blue sea is pretty stunning any time of the day.
Image Source: Setouchi Finder.
Next, head to Tsunoshima Lighthouse to visit an old Western-style lighthouse which has been around since 1876. The lighthouse was built by a renowned ‘Father of Japanese Lighthouses’, Richard Henry Burton to guide ships and foreign visitors. You can visit the 43 metres lighthouse for only 150 yen and enjoy the wind whistling by your ears.
Image Source: Setouchi Finder.
Travelling down to Nagato, here you will reach one of the popular Inari shrines in Japan. Motonosumi Inari Shrine boasts 123 Torii gates that run for 100 meters long, facing the Sea of Japan. This popular site originated from a story of a local fisherman where a fox appeared in his dream and told him to enshrine the area. In returns, the fox will bring good luck to this place.
Image Source: Fast Japan.
After 10 years of construction, Motonosumi Inari Shrine became popular among locals and tourists where they would wish for fortune, fertility, and luck. However, this shrine is regarded as the hardest place to make an offering in Japan. The offertory box sits 5 meters above the ground and visitors need to toss a coin into the box while wishing. If the coin enters the box, then their wish will come true.
Another thing you should look out for is the ‘Dragon Palace Geyser’ by the cliff. When the wind blows into the right direction, the water from the blowhole will blast up to 30 meters in the air. It is definitely a rare sight, even for the locals.
Image Source: Japan Travel.
Step into a small historical castle town, Hagi where you can cherish the well-maintained classic buildings from the Meiji Period. Thoroughly, Hagi doesn’t have many attractions aside from the remnants of Hagi Castle, which is a must-visit. Nevertheless, you can step back in time by visiting the museums and temples. Honestly, you can tour around the town within half a day by foot or by Hagi Maru bus. Also, to enjoy Hagi’s natural landscape, go on a boat ride around the Hagi Castle Canal for 40 minutes.
A traditional teahouse found in Hagi. Image Source: Ojisanjake on Blogspot.
Day 2 (Yamaguchi – Miyajima – Kurashiki)
This iconic wooden arched bridge is perhaps the most popular bridge in Japan due to its unique architecture. Kintai Bridge is located in Iwakuni by Nishiki River. The bridge has a history of over 300 years where it has undergone several reconstructions throughout its lifetime. A series of unfortunate events struck Kintai Bridge in a flood and typhoon back in 1950. The bridge’s length is around 200 metres and earned two stars by Michelin Green Guide to Japan.
To preserve the bridge, visitors need to pay 300 yen to walk on it. By night, Kintai Bridge will be illuminated which looks really beautiful.
Five-arched bridge from the side view.
Then, head to Miyajima to behold the greatest symbol of Japan, the Itsukushima Torii Gate. Located in Hiroshima, Miyajima literally means ‘Shrine Island’ and houses a giant floating Torii gate which is overflowing with tourists. The Torii gate has been reconstructed several times until 1875. However, from June 2019, the iconic gate will be renovated until further notice. Anyway, you can still visit the site to explore the area.
Torii Gate before the renovation.
Enjoy a breath-taking view of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, Okayama. This place used to be the centre of trading goods mainly rice during the Edo period. The most sought-after thing to do here is to go on a boat ride along the Kurashiki’s canal. Willow trees and the wooden bridge will add an extra gorgeous view to Kurashiki. It is recommended to rent a kimono or yukata while walking down the town streets.
A boat ride along Kurashiki’s canal.
Day 3 (Hyogo)
Hyogo’s iconic landmark is undisputedly the Himeji Castle. Also known as White Heron Castle due to its all-white exterior perched elegantly on top of a hill. Not only this castle is a National Treasure, but it is also listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Himeji Castle remains intact for 400 years since the 16th century as it never got destroyed during wars, earthquake and so on, thus, making it one of Japan’s 12 original castles.
In total, there are 80 buildings inside the castle ground which are all connected by narrow paths and tunnels. Himeji Castle is most visited during cherry blossoms seasons and Golden Week. We advised you to visit the castle when its weekdays just so you won’t feel cramped.
View of Himeji Castle from afar.
Your last destination for this Setouchi trip is nicknamed as Japan’s Machu Picchu and Castle in the Sky because you will get to see the castle floating amongst the clouds from October to November. Takeda Castle Ruins sits on top of a hill in Asago city and all that left is just the foundation. Even so, tourists are still swarming this ruin for the magnificent view. To catch a ‘Castle in the Sky’ view, the perfect time to visit is during autumn and winter season around 8 AM.
Image Source: Japan Visitor.
Other than that, Takeda Castle Ruins was built in the 14th century and was terribly destroyed during the Battle of Sekigahara in the 16th century. Later in 1970 to 1980, the ruins were opened as a tourist site after being properly restored.
A perfect morning mist surrounding the ruins. Image Source: Asago City.
In a nutshell, Setouchi region covers more prefectures than Yamaguchi, Okayama, Hyogo, and Hiroshima. You can go to a lot more places and discover the rural areas to see the other side of Japan. We hope this sample itinerary will give you an insight into what to expect from the Setouchi region. This itinerary is suitable for a self-driving trip and those who want to use the JR Setouchi Pass.