Chugoku, Japan is a region located on the western tip of the main island of Honshu. The region is most famously known for the city of Hiroshima, with the rest of the cities being considered to be off the beaten path. Don't let this fact fool you though, the Chugoku region has a lot to offer: from picturesque gardens to well preserved ancient temples and even sand dunes.
The climate in Chugoku tend to be very warm and humid in the summers, with temperatures in the high 70's (Fahrenheit) and winters are cold and bitter with temperatures in the high 30's. The best times to visit are in spring and autumn when the temperatures are mild, making it easier to travel and walkabout the cities.
Within the Chugoku region, the most popular destination is Hiroshima. People come from all over to pay their respects at the various memorials to the people who lost their lives when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city in 1945. When in Hiroshima, head to Peace Memorial Park where you can view the various memorial statues along with the famous Flame of Peace.
In Matsue, you can visit the Matsue Castle, which is one of twelve original castles in Japan that dates all the way back to 1611. Okayama is home to Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's top three gardens. It has everything from waterfalls, to teahouses, and even a miniature maple forest.
Within the region of Chugoku, there are nine major cities, each one providing a unique experience. Hiroshima has rebuilt itself after the infamous a-bomb attack in 1945 into a beautiful, peaceful, city full of parks and gardens. Hagi is a scenic castle town that has extremely well preserved homes and winding streets that are worth exploring. Izumo is famous for the second most holy Shinto Shrine in Japan, the Izumo Shrine which is dedicated to the god of marriage.
Kurashiki is an old merchant town located at the foot of Mount Tsurugata which is famous for the Ohara Museum of Art which displays famous works of art from Europe. Matsue is most popular for the Matsue Castle as it is one of twelve original castles still standing in Japan. Okayama is known for their unique black Okayama Castle-most castles are white- as well as the famous Korakuen Garden.
Shimonoseki is a town that's famous for their unique cuisine, specifically, the poisonous fish they use to create gourmet meals. In Tottori, you'll find Japan's only sand dunes where you can take camel rides and explore the incredible terrain. Yamaguchi is a temple city that is also rich in history, you can see evidence of their Medieval times prosperity in much of the architecture around the city.
The best activities in the Chugoku region come in the form of festivals which are held at various times throughout the year. Hiroshima hosts quite a few festivals, their largest is the annual Flower Festival which is made up of many different live performances on both a main stage and in small stalls along the streets. They also host the Sake Festival where you pay a flat fee and get to drink as much sake as you can handle from local breweries! In Okayama, there is the Momotaro Festival which celebrates the children's fairytale of Momotaro by having various parades, dances, and lots of fireworks in the two days of festivities.
Food and Dining
You'll find varying tastes and food options throughout the Chugoku region. For example, Okayama is famous for their white peaches and Kibi dango, which are sweet millet-flour dumplings. Tottori is notorious for its pears which they use to make cakes and other sweets and for their pickled shallots. As mentioned before Shimonoseki is known for incorporating poisonous fish into their dishes. The most common is fugu, also known as the puffer fish, which must be prepared by a licensed chef in order to ensure all of the poisonous parts are cooked correctly. Shimonoseki also serves up whale, which has fishy steak taste and is served both raw and cooked.
With Hiroshima hosting a sake festival, it's no surprise that you can find delicious and one of a kind sake throughout the Chugoku region. Different types of bars, from karaoke boxes to traditional pubs to hostess bars, are popular throughout the cities of Shimonoseki, Hiroshima, and Kurashiki.
The cities are all fairly easy to reach via the Japan Rail train system whose stations tend to be located right in the center of the city. For most cities, walking is the best mode of transportation. If you prefer not to walk, many of the cities offer public transport in the form of trams, subways, and bus lines. Renting a car is not necessary for this region, especially since cars are difficult to navigate through the small winding roads of the older cities.
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