The Chugoku region stretches from the western shores of Japan’s main island of Honshu to the border of the west Hyogo Prefecture and contains the city and prefecture of Hiroshima. Apart from Hiroshima, Chugoku is not a well-known destination to foreign travelers; Chugoku’s neglected Shimane Prefecture is the least traveled to prefecture by international visitors in all of Japan.
Nonetheless, Chugoku is home to dozens of breathtaking attractions, both natural and man-made. Miyajima Island is an example of both of these, a group of beautiful shrines and temples nestled into the mountains of a lovely island on the Seto Inland Sea. Port towns on the Seto Inland Sea include Kure, a must-visit for maritime history lovers, and Tomonoura, the quaint seaside town that inspired the Studio Ghibli film, Ponyo. Okayama Prefecture attractions round out the attractions on the inland sea side of Chugoku. Korakuen in Okayama city is one of Japan’s three finest Japanese gardens, and Kurashiki city is a historic indigo dyeing center that produces Japan’s finest denim wear.
On the north side of Chugoku, Shimane Prefecture is home to Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the largest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan. Lovely Matsue city is situated strategically between two large lakes, so safe that its Matsue Castle never saw battle and is preserved in its original condition from 400 years ago.
Tottori Prefecture is blessed with two of Chugoku’s unique geographical features: the Tottori sand dunes, which looks like it was plucked out of an African desert and dropped near the ocean, and Mt. Daisen, a mystical mountain nicknamed the Mt. Fuji of Western Japan. Tottori seaports also harvest most of the fresh crab eaten in Western Japan.
With so much coastline on two different seas, the seafood of Chugoku is fresh and abundant. Shimane Prefecture also produces beef rivaling Kobe. Tottori has dairy arms, and Yamaguchi is famous for its chefs who are masters of serving fugu, the delicious yet potentially deadly blowfish.