Two World Heritage sites are located in Hiroshima – Itsukushima Shinto Shrine in Miyajima and Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Dogo Hot Spring in Matsuyama, Ehime is believed as the oldest hot spring in Japan. It is also known to attract many literary legends of Japan, including Soseki Natsume and Shiki Masaoka. Awa Dance Festival of Tokushima is the traditional summer bon festival with over 400 years of history, and is one of the traditional performing arts of Japan. Around 1.35 million tourists from all over the country visit the festival during the four-day period between August 12 and 15 every year.
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine in Miyajima, Hiroshima celebrated its 20th anniversary of the World Heritage registration in 2016. The shrine with 1400 years of history is located in Miyajima, one of the three major landscapes in Japan, and its gigantic vermilion gate standing in the sea and the worship hall and corridors built over the sea are among the must-see sights. The Miyajima Omotesando Shopping Street has many gift shops, restaurants and ryokans standing one next to each other on both sides of the street, and is constantly crowded with tourists. “Momiji Manju”, the maple-leaf-shaped Japanese cake, is the specialty of Hiroshima, and here in Miyajima, you can enjoy the deep-fried version of Momiji Manju, the “Age Momiji”. Other popular local specialties in this area are Miyajima Oyster and congers. Miyajima in fall is beautifully decorated with red/golden foliage, and you should definitely visit Momijidani Park in Miyajima during the season.
Otaniyaki pottery that has been made in Oasa-cho, Naruto, Tokushima for around 230 years is the pottery to represent Tokushima, and is designated as the traditional craft by the national government. Several studios in town offer pottery-making and painting trials, so you can make your very own Otaniyaki piece.
Shikoku Ohenro is the pilgrimage to follow the footsteps of Kobodaishi (Kukai) and visit 88 temples. The prayer of Ohenro varies among pilgrims, including health, finding own purpose of life, better fortune, match-making and reflection of one’s past. The springtime of March to April and the wintertime of October to November are the best seasons for the pilgrimage, hence attract many pilgrims. Although there is no strict dress code, a white kimono with a cane and a bamboo hat is the traditional pilgrimage attire. You can buy them all in the vicinity of temples.
Shopping & Gourmet
There are many great places for shopping in downtown Hiroshima and Tokushima. Famous souvenirs include the “Momiji Manju” of Miyajima and the Miyajima’s special “Rice Paddle”. The rice paddle of Miyajima is a craftwork with prayers such as “Business Prosperity” and “Health of Family Members” written over the surface.
The most famous food in Hiroshima is Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. It is made and tastes differently from Osaka-style okonomiyaki of Kansai Region. Osaka-style mixes all ingredients before cooking, while Hiroshima-style fries each of them separately and put on top of one another. There are many okonomiyaki restaurants in the city. What you cannot miss when you visit Kagawa in Shikoku is the “Sanuki udon”. It is hugely popular among the locals as well, and the prefecture is proud of the largest per capita udon consumption in Japan.
“Kagura” is the Shintoism ritual – the dance and musical performance to worship the god. It is believed to start out as the ceremony to pray for the bountiful harvest/catch and the perfect health. There are more than 500 kagura performer groups in Chugoku Region, which is one of the largest number in the entire country. Sada Shin Noh, sacred dancing at Sada Shrine, Shimane has been registered in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Also famous are Bicchu Kagura of Okayama and Geihoku Kagura of Hiroshima, along with many kagura performer groups in Yamaguchi. There are many permanent theater for kagura performance everywhere in Chugoku Region. Why don’t you treat yourself to this very Japanese performance?