Osaka and Hiroshima are in most first-time travellers to Japan bucket-list. If you have a bit more time, there are plenty of great sights between the two cities to make your trip to Japan a more special memory.
Here is my selection of 8 great sights to visit on your way down the Seto inland sea coast.
Is famous worldwide for producing deliciously marbled high-grade beef, that melts in your mouth.
One of Japan’s largest port, the views from Meriken Park and Kobe tower are worth a stop. You will also see an open-air memorial area dedicated to the 1995 Kobe earthquake that destroyed a large portion of the city. Kitano district has remained standing, and visitors can see houses erected by foreign merchants, leaving an exotic heritage to Kobe.
Stuck between the water and mountains, hop on one of Mt Rokko gondola to take in sweeping views of the area.
Getting there: 30 min from Osaka city by bullet train.
Himeji is home to one of the largest and best-preserved castles in Japan. Classified as National Treasure and World Heritage Site, it is one of the 12 original castles on Japan. This means it has never been destroyed since its construction was completed in 1609.
Surrounded by the beautiful Kokoen gardens, this is a perfect stop on your way.
Getting there: 45 min from Osaka city by bullet train.
Okayama is the second largest city of the wider Chugoku Region after Hiroshima. Developed as a transportation hub and castle town during the Edo period (1603-1867), Okayama’s Korakuen gardens are ranked in the top 3 Japanese landscape gardens. Korakuen is located 23 min walk from Okayama station, with Okayama castle directly across.
Getting there: 1h25min from Osaka city by bullet train.
From Okayama, you can also access Naoshima and Tejima Art islands, or the picturesque small town of Bitchu-Takahashi. This may require more time to explore, and I recommend to stay overnight in the area.
Know as the Venice of Japan, Kurashiki is a delightfully preserved historical town. A picturesque canal runs through the city centre, where ancient white and black buildings host an array of local bizen pottery shops, cafés and beautiful traditional indigo dye fabrics.
Take a ride on the canal, explore the small streets and visit the many many museums the city has to offer.
Getting there: 1 hr 10 min from Osaka city by bullet train.
Crossing over from Honshu main island to Shikoku, you will find the beautiful seaside city of Takamatsu. This castle town offers many options for sightseeing, as the outstanding Risturin garden, and Yashima flat-top mountain that harbours a number of museums and attractions.
Amongst which, the Noguchi Museum or open-air Shikoku mura, with the stunning backdrop of the Seto inland sea. Don’t forget to take a break to enjoy delicious sanuki udon, the local specialty.
Getting there: 2 hr 15 min from Osaka city by bullet train and local train.
Ferries from Takamatsu allow travel to Naoshima and Teshima art islands as well. For more flexibility, staying overnight is recommended.
Take a trip back in time with the small port town of Tomonoura. Fresh seafood, tiny streets, quaint shops and traditional way of life. Tomonoura is a renowned hot spring town, and its natural surroundings make it a perfect peaceful break between visiting large cities. The Joyato lighthouse overlooking the port, or the astounding Abuto Kannon, a shrine perched atop a rock over the water (about 20 min from the town centre by taxi) make it well worth the visit.
Getting there: 2hrs from Osaka city by bullet train and local bus.
The city is the inspiration for the town in Ponyo on the cliff, the adorable Studio Ghibli movie.
If you are feeling like an active trip, hop on a bike from Onomichi and cross the 60 km long bridge that hops from island to island between the main island of Honshu to Shikoku. Bike rental (electrical bikes are also available) is available in Onomichi, and there are drop-off points along the way, should you be tired and wanting to finish the journey by bus. Stunning views of the Seto Naikai National Park and cute small towns along the way make for lovely stops. The shimanami kaido finishes in Imabari, famous for its high-quality cotton towels, and a plethora of citrus varieties to enjoy all year round.
Getting there: 1hr 40 min from Osaka city by bullet train.
Matsuyama is located on Shikoku island and is home to one of the most ancient hot spring baths in the country: Dogo onsen. The springs are mentioned in literature for the first time circa 759. The current bath-house was build after the Imperial restoration of Meiji (1868), and many buildings display the European influence of the time. Dogo onsen was also the backdrop of the classic novel Botchan by Natsume Sôseki. Apart from its literary legacy, Matsuyama has an original castle that offers beautiful views from the top of the hill, and the locally freshly caught sea bream is a treat.
Getting there: 4 hrs from Osaka city by bullet train and bus.
Matsuyama has a direct ferry route to Hiroshima.
From a short visit to a full-day or overnight stay, the coast of the Seto inland sea has plenty of sights to take you Japan trip a notch further.
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