Cruisers’ Guide to Japan

Cruiser’s Guide to Japan

Regions of Japan

There are several different ways to label the geographical regions of Japan. For the purposes of cruising, we will break down Japan into ten regions: Hokkaidō, Tōhoku, Hokuriku, Kantō, Chūbu, Kinki, Chūgoku, Shikoku, Kyūshū, and Okinawa. We hope the information will help the reader prepare for their cruises to Japan.

Chūgoku REGION

For the purposes of this guide, the Chūgoku region includes the prefectures of Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, Tottori and Okayama.

The area is also home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hiroshima Peace Memorial known also as the A Bomb Dome, Itsukushima Shinto Shrine and Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima Prefecture is a traditional center of the Chūgoku region and is centrally located within the region.

The prefecture faces Shikoku across the Seto Inland Sea. Hiroshima city is the capital of Hiroshima prefecture and the largest city in the Chūgoku region.

Hiroshima is best known as the first city in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon. On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 70,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought the total number of deaths to 90,000–166,000. The population before the bombing was around 340,000 - 350,000. Approximately 70 percent of the city's buildings were destroyed, and another 7 percent were severely damaged.

The following month, on September 17, 1945, Hiroshima was struck by the Makurazaki Typhoon (Typhoon Ida). Hiroshima Prefecture suffered more than 3,000 deaths and injuries. More than half the bridges in the city were destroyed, along with heavy damage to roads and railroads, further devastating the city.

The city has fully recovered from those dark times, but a number of memorials remain as a cautionary tale to future generations about the devastating effects of nuclear war.

Today, Hiroshima is famous for automobile manufacturing (Mazda is headquartered there), its “Hiroden” streetcar system, and its version of okonomiyaki. Although the ingredients are basically the same Osaka’s, in Hiroshima the various ingredients are placed on the grill in layers as opposed to mixing them all together as they do in Osaka.

Just a short ferry ride across the (Hiroshima?) Bay, the island of Miyajima also has deer that roam freely. However, the main attraction is Itsukushima Shrine. This landmark appears to float in the water at high tide and is beautifully lined with lit lanterns at night.

Another location of note in the prefecture is Kure, which was one of the main naval bases of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Placeholder image

Okayama prefecture is also located in the Chūgoku region on the main island of Honshu.

The capital is located in the city of Okayama where one can visit Koraku-en Japanese garden. This garden is known as one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan,”along with Kenroku-en (in Kanazawa) and Kairaku-en in the Kantō region. Okayama Prefecture is also home to the historic town of Kurashiki.

Today this port is a major shipbuilding city. The Kure Maritime Museum houses a model of the Yamato, the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet in WWII that was sunk south of the Japanese island of Kyushu in 1945. Tottori Prefecture is the least populous prefecture in Japan. It is home to the Tottori Sand Dunes, Japan's only large dune system. Japanese writer Kōbō Abe published “The Woman in the Dunes” in 1962, and it won the Yomiuri Prize for literature that same year.

Tottori Prefecture is heavily agricultural and its products are shipped to the major cities of Japan.

Some of the famous products are the nashi pear, nagaimo yam, Japanese scallion, negi, and watermelon. The prefecture is also a major producer of rice. In addition, Tottori’s Hanakairo Flower Park is the largest flower park in Japan. Tottori Prefecture’s neighbor to the east, Shimane prefecture, is the second least populous prefecture in Japan. The capital city is Matsue. Most of the cities are near the shoreline of the Sea of Japan.

Izumo Taisha (Grand Shinto Shrine) is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan, and it is home to two major festivals.

The main hall, and the attached buildings, are designated National Treasures of Japan. Several other buildings in the shrine complex are on the list of Important Cultural Properties of Japan.

The Adachi Museum of Art, located in in Yasugi, houses a collection of modern Japanese art, showcasing paintings by Taikan Yokoyama, and has an award-winning garden.

Iwami Ginzan in Shimane prefecture, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was an underground silver mine in the city of Ōda.

It was the largest silver mine in Japanese history. The mine was active for almost four hundred years, from its discovery in 1526 to its closing in 1923.

Shimane was also home to Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, an international writer, known best for his books about Japan.

The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum is a writer's house museum established in Matsue. It is located next to his former residence and has been designated as a Historic Site.

Placeholder image

Okayama prefecture is also located in the Chūgoku region on the main island of Honshu.

The capital is located in the city of Okayama where one can visit Koraku-en Japanese garden. This garden is known as one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan,”along with Kenroku-en (in Kanazawa) and Kairaku-en in the Kantō region. Okayama Prefecture is also home to the historic town of Kurashiki.

Matsue Castle, nicknamed the "black castle" or "plover castle," was built after the last great war of feudal Japan.

It is one of the few remaining medieval castles in Japan , and it is one of a few castles remaining in their original wooden form, as opposed to a modern reconstruction in concrete.

A major attraction in Yamaguchi Prefecture is the famous Kintai, or “Brocade”, Bridge in the town of Iwakuni.

The area on the banks of the Nishiki river close to the bridge is considered among the best places in Japan for cherry blossom viewing.

The largest city in the prefecture is Shimonoseki.

There, cruisers in the area have a rare chance to view the full length of the Kanmon Bridge,. This suspension bridge crosses the Kanmon Straits, a stretch of water separating two of Japan's four main islands. On the Honshū side of the bridge is Shimonoseki and on the Kyūshū side is Kitakyushu.

The Chūgoku region is host to thirteen different port cities, listed below with important cruise ports noted with an asterisk:

  • Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture
  • Hagi, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Hamada, Shimane prefecture
  • Hiroshima*, Hiroshima prefecture (2016 population - 1,189,530, Japan’s 11th largest city)
  • Iwakuni, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Kure, Hiroshima prefecture
  • Mitajiri-Nakanoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Sakaiminato*, Tottori prefecture (2016 population - 33,888)
  • Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Tokuyama-Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Tottori, Tottori prefecture
  • Ube, Yamaguchi prefecture
  • Uno, Okayama prefecture
Placeholder image
Placeholder image