Warm climate, bright sun, and the vast, seemingly endless ocean -
Known as Japan's largest inland sea, the area around the Seto Inland Sea has Mediterranean-like weather, is dotted with spectacular views of the sea, and has many cultural heritage and historic sites, making it an area where you can enjoy both relaxing resort feeling and sightseeing. In this article, we will introduce the charms of the Setouchi region and recommended sightseeing spots and activities from spring to summer.
Where is the Seto Inland Sea? What is the Setouchi area?
The Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海 / Seto Naikai) is Japan's largest inland sea surrounded by Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. The area is 23,203 km², the total length of the coastline is about 7,230 km, and the sea area is dotted with about 700 large and small islands.
The Setouchi region or Setouchi area refers to the coastal region of the Setouchi Sea, and generally refers to the region that combines the Banshu region of Hyogo Prefecture, Okayama Prefecture, Hiroshima Prefecture, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture, and Ehime Prefecture. In some cases it may also include Awajishima Island, Tokushima Prefecture, the northern part of Fukuoka Prefecture, and Oita Prefecture.
What is the climate and precipitation in the Setouchi region?
The coastal area of the Seto Inland Sea, which is surrounded by mountains from north to south, is known for its warm and low rainfall, with an average annual temperature of about 16 degrees Celsius and an average annual rainfall of about 1,000 to 1,600 mm. It is also characterized by a high rate of sunny weather throughout the year, and the mountains on the Shikoku side in summer and the Honshu side (Chugoku region) in winter block the seasonal monsoon and make it very difficult to rain. Normally, bad weather is a great enemy of travel, but for the Setouchi area, it's easy to incorporate outdoor activities that are easily affected by the weather into your itinerary, as it is mostly sunny!
What are the charms of sightseeing in the Setouchi region?
The Setouchi region is becoming more popular as a travel destination. Here, we will introduce the charms of and recommended spots for sightseeing in the Setouchi area.
Charm #1: Lots of seafood and delicious food!
Speaking of the charm of the Seto Inland Sea, the first thing that comes to mind is the abundant seafood.
The deliciousness of seafood is especially famous, and there are various theories as to why, such as because there are many shallow waters in the Seto Inland Sea and planktons are likely to live there, and because a lot of river water with nutrients dissolved from the mountains on all sides flows in, and even because the fish here swim around in the violent tide, the body becomes firm and delicious.
In addition, the water temperature changes depending on the season, so you can enjoy a variety of fish throughout the year. For example, Japanese Spanish mackerel (サワラ / Sawara) and sand lance (イカナゴ / Ikanago) caught from April to May, black porgy (クロダイ / Kurodai) that is indispensable for local cuisine, yellowtail (ハマチ / Hamachi) that is abundantly cultivated such as the olive hamachi, and harvestfish (マナガツオ / Managatsuo) that is delicious in sashimi and boiled. In addition, Hiroshima Prefecture has the highest production of oysters (牡蠣 / Kaki) in Japan! Grilled oysters, fried oysters, gratin, etc. made with large oysters are excellent for eating and are a specialty of Setouchi gourmet.
The warm Setouchi region, which has a high rate of sunny weather, is also known for its abundantly cultivated citrus fruits. There are about 49 types of citrus fruits here!
In particular, the mandarin oranges called "mikan" (みかん) and the iyokan citrus (いよかん) from Ehime Prefecture and lemons from Hiroshima Prefecture are famous all over the country, and many processed products such as juices, jams, sweets, and seasonings are produced. It's perfect for souvenirs from your travel!
Charm #2: There are lots of spectacular spots on the sea that looks great on social media!
Shodoshima Angel Road
Angel Road, a sandy road that appears from the sea at low tide twice a day, is a spectacular spot that represents Shodoshima. At high tide, you can only see the sea, but at low tide, a white road appears in the vast ocean! This romantic spot, where the contrast between the blue of the sea and sky and the white of sands is romantic, is also famous as a love power spot (lucky spot for love) and is also used as a location for movies.
Shodoshima is the largest island in Kagawa prefecture. From Takamatsu Port in Okayama Prefecture, you can reach it in about 35 minutes by high-speed boat and about 70 minutes by ferry.
The Great Seto Bridge (Seto Ohashi Bridge) seen from Mt. Washuzan
The Great Seto Bridge (瀬戸大橋 / Seto Ohashi) was opened in 1988 as the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge connecting Okayama and Kagawa prefectures. The name Seto Ohashi is a general term for the series of six bridges that span 9.4km of the strait. It has a two-tiered structure with a motorway at the top and a railroad at the bottom, making it one of the largest road and railroad bridges in the world. Mt. Washuzan in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture is recommended for viewing this Great Seto Bridge.
The sight of the Great Seto Bridge, which stretches over the open sea of the Seto Inland Sea, along with about 50 large and small islands scattered over the sea. You can enjoy the magnificent view of the sea and the Beauty of Setouchi Archipalego (多島美 / Tatobi), and it is also popular as a selfie spot. Especially the beauty of the evening scenery is exceptional!
The Great Seto Bridge has been selected as one of the "100 Best Sunsets in Japan". Access is about 30 minutes by loop-line bus from JR Kojima Station, or about 5 minutes by car from Kojima Interchange.
The Naruto Whirlpools
The Naruto Whirlpools are "natural phenomena" that occur when a violent tidal current occurs due to the tidal difference between the Seto Inland Sea and the Kii Channel. It reaches a maximum diameter of 20m during spring and autumn tides, and is said to be the largest in the world.
If you want to see the whirlpools up close, we recommend the "Uzu no Michi", a marine promenade built under the driveway of the Ohnaruto Bridge spanning over the Naruto Strait! If you look through the glass floor from a height of 45m above the whirlpool, you can enjoy the thrill of feeling like really being pulled into the whirlpools.
If you want to see the whirlpools from the sea, we also recommend a cruise on a large sightseeng boat or a small underwater sightseeing boat (* advance reservation required).
By the way, you can't see the whirlpools during the time when there is no tide, so please check the best time on the tide table before you go out.
To access the Uzu no Michi, take a local bus from JR Naruto Station in Tokushima Prefecture and get off at Naruto Park bus stop, then it is a 5-minute walk from there.
Charm #3: You can also enjoy visiting world heritage sites and historic sites that are Japanesque!
Speaking of the highlights of a trip to Japan, Japanese landscapes and World Heritage tours are indispensable. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, which is a 10 to 15-minute walk from JR Kurashiki Station, is a popular spot for the Japanese-style streets lined with willow trees and kurayashiki (traditional style storehouses) along the river. It is also designated as a Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings by the country.
It is recommended that you enjoy taking pictures with the white-walled Kurashiki and the Kurashiki River where the sightseeing riverboats stop as the background, and do some walk-and-eat. In addition, Onomichi, which is the gateway to the Honshu side of the Shimanami Kaido, is an area where the retro cityscape is the focus of attention. The city is like a maze with slopes and stone steps that cars can't enter! There are many fashionable cafes in the alleys, which are renovated from public baths and old folk houses, and you can meet many cats along the way.
In addition, you can visit various World Heritage Sites and Historic Sites such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture and Itsukushima Shrine in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture.
Charm #4: Activities and art spots are also hot topics!
The Seto Inland Sea, where there are many sunny days and the waves are relatively calm, is also known for beginners to easily enjoy marine sports. You can enjoy marine activities such as sea kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle (SUP), all of which you can enjoy the magnificent nature in a 360-degree panorama, and there are also snorkeling and diving which you can enjoy the highly transparent underwater.
In addition, Shimanami Cycling which you cross the Shimanami Kaido on bicycle, and glamping, which you can enjoy a luxurious BBQ while enjoying the spectacular view of the sea, are also appealing to tourists.
In addition, there are many art spots scattered around Setouchi, and there are many museums where you can enjoy contemporary art and open-air outdoor art. In addition to the famous Naoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture, Ikuchijima Island and Omishima Island, where the Shimanami Kaido passes through, are famous.
As we have introduced so far, the Setouchi region has a wide area and is dotted with tourist spots, so there are many means of travel that span across multiple prefectures. In addition to trains, there are many trips by boat, so let's go sightseeing with plenty of time to travel and stay!