Hello Folks! My first episode in 2019 is my exiting trip to Yamaguchi prefecture, where locates in the western part of Japan, with my Onsen (Hot spring) buddies at the end of January! I belong to the group which consists of Onsen lovers and it was the annual trip event and the first visiting there in my life. Japan is a relatively small country, but I have many prefectures I have never been to. This was because the center of my interest was foreign cultures in my young age, however, I have found that there are so many different and attractive local Japan cultures since I started to travel around the country with the group. Our trip is 2 nights and 3 days and started from Yamaguchi-Ube Airport by a mini bus which we always hire for the tour. We visited many sightseeing spots and enjoyed hot springs and local foods, I will introduce the highlights according some categories such as nature, traditional places, food and Onsen etc.
Where is Yamaguchi prefecture?
Yamaguchi prefecture locates in the western edge of the main island of Japan, next to famous Hiroshima and you can go to Kyushu island by walking through the Kanmon Tunnel. The prefecture is famous for having many politicians who became a prime minister, and Shinzo Abe, a current prime minister, originally came from here. Yamaguchi consists of 4 areas according to Yamaguchi Travel Guide and we went around 3 areas (blue, light blue and green areas) this time.
Akiyoshido Cave & Akiyoshidai Plateau
First of all, we went to the cave from the airport. The cave is one of the largest limestone caves in Japan registered as the national natural treasure. They have started to grow 300 million years ago, and the total length is about 10 km. Tourists can just walk inside the cave for 1 km. The temperature in the cave keeps 17 ℃ through the year, so all we were sweaty in spite of mid-winter after walking through the cave. It was a quite dynamic and mysterious landscape and it might be better for you to visit in summer for cool down! Akiyoshidai is the karst plateau above the caves with ancient limestone. There were desolate lands during winter but will be covered by green grass in spring and summer.
Beppu Benten Pond
Our second destination was Beppu Benten Pond within Beppu Itukushima Shirine. The pond is natural spring with cobalt blue color and high transparency form Karst Zone, which was selected by top 100 natural springs in Japan. Due to this bright beautiful color, there are many people to visit here as a power spot and Instagram attractive spot.
We went there for drive on the last day and the long straight bridge connects between the main land of Yamaguchi and Tusnoshima, a small island of 3.93 Square km. When you go there on sunny day, you can see very beautiful scenery with very blue ocean and sky. There is an observatory spot at the entrance of the bridge where you can look over the whole landscape. Recently, I heard that the number of foreign visitors has been increasing by Instagram. When you take the photos here, please be careful with cars because it is on the active road!
One of the most enjoyable things during trips is eating local foods. Regarding the freshness of food, Tokyo doesn’t match any local areas. I would like to introduce some of them here.
Natsumikan (Japanese Summer Orange) Sweets
Natsumikan is one of specialty goods in Yamaguchi prefecture and we found various kinds of food and souvenirs made from the fruits. Especially, Natsumikan Soft Cream stood out for me this time in spite of the mid of winter. When we went out from Akiyoshido Cave, we all sweat because of hot temperature and high humidity inside, so we wanted to eat/drink something cold. The soft cream was good combinations between sweet milk taste and slight acidity / bitterness of orange. I also purchased Natsumikan marmalade for myself and chocolates for for others.
Fresh Yamaguchi Uiro
“Uiro” is one of Japanese sticky sweets made from rice powders and Nagoya area is famous for that in Japan. However, Yamaguchi has also different “Uiro” from one in Nagoya area, which made from bracken starch and is “fresh”, so you have to eat it within a day or so. The texture is like just between softer rice cake (mochi) and jelly. You can get it as souvenir because it is vacuum-packed, however, eating on the spot with dark green tea enhances your travel emotion!
Yamaguchi prefecture faces with oceans, so seafood was great!! Our dinner on the 1st day at the Japanese inn was a seafood hot pot with rich variety of fishes and vegetables on the land. The fried horse mackerel which I ordered for lunch on the 2nd day was also amazing and I was surprised such a thick mackerel which I seldom eat in Tokyo. The restaurant was a very ordinary one run by local ladies along the highway, however, the quality of dish was much worthy for the price! Additionally, Yamaguchi (Actually, Shimonoseki where the most western edge of Yamaguchi) is famous for Fugu fish. It has deadly poison, so that only certified chefs allow to cook in Japan. Contrary to its appearance, it is fluffy white meat with plane taste. Usually, it is expensive if you try to eat it at a restaurant in Tokyo. However, it was surprising that we could eat noodle with small portions of deep-fried Fugu as casual style for reasonable price at the local shop!
Then, to be continued to Part 2… I will upload the next episode shortly!