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When one think of Japan, the names of big cities come to mind, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. As more people become more well-travelled, they are starting to take interest in less well-known areas, and one of them is Setouchi.

Setouchi consist of various islands located along the coastline. With a rich history and fascinating landmarks, it has become one of the more visited areas in Japan.  While every main attraction is a highlight that vividly shows Setouchi’s uniqueness, these are the 5 reasons why you must definitely visit this region:

Miyajima Island

If you are an avid user of Instagram, you would have realized that many people have been posting photos and pictures with a seemingly floating shrine. This place is no other than Miyajima Island! The grand red shrine that you have been seeing so often in photos is the Itsukushima-jinja Shrine which is a revered a World Heritage site.

At high tide, the shrine seems to be standing on waters, raising questions and creating a shroud of mystery. But in fact, the waters covering the bottom of the pillars create this illusion. It is at low tide where you would be able to see the strong foundations that have been supporting the grand structure for decades.

Besides being an Instagram-worthy addition to your collection of photos, the shrine is also said to bless those who make offerings to the God that resides there. Folktale or not, it has definitely not stopped anyone from wishing and making offerings at the shrine.

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1 Chome-7 Dōgomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime-ken 790-0843, Japan
How to get there
From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station. Then, take the ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Pier.
Entry Fees

Dōgo Onsen

Located in the east of Matsuyama, Dōgo Onsen is one of the most famous hot springs in Japan. This could be partly due to the fact that it was the inspiration for the hot spring setting in the movie Spirited Away.

Image cred: nice-moves.com

The hot spring takes on the appearance of a Meiji Period wooden public bathroom that has existed for more than 100 years! If you are in the area, you definitely shouldn’t miss a trip to Dōgo Onsen.

Address  1 Chome-7 Dōgomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime-ken 790-0843, Japan
Opening hours   6:00 to 23:00
How to get there From Matsuyama Airport, there is bus to Dōgo Onsen.
You can also take the train from Okayama Station to Matsuyama Station,
then change to the train to head towards Dōgo Onsen Station.
Entry Fees  410 to 1550 yen
Website http://www.dogo.or.jp/pc/

Taishaku Valley

Spanning 15 kilometers, Taishaku Valley is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Japan. It includes massive hills and majestic flowing waters which lends to the magnificent view and scenery that one can discover. If you come here in autumn, you can witness the bright red and orange leaves floating gracefully in the air. You don’t have to go too far to see a beautiful autumn.

While every stone, rock and structure are nature’s gift by itself, the most prized possession is possibly the On-bashi Bridge. It is 90 metres long, 19 metres wide and 40 metres high! And the most amazing of all is that having made of limestone, it is an all-natural bridge. With its size, it is easily one of the three largest bridge in the world.

Address  Jinsekikogen, Jinseki District, Hiroshima Prefecture 729-3602, Japan
Opening hours  All day, but some facilities and activities may have fixed hours
How to get there By Shinkansen, take the railway system Shin-Osaka to Okayama.
Entry Fees  No entry fee but you would have to pay for other activities such as entering the caves (¥250)
Website http://taishakukyo.com/

Tahoto Tower

Tahoto Tower, or some call it Tahoto Pagoda, is a beautiful red-lacquered structure that stands on high ground, overlooking almost the whole of Miyajima. Its history dates back to the 15th century and was built by the powerful Abo clan in that era. Even if its history bores you, the place wouldn’t disappoint. Although you can’t enter the pagoda, the surroundings offer a great view of the island and of Itsukushima Shrine. It is particularly beautiful in spring as light pink flowers shower the place with its beauty.

Address  70-2 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Opening hours  All day
How to get there  Travel by foot or by taxi from Miyajima Pier
Entry Fees  Nil (No entry into the tower)
Website http://visithiroshima.net/things_to_do/attractions/shrines_and_temples/tahoto_pagoda.html

Setouchi Triennale

While not a location or area, the Setouchi Triennale is something that all art lovers should come to Setouchi for. Started in 2010, it is a contemporary art festival that you shouldn’t miss, because if you do, you have to wait another 3 years for it. The festival showcases the pieces and products from people across different islands and also from overseas, each with their own unique sense of style and art. With the aim of revitalizing the life and population in the region, the Setouchi Triennale certainly succeeded in its original intention.

Address  Changed every event and held at various places
Opening hours  Depends on the year
How to get there  Depends on the location of the art festival
Entry Fees  May subject to change
Website http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/

While Setouchi is not yet as much visited as the bigger cities, it definitely has the potential to climb to the top. Already, the region has been gaining popularity due to various locations, and it is only a matter of time Setouchi becomes one of the top tourist attraction of Japan. While locations are key in rejuvenating the area, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the warmth and hospitality offered to those who visit Setouchi.

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