The Chūgoku Region (中国地方 Chūgoku-chihō) comprises the prefectures of
- Hiroshima ((広島県 Hiroshima-ken)
- Okayama (岡山県 Okayama-ken)
- Shimane (島根県 Shimane-ken)
- Tottori (鳥取県 Tottori-ken)
- Yamaguchi (山口県 Yamaguchi-ken)
Chugoku encompasses the entire western tip of Honshū, the Japanese main island. With the Chūgoku Mountains as the dividing line, the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海 Seto Naikai) side is called the San’yō Region (山陽地方 San’yō-chihō) and the Sea of Japan side is called the San’in Region (山陰地方 San’in-chihō). The principal city of the region is Hiroshima.
It is a mountainous region dominated by the Chūgoku Mountains and the highland Kibi Kōgen (吉備高原). There are numerous coastal plains, including the Okayama and Izumo plains, as well as many small basins in the mountains. The San’yō Region has wider plains than the San’in Region and its population is also greater. The most heavily populated areas are along the Inland Sea coast around the cities of Hiroshima, Kurashiki, and Okayama.
The Inland Sea coast is a major area of industry and commerce, with countless oil refineries, steel mills, automobile plants, shipyards, and chemical, petrochemical, and cement factories. In recent years industrial complexes of interrelated factories have been constructed along the Inland Sea. The Okayama plain and the coastal plains along the Sea of Japan are important areas for the production of rice. The warm and relatively dry climate of the Inland Sea coast is also ideal for citrus fruits and grapes. The waters off the coast were once Japan’s richest fisheries, but catches have been on the decline due to industrial pollution.
- Area: 31,922.26 square kilometers
- Total population: 7,563,428 inhabitants (2010)
- Population density: 240 inhabitants per square kilometer
- Google Map (Chugoku Region)
Chugoku translates as “middle country” and is written in the same kanji as China. Chugoku is generally considered very rural by Japanese, and offers an excellent glimpse onto the countryside of Japan and see some of the traditional regional character. Japan’s culture has been hugely influenced by Chinese and Korean culture over the centuries, and much of this arrived through the Chugoku region. There are numerous interesting sites throughout the area including one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kōraku-en (後楽園) in Okayama. The islands between Shikoku and Honshū or Shikoku itself are can easily accessible by ferry.
The area is sparsely populated. The main shinkansen line from Nagoya and Osaka runs along the south coast as far as Kyūshū, and stops at Hiroshima. The north coast is less developed and has less sightseeing spots, but includes some of the finest museums and artworks in the country, and is also the home of pottery in Hagi – numbered as the second-best pottery in Japan after Kyōto. It is well worth slowly working your way along the northern coastline either on your way up to northern Japan or when heading down to Kyūshū or on to Korea by boat.
Temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours in Chugoku vary from the north to the south. The north coast has much more rain and snow than the south, and temperatures are a few degrees lower. Sunshine hours are fairly consistent throughout the year in both parts of the region, perhaps slightly lower on the north coast. Rainfall is heaviest in June and July, as the typhoon season reaches this area early in the year. At other times, rainfall is limited and should not be a major problem for travelers.
Places to see
Below find a list of some of the most important sites to see in the Chugoku area.
- Hiroshima-shi: A-Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Castle; Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum
- Itsukushima: Itsukushima-jinja 厳島神社 and floating torii, Miyajima Senjou Kaku 宮島千畳閣
- Tomo-no-ura (鞆の浦): Jyoganji Temple 成願寺, Taigashima Castle, Nunakuma Jinja 沼名前神社, Hōsenji and Sasayaki Bridge, Museum of History
- Onomichi (Temple walk)
- Ōmi-shima (大三島): Ōyamatsumi-jinja armoury
- Shōdo-shima: olive groves, Kanka Kei Cable Car
- Okayama-shi: Kōrakuen (後楽園), Okayama Castle, Tōko-en Garden 東湖園, Sōgen-ji 曹源寺
- Kurashiki: Ōhara Museum of Art, Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft, Japan Rural Toy Museum, Ivy Square (Meiji-era hotel built in 1889)
- Takahashi: Bitchū Matsuyama Castle (備中松山城), Raikyū-ji Temple (頼久寺)
- Tsuwano: Tsuwano Castle, Taikodani-Inari Jinja (太鼓谷稲成神社)
Izumo: Izumo Taisha or Izumo Grand Shrine (出雲大社), the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan
- Matsue: Matsue Castle, Lafcadio Hearn Residence and Memorial Museum, Shimane Prefectural Art Museum
- Yasugi: Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺三重塔), Adachi Art Museum
- Fūdoki-no-oka: Archaeological Museum, Okadayama Burial Mounds
- Tottori-shi: sand dunes, Prefectural Museum
- Iwakuni: Kintai-kyō (錦帯橋), five-arched bridge, Iwakuni Historical Museum, Kōzan-koen
- Tawarayama: Tawarayama Onsen
- Hagi: Hagi-jō Kiln for Hagi pottery, Hagi Castle and Museum, Sekichō-koen and sculpture park, Shōin-jinja (萩松蔭神社), Jōkamachi (城下町) samurai residences