Honshu's best kept secret
Wedged between the more famous regions of Kansai and Kyushu is one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, the country’s oldest shrine, ever-changing sand dunes and a tiny island reigned by rabbits.
Most visitors will end up in the Chugoku region because of Hiroshima but there’s a lot more to the westernmost part of Honshu than travel guides give it credit for. Of the five prefectures in Chugoku, Hiroshima and Okayama are the most well-known, while Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi are among the least visited prefectures in Japan.
Hiroshima prefecture is dominated by its vibrant capital city with an infamously tragic past. Visitors with a little more time can make the side trip to Okayama, whose main attraction is Korakuen, one of Japan’s top three landscape gardens. Just outside of Okayama is Kurashiki, a charming canal town with historic buildings and local shops selling Chugoku’s famed white peaches.
Heading further afield, Shimane prefecture is home to the ancient Izumo Grand Shine. Nearby, the Iwami Ginzan mine complex is a World Heritage site, and you can visit the historic shafts and galleries that made up part of what was once the world’s leading silver mine.
For something you didn’t expect on your Japan itinerary, the 50 meter high sand dunes that run along the Sea of Japan coast in Tottori prefecture are a spectacular sight, and there’s plenty of sand-related activities including camel riding and sand-boarding to try. The Akiyoshidai plateau in Yamaguchi offers some great hiking all year round too.
Okunoshima or Rabbit Island is less than two hours from Hiroshima and is famous for its adorable population of wild rabbits. There are also beaches, a small resort and onsen (hot spring baths) if you need a break from all that cuteness.