The birthplace of exquisite ceramic products, the land of quiet mountain villages and busy metropolises, Western Honshu is notorious around the world in connection with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But time heals the wounds of the past, and the current island of Honshu has a lot to offer the tourist. For example, Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures have charming coastal areas – Kurashiki with excellent museums and Bizen, which is famous for its potters and weapon smiths. Yamaguchi Prefecture is known for its limestone caves, while Shimonoseki delights guests with fresh seafood, especially fugu fish, which is considered a special delicacy in Japan.
- Cachedhealth: Information about shopping and eating in Japan.
How to get there
Shinkanse trains running along the coast of the Inland Sea from east to west are the fastest way to travel in West Honshu. Buses are faster between the Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan, but unfortunately most services are not covered by the Jayaru (Japanese Railways) pass.
Kyushu and Central Honshu are best reached by car via the Chugoku Expressway, which crosses all of Western Honshu; and to Northern Honshu, along the Tohoku-shinkansen line linking Tokyo with Morioka (journey time 2 hours 30 minutes). The Tohoku Shinkansen line then continues to Hachinohe, from where several local trains run to Aomori and further north to Hokkaido.
The main gateway to Central Honshu is Nagoya – its new international airport provides easy and quick access to the island. Nagoya is one of the main points of the Tokaido Shinkansen line. Another passenger line links Tokyo with Nagano.
Travelers from Russia can arrive in Central Honshu by sea. Ferries are organized by FKK Air Service and run between Fushiki and Vladivostok. Ferries from Vladivostok leave every Monday at 18:00 and arrive in Fushiki 39 hours later. Ferries depart from Japan on Fridays at 18:00 and arrive in Russia on Sunday morning.
Cities and regions of Honshu
Largest cities: Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Tottori.
Stretched between Kanto (Greater Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe), the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, Central Honshu is dotted with shopping malls and traditional Japanese towns.
Vibrant Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city, is the country’s industrial center with its characteristic executive and energetic spirit. Kanazawa lures with beautiful streets where samurai and geisha once lived. Beautiful Takayama entices with delicious cuisine, and the mountain villages of Shirakawa and Gokayama – with traditional Japanese houses, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is sad that Northern Honshu is less visited by tourists, although ideal conditions have been created for travel here – rocky mountains, deep valleys and seething rivers, dormant volcanoes and hot springs.
Entertainment and attractions of Honshu
The Chugoku region is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mines; the Genbaku domes (or Atomic Explosion domes) and Itsukushima Shrine, one of the most revered Shinto shrines.
Only twelve original castles have survived in Japan, and two of them are located in the Chugoku region: Japan’s highest castle, Bitchu-Matsuyama, and one of Japan’s few black castles, Matsue Castle. Chugoku is also home to three famous parks in Japan – Koraku-en in Okayama, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, and Koraku-en in Mito.
In the Oku Hida area of Takayama, look out for traditional Japanese gassho-zukuri houses with roofs shaped like hands folded in prayer. In Nagano, visit the Zenkoji Buddhist monastery, which is considered a national treasure of the country.
In Tokyo, it is worth visiting the Kokyo Imperial Palace, Tosegu Temple, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ Nikolai-do, the Tokyo National Museum, the New Museum of Edo-Tokyo History, the National Museum of Science in Ueno Park, the Shitamashi History Museum, the temple of the goddess Kannon, the National Theater of Japan with performances by the Kabuki, No and Bunraku troupes. Well, the most recognizable landscape of Central Honshu is, of course, the conical shape of Mount Fuji.
Unrivaled Kansai attracts tourists with its “treasures” and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Kyoto and Nara – the ancient capitals of Japan – are jam-packed with temples and historical sites, and Himeji is famous for its magnificent castle.