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3-Day Model Trip Day2

3-Day Model Trip Day2 / Setouchi / Miya-jima Island - Hofu - Yamaguchi - Yuda-onsen Spa

Miya-jima Island is a long, thin island about 30 km round, which was registered as a World Heritage site in 1996. The area that has been made a World Heritage site is Itsukushima-jinja Shrine in the north part of the island, the sea in front of the island, including the shrine gateway, and the forest in the background - 14% of the total area of the island. I decided that the first thing we should do today is to visit Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. As we walked along the shrine pathway, which is lined with stone lanterns, some wild deer came near. The wild deer mostly live on Misen, the 530-meter mountain that stands behind Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. But sometimes they come down into the town, giving it a poetic appearance. As we look at the deer and walk a little way down the pathway alongside Mikasa-hama Beach, you will see the magnificent main shrine building, painted in red lacquer and standing out against the thick green trees. Unlike the magical appearance of the shrine we saw last night, it is now shining in the morning sun. Because it is almost high tide now, the shrine looks like it is standing in the middle of the sea. But at low tide, the water level falls and you can walk on land to the large shrine gateway 200 m away.

The original idea of using the bay of an inlet as the grounds for a shrine was conceived in the 6th century, when it was first decided to build a shrine here. But the 17 individual shrines and the corridors connecting them were built in the 12th century by a warlord who was prospering at the time called Tairano Kiyomori. The design is called "shinden-zukuri", and is based on the houses the aristocracy lived in at that time. Using a home design as the basis for a shrine was surely a very original idea too. Several times a year, court song and dance performances are held on the wooden stage sticking out in front of the main shrine, so you can see dance and costumes handed down from the era of Kiyomori. The Homotsukan Treasure House behind the main shrine displays historic masks and musical instruments used in court song and dance performances, works of art, and weapons and armor donated by warlords. It contains a total of 82 National Treasures and 146 nationally designated Important Cultural Properties.

After leaving Miya-jima Island, we are going to get on the JR Sanyo Honsen Line and head for the old city of Hofu. The line follows an old route, which almost traces the Seto-naikai Inland Sea coastline. You can look out of the train windows and fully enjoy the scenery of Seto-naikai Inland Sea, which has so many islands that it is also called "Tajimakai - Sea of Many Islands".

Hofu is located in the south of Yamaguchi, and faces Suo Sea, the most extensive shallows in Seto-naikai Inland Sea. Saba-kawa River runs through the north of the town, and there are rich open fields. Because of this, the area prospered from early times. Since the 7th century it flourished under the name Suo, and became a regional center. To the north of the station is Hofu-Tenmangu Shrine, which is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane. He was a 9th century government dignitary who is revered as the god of learning. Throughout Japan there are about 12,000 Tenmangu shrines dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, and this Hofu- Tenmangu Shrine is said to be the oldest, having been built in the early 10th century. Incidentally, Japan's Three Great Tenmangu shrines are Hofu-Tenmangu Shrine, Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto and Dazai-Tenmangu Shrine in Fukuoka. Hofu-Tenmangu Shrine has been damaged by fire several times since it was built, but was rebuilt each time. The current construction was rebuilt in 1963. When you walk under the magnificent red lacquer gateway, you come to the main shrine, which is surrounded by red lacquer corridors. Tenmangu shrines are supposed to bring good fortune in learning, and as you can see, there are several students putting their hands together to pray that they pass their exams. The construction of Shunpu-ro Tower, which stands in the shrine precincts, was first started about 170 years ago as a five-tier pagoda. But work was suspended for a while because of financial difficulties, and it was later rebuilt as a many-storied building. From inside this building, you can see the town of Hofu and, in the distance, Seto-naikai Inland Sea.

The next place we are heading for is Suo Kokubun-ji Temple, which was set up in the 8th century following a request by the emperor. Kokubun-ji Temple was built with the purpose of ruling the country through religion. It is especially well known for buildings like Kondo, in the center of the temple precincts, that are in the same position as when the temple was originally built. This makes Kokubun-ji Temple rare, even on a national scale. Nio-mon Gate is a magnificent wooden gate that serves as the entrance to the temple precincts, and was built around the end of the 16th century. When you pass under this, you come to Kondo. Kondo was rebuilt in the 18th century, and is currently being repaired. These repairs are scheduled to be completed in 2004. Also, preserved within the building are numerous images of the Buddha that have been designated as Important Cultural Properties. Two of those images in particular, the Nikko Bosatsu Ritsuzo and Gakko Bosatsu Ritsuzo standing images, were built around the 10th century, and are said to be two of the nation's most beautiful Buddhist images.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, this region was the territory of the Mori family. Because of this, there are remnants related to the Mori family all over the place. The biggest collections are the Mori Garden and the Mori Museum in the northwest of the town. The garden was built for the old Mori residence, and a mansion stands in one corner. The total area is about 83,000 square meters, of which the mansion covers 4,000 square meters. It was repaired early in the 20th century, and opened to the general public. The garden is a landscape garden in the go-round style, and has a footpath round the edge of a pond shaped like a bottle gourd. As you walk round this, you can look at the various trees growing throughout the garden. The Mori Museum has the appearance of an 18th century palace, but in several places also contains modern decorations from the early 20th century. Calligraphy and craft objects by the different generations of the Mori family are displayed here, and there are also National Treasures such as India ink paintings by the famous master painter Sesshu, and the codex for Kokinwakashu, the first collection of poems compiled under Imperial command.

Now we have got on a bus in Hofu, and are heading for Yuda-onsen Hot Spring, where we will stay tonight. There is a legend that about 600 years ago, a white fox had injured its leg and was nursing it at a hot spring. When a priest found the fox, he discovered the hot spring. However, there are said to be references to the to the hot spring in 12th century literature, so in fact it is older than that. In April each year at the Yuda-onsen-matsuri Festival, children follow the legend by wearing white fox masks and walking in a procession. The hot spring is almost colorless, and is said to be effective in treating neuralgia and skin conditions. Sinking into a tub of hot water, you can almost catch a glimpse of the fox through the white steam.