Visit Japan’s Best-Kept Secret: Setouchi

Published: April 29, 2022

Setouchi is often referred to as the authentic, soothing, unique region of Japan and it’s no wonder. A land framed by the Seto Inland Sea where life moves at a slower pace than some of its neighboring locales, it beckons with backdrops of impossibly gorgeous color, indescribable views and a wealth of natural wonders that invite you to explore the outdoors and enjoy its unique character reflected in its cuisine and customs. Even the region’s largest cities like Hiroshima and Takamatsu strike a large contrast against hyper-energy centers like Tokyo.

Getting There

Easy to reach by multiple bus and rail systems from Tokyo and Osaka, it’s a celebrated land of seven prefectures including Yamaguchi, Kagawa and Okayama, surrounding its archipelago spanning 727 islands ranging from .1 km and beyond and each carry with it an isolated, remote and secluded feel. The iconic Honshu Shikoku Bridge is built over the sea, and through that, you can travel between the two large islands, Honshu and Shikoku by car or rail.

Explore by Boat

One of the brightest and most unique attractions of Setouchi is the balance between the land and the sea, best explored by a chartered boat cruise for island hopping or even an overnight on a private island. Kujira Jima, or Whale Island as it’s locally known due to its shape, hosts only one exclusive group per day with a full cottage, spacious area for camping under the stars and a full kitchen/BBQ setup ideal for a private chef.

Hop on the Udon Taxi

Setouchi is celebrated for its culinary scene, a collaboration of ancient recipes and traditions. From fresh seafood to noodles and fresh citrus accompanied by local brews, it’s a feast anywhere you look. Kagawa is known as the Udon Prefecture due to its high concentration of eateries per square mile. For an extra treat, hop into an Udon Taxi, driven by a guide fully schooled in the art of udon and knowledge of all the hidden haunts.

Saijo in Hiroshima is sake central, with seven breweries within walking distance from one another. And, meat lovers can pursue meat that is a cut above with varieties of the famed Wagyu beef that originates in Yamaguchi. Local tip- pair the steaks with fabulous oysters, in fact, when you take a visit to the Shimada Suisan, you can watch them being pulled from the sea in the early morning hours and brought to shore to be grilled over charcoal right in front of your eyes.   

Living History

The Bikan Historical Quarter in Kurashiki is filled with ships amid carefully preserved traditional structures and spectacular ancient sights like the famed Himeji Castle, often referred to as the finest surviving example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture.   


Biking & Suspension Bridges to Baths

Fitness and healthy pursuits are easy in Setouchi. Endless bike paths are framed by the area’s natural scenery, and “bike boats” are ready to collect guests at any point along the way.  On foot, hiking paths await in the relatively undiscovered Iya Valley in western Tokushima, known for its steep inclines and deep gorges. One of its highlights are its kazurabashi, or vine suspension bridges that cross over waterways for an adrenaline-fueled walk. Soothe the stress with a cable car ride deep into the valley to the nearly hidden Hotel Iya and dip into their open-air bath.

Stay in a Castle

The region features a diverse range of accommodations, from a homestyle ryokan to an ancient castle. More contemporary choices feature ultra-sleek contemporary hotels.

For more information, please visit and follow Setouchi adventures at @setouchifinder

Photos courtesy Setouchi DMO

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About The Author
Kathy Strong
Kathy Strong
PS Wish You Were Here Travel is published by veteran travel writer Kathy Strong. Strong has spent the last 30 years authoring more than 20 travel guidebooks. In addition, she wrote a weekly newspaper travel column “Going My Way” for a decade and has contributed to several magazines such as USA Today publications and AARP. Her most recent travel guidebook, SECRET SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA , is a popular guide to off-the-beaten-path adventures. PS Wish You Were Here Travel spans the globe, featuring national and international travel opportunities and focusing on unique explorations.
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