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Hiroshima is a name alike with World War II, aback it became the aboriginal burghal in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon. A decade afterwards, the Peace Memorial Park and Building opened in what was already Hiroshima’s busiest bartering district, and tourism has increased steadily ever since, with 2 actor visitors in 2016.

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What is beneath acclaimed is that the surrounding countryside of Hiroshima prefecture, and adjoining Okayama, is some of Japan’s prettiest and best serene. Located in the western allotment of Japan’s capital island of Honshu, the breadth is attainable to access: Tokyo is 90 account abroad by plane, or hardly best (and added expensive) by ammo train. Hiroshima is awful admired by calm tourists for its balmy altitude and accustomed beauty, set amid the Chugoku mountains and the Seto Civil Sea. A contempo cruise to the breadth appear a assortment of experiences, both outdoors and cultural, that fabricated me anticipate of Hiroshima prefecture as a chiefly adequate alley cruise for all-embracing visitors, and in particular, a calm accompaniment to the animated sightseeing and crowds of Tokyo and Kyoto.

An hour or so’s drive from Hiroshima airport is Takehara, which agency “bamboo-field city.” (Takehara is additionally attainable by alternation from Hiroshima.) There are still ample bamboo forests on the outskirts of the city, and the apple-pie air and baptize has accustomed acceleration to two added industries: salt, and sake. 

There’s a admirable airing to be done through the Takehara Preservation District, accepted as “Little Kyoto” for its celebrated buildings, including some samurai residences, from the Edo through the Showa period. Narrow laneways lined with amber filigree and white adhesive walls absorb a audible old-world air, and, at atomic on the backing day I was there, the alone aggregation was a few photogenic bodies lounging in Chinese-style diamond-shaped windows of merchant’s houses. As in abounding Japanese towns, you can appointment the anxiously adequate abode of a acclaimed potter, Mitsumoto; added abnormal is the birthplace of the ancestor of Japanese whiskey, Masataka, who founded Nikka Whisky Distilling. (An admired bulk in Japan, he’s the accountable of a accepted television ball which started in 2014 and is still active today.)

But for a added acceptable tipple, there’s sake. Fujii Shuzou is a brewery founded in 1863 and which is still run by the aforementioned ancestors from one of Takehara’s best admirable buildings. Account breweries acclimated to be awful backstairs places, but abounding these canicule accessible their doors and action chargeless tours of the abracadabra fabricated by yeast. Fujii’s Ryusei cast is one of Japan’s best, and was awarded the award-winning of best account at the country’s first-ever account antagonism in 1907. Alike if you’re not awash on sake, the action of crumbling rice is fascinating, and, amid the vats and the smoke and the attractive board buildings, acutely atmospheric. 

If you do advance a aftertaste for Japanese rice wine, plan a cruise to adjacent Saijo in aboriginal October. That’s the ages aback a new crop of rice is harvested and dried, and it’s additionally aback the Saijo Account Festival, which in 2018 will bless its 29th birthday, takes place. At assorted spots about the Higashihiroshima burghal anteroom and Saijo alternation station, eight account brewers acceptable visitors for branch tours, and in Saijo Chuo Park, you can try 1000 kinds of account from all over the country. Amid the boom performances and udon stands, it’s a decidedly family-friendly day out, a admonition that for the Japanese, account is an important cultural achievement added than a agency of accepting drunk. In fact, account plays an important role in the Shinto religion. Offered at shrines in January as allotment of prayers for acceptable bloom and acceptable fortune, it’s generally referred to as the “wine of the gods,” and abandoned account barrels, alleged sakedaru, are donated by breweries to band the walls. 

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Another celebrated merchant boondocks forth the aforementioned alternation line, this time on a port, is Onomichi, which grew affluent acknowledgment to rice. It feels a little like an English bank resort, with a access absolute for ice-cream eating, a admirable acceptability for beginning seafood, and lots of chintzy gift shops. First, though, there’s the acropolis abaft the boondocks to climb, at the acme of which you’ll get a faculty of the amplitude of the Seto civil sea. (Keen bikers can ride forth the bank on a well-maintained trail.) The angle reveals valleys abounding with groves of oranges and lemons, which advance in the Mediterranean climate, and on a bright day, you can see all the way out to Mukajima island in one direction, and Osaka in the other. 

The bank into boondocks apprehension accomplished baby temples and shrines set into the hillside. It charge be alike prettier in spring, aback the blooming blossoms are out. Gradually the foliage gives way to absorbing alleys, area old terrace houses accept been adapted into cat cafes and honey shops. On the weekend I’m there, affairs for the better anniversary of the year are beneath way at one of the shrines, with women case eggs, acid banknote and active cauldrons of miso soup for a barbecue that black to augment 250. (This afterimage makes me hungry, and for cafeteria I try a bounded specialty: Onomichi ramen, fabricated with angle banal and breakable pork belly, served at best of the auberge restaurants forth the water.)

An important adjacent temple, Jyodoji, from the Edo period, boasts three landmarked civic treasures: a adherence hall; a pagoda from the 14th century; and the area themselves, which advance their aboriginal blueprint from the temple’s founding in AD616. A Buddhist abbot who looks to be in his backward 20s takes a baby accumulation of us into the shrine. It’s a attenuate and adored befalling to see the adorned close sanctum, abounding with oranges, candles, mirrors, gold chandeliers, and an astronomic bark chiffonier with a bronze of the goddess of benevolence inside, apparent alone every 33 years. In his coffee-colored apparel with a chartreuse collar, the abbot kneels to arena a behemothic alarm which echoes for a minute or more, rubs his adoration beads, and chants.

Next, he takes us into a tea allowance to advise the fundamentals of the matcha tea ceremony. We apprentice to barrel the crumb – matcha is fabricated from both the leaves and buds of the tea plant, which gives it that abnormally vegetal colour and aftertaste – in an s-shape, afore axis the cup 45 degrees, and demography three sips, with the aftermost sip the smallest. “The capital affair is to acknowledge actuality all calm and bubbler tea,” he says via a translator. “So don’t anguish too much.”

The temple started alms talisman-making classes two years ago, and afterwards tea and sweets are done, the abbot takes us through to a wood-panelled allowance area he will advice us coin our own. He explains that temples acclimated to be association hubs, in allotment because they served as schools. In avant-garde times, bodies tend to appointment alone for funerals, and not abundant in circadian life. Consequently, temples are experimenting with all sorts of beat programs to allure visitors. Some advertise incense, or action celebrated apparel rentals, but at Jyodoji, the acceptable luck agreeableness business is thriving. Afterwards a accomplishment in iron, the abbot gives me a agreeableness which I charge never aish from its cottony pouch. He asks what I appetite it for, and I say for safe driving. It’s still blind in my car and has so far served me well.

The aing day an absolutely altered allotment of Japan is on affectation aback I appointment Kojima, the birthplace of the Japanese denim industry. (It’s a brace of hours’ drive from Onomichi, and the blow of this itinerary, still adhering the civil sea, is technically in Okayama, not Hiroshima prefecture.) In contempo years Japanese denim has become the world’s best prestigious, but Kojima is a admonition that the industry dates to 1962, aback Betty Smith became the aboriginal calm manufacturer. Actually, the region’s t industry is alike older, extending aback to the Edo period, aback it was apparent that although the clay was too acrid for growing rice, it was acutely acceptant to cotton. You can appointment the Betty Smith Jeans Building to apprentice conceivably added than you anytime capital to apperceive about Japanese jeans-making. Added appealingly, the boutique offers custom-built pairs for a acceptable bulk (starting at about $150). 

The day-tripper boondocks of Kurashiki, an hour’s drive or so away, makes the best of its denim bequest with a actual Instagrammable “denim burger.” If you’re not so enthused about the anticipation of ingesting a ample bulk of dejected aliment dye and continuing in band for the privilege, I accept acceptable news: the boondocks itself, which is centred about a preserved aqueduct from the Edo period, is stunning, and able-bodied account a visit. Kurashiki has been affluent for a continued time; its name can be about translated as “town of storehouses,” because it was an important rice hub. In accession to demography lots of photos of the complaining willows which band the canal, there’s the absorbing Ohara Building – Japan’s oldest Western art accumulating – as able-bodied as an alluringly adequate merchant’s house, and a aloft affection comminute branch adapted into an acutely hip arcade district. 

The final stop in this bout of arresting countryside is the boondocks of Fukiya, aerial in the mountains. The drive – there’s no alternation actuality – is a ambagious one through close forest, but you’ll apperceive you’ve accustomed aback you see the brownish roof tiles. This is accepted as the “town of Bengara,” apropos to a red apple pigment, no best broadly used, from copper, acclimated to actualize the arresting bark of the Edo period. (If you anticipate Bengara sounds vaguely Indian, it’s because it is: the red adamant oxide is believed to accept been brought to Japan from Bengal in the 16th century.)

There is article abnormally artful about Fukiya. Up at 550 metres aloft sea level, it was already the better nut mining boondocks forth the old Chugoku road, and the affected homes of merchants with their bengara lattice, accessory gables, and brownish roof tiles are impeccably maintained. Alike the building is old – it was completed in 1879 with the finest blooming copse the affluent townspeople could buy. I didn’t see any shops accessible while I was there – the adverse of alive Kurashiki – but there were affluence of collywobbles darting amid aerial flowers. At the simple Laforest Fukiya, an discreet abode on the outskirts of the town, banquet was apprehensive but somehow sumptuous, a multi-course alms of bounded Okayama beef, river angle and bounded sake. It was, as with abounding added moments forth the Chugoku route, a abnormally serene experience.

Amelia Lester travelled as a bedfellow of Japan Civic Tourism Organisation.  

traveller.com.au/japan

visithiroshima.net

FLY

ANA and JAL fly circadian from east bank ports to Tokyo, with alee calm connections.

See ana.co.jp

JAL.com

In Onomachi, Minato No Yado offers adaptation in celebrated barrio adequate by notable architects. Izumo House, set on the hillside of the town, appearance a admirable first-floor tea allowance in the appearance of the Edo period. A boxed Japanese breakfast can be delivered to the abode on request. See minatonoyado.jp/en/

Traverse the mountains and bridges of the civil sea with Bike Bout Japan, which offers an eight-day bout including stops in Onomichi, Hiroshima, Takehara and some of the region’s arresting – and bare – baby islands. See biketourjapan.com

Amelia Lester

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