Birthdays are special occasions and spending these days abroad away from family can be stressful for most people. During the three years, I’ve lived in Japan, I have made it a habit to travel to a new prefecture every birthday to feel less lonely. My husband and I chose Yamaguchi this year and had an adventurous week there.
We left Kobe before sunrise and arrived in Yamaguchi after a seven-hour drive. Along the way, we stopped by a few places around Hiroshima to rest and gaze at views of the Seto Inland Sea. Here’s what we got up to:
First stop: Iwakuni
Our first destination, Iwakuni, is best known for the five-arch wooden Kintai Bridge that runs across the Nishiki River. Kikko Park has samurai-era residences and most of the area’s albino snakes. These snakes are considered national treasures and very hard to come by. From the park, a cable car ascends to the top of Mount Shiroyama, offering panoramic views of Iwakuni Castle.
Discovering Akiyoshidai and Akiyoshido
Our next destination was Mine, a city blessed with geographical treasures such as limestone caves and a karst plateau. We discovered the limestone that formed the splendid landscape of Akiyoshidai and entered the enormous Akiyoshido Cave.
The plateau is ideal for those looking for an easy hike. It offers a vast, naked landscape with well-maintained roads, protruding limestones and only a few random trees. After a long walk, we took a break at the only coffee shop on the plateau and sipped iced coffee while watching our surroundings.
The Best Birthday of My Life in Tsunoshima
I was thrilled to go to Tsunoshima Island and cross Tsunoshima Bridge to spend the day at the beach on the third day of our trip. It was my birthday, and as far as I knew, Tsunoshima was one of the most beautiful places to visit in Yamaguchi. Tsunoshima reminded me of Okinawa with its crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches.
The drive over the Tsunoshima Bridge was scenic and unforgettable.
Rolling down the window to let the sea smell fill the car and feel the sea breeze on my skin made me feel alive and happy to be a part of this land.
A Pleasant Encounter
I explored a nameless beach thanks to a pleasant encounter with a local. She chatted with us and gave directions to a local beach. She said, “You’ll find a wonderful beach there! Few people know about it, but if you follow my directions, you can find it!”
When we found the local beach, we understood why she insisted we see it.
I got to spend a wonderful birthday there. I hope that lady is in good health and spirits now and will continue recommending it to other travelers who appreciate hidden gems.
Make A Wish at Motonosumi Shrine
We moved to the north, Nagato, to visit a unique shrine on our fourth day. Motonosumi Shrine, covered with 123 bright red torii gates by the sea of Japan, was built to honor a white fox spirit. I made my wish like many visitors that day.
Rumor has it that this white fox fulfills various wishes, from money to school success.
It is interesting that despite being a new shrine, Motonosumi Shrine is considered one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan.
After spending a few days enjoying Yamaguchi’s nature, we headed to Hagi to learn more about its history. Hagi is a former castle town in the west of the prefecture. The narrow streets of the castle town district are filled with samurai residences.
Hagi is also known for its local Hagiyaki Pottery, among the best in Japan.
Wandering around Hagi and entering the different samurai houses allowed me to learn about Japanese history that I wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise.
There are more things I didn’t do in Yamaguchi. The fact that I didn’t taste the famous fugu (blowfish) still causes me to toss and turn. But, on the other hand, I am glad I didn’t because now I have a good reason to revisit Yamaguchi!
How have you celebrated your birthday in Japan? Tell us in the comments!