Cultural tours in Setouchi

From art to sake, there's a tour to suit most tastes in the Setouchi region

Published 7 Jan 2019, 09:11 GMT, Updated 30 Dec 2021, 17:22 GMT
Rabbit Island, Setouchi
Rabbit Island, Setouchi
Photograph by Setouchi Tourism Authority

Naoshima Art Island, Kagawa Prefecture

Since the 1980s, the founder of the Benesse Corporation has developed Naoshima from a remote fishing island to the living art gallery it is today. This guided tour explores the island's collections and the vibrant artworks that punctuate the landscape, such as the giant pumpkins from avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. The art curator leading the tour will give a behind-the-scenes look at the island's architectural masterpieces, such as Shinro Ohtake's colourful Naoshima Bath and multiple works from architect Tadao Ando, including the hotel/museum Benesse House complex, and the Chichu Art Museum, which houses works by Claude Monet.

A range of Sake from Setouchi
Photograph by Setouchi Tourism Authority

Hiroshima Saijo Sake Brewery Street Walk

Hiroshima is known as one of Japan's great sake-producing areas with around 50 brewers operating in and around the city. In the highly feted Saijo district, eight breweries are all situated along Sakagura-dori — Sake Brewery Street — making it easy to walk or stumble between them. The breweries all congregated here to harness the benefits of the local 'shikomi mizu', the water with a medium hardness that's essential for producing sake. This guided tour takes in the history of the district while also offering the chance to sample the variety of sakes available.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Himeji Castle & Akashi Kaikyō Bridge World Heritage Walking Tour, Hyōgo

Himeji Castle is thought to be one of the finest surviving examples of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture and this guided tour looks at some of the 83 buildings that form the estate, and its intricate defence system. After lunch, the tour takes in a walk around a more modern feat of engineering — the Maiko Marine Promenade on the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge, which connects the Japanese mainland to Awaji Island.

Dōgo Onsen, Matsuyama
Photograph by Setouchi Tourism Authority

Dogo Onsen Rickshaw Tour – Botchan Course, Ehime Prefecture

The Dogo Onsen hot spring area has long captured the popular imagination and was often frequented by the Imperial Family. This guided rickshaw tour covers all the local highlights, starting with the Shiki Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the influential Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki. The tour also takes in Dogo Park, once the site of Yuzuki Castle, as well as the ornate Dogo Onsen Station. The rickshaw then stops at the Botchan Automaton Clock, which comes to life every hour (between 8am and 10pm), presenting scenes from Natsume Sōseki's novel Botchan, which was set in the area.

Rabbit Island
Photograph by Setouchi Tourism Authority

Sea, Rabbits and Modern History, Ōkunoshima

Rabbit Island is located in the Seto Inland Sea and is home to swarms of wild rabbits that roam the forest and beaches. Legend has it that schoolchildren released eight rabbits on the island in the 1970s, and with no predators this humble herd has now reached a population thought to number around 1,000 today. As well as offering a chance to feed the rabbits, this guided tour includes a look at the darker side of the island, with a stop at the remains of the Imperial Army's only poison gas factory. There's also a hike to the observatory for views of the Inland Sea and beyond.

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