Located in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Hofu faces the Suo Sea and the Seto Inland Sea. The city has long been associated with the lords of the Choshu Domain (the old name for Yamaguchi Prefecture), the powerful Mori clan. The clan built their main residence and a garden here. There's also a magnificent shrine that dates back to the 10th century here, Hofu Tenman-gu, and a museum that chronicles the Mori clan's history.
You can reach the general vicinity of Hofu via rail and air.
Shin-Yamaguchi Station is accessible via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Tokyo in four and a half hours and Osaka in two hours. Flights from Haneda Airport in Tokyo reach Yamaguchi Ube Airport in one and a half hours. From Shin-Yamaguchi Station in Yamaguchi City, take the JR Sanyo line train in the direction of Iwakuni to JR Hofu Station.
The grand Tenmangu shrine known as Hofu Tenman-gu was Japan's first dedicated to the god of learning, Tenjin, the deified Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian period. Just passing through the gates, you already have a sense that Hofu Tenman-gu is a very special place. Many lords and ladies have walked the stone steps leading up to the shrine since it was constructed in the 10th century.
Rulers of the Choshu Domain for generations, the Mori clan, is central to the history of Yamaguchi. They relocated here after being on the losing side in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600).
Mori-shi Garden and Mori Museum, just two kilometers from Hofu Tenman-gu, have some of the finest gardens in Yamaguchi. This expansive garden has something to offer for every season. Look out over the tranquil lake and admire the colors of the leaves in the fall. The museum presents artifacts including uniforms, writings, and artwork associated with the clan.
This 8th-century Buddhist temple is very quiet but has a number of very striking buildings to see. For the history buff, this is the only surviving Kokubunji Temple to retain its original layout. Kokubunji Temples were founded in every province in Japan in the 8th century to promote Buddhism.
Like many places in Hofu, Suo Kokubunji Temple has a strong connection to the rulers of the Choshu Domain, the Mori clan. Several of the buildings at this temple, including the imposing gates, were reconstructed with the support of the Mori lords.
To navigate and see the various main sites in Hofu, plan to visit for at least a few hours, or longer if you are a history buff.