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2022.03 Explore Hyogo: Home to Many of Japan's Firsts and Japan's Best [PR] A Journey to Explore the Charms of Japan and Japanese Food Through Hyogo, the Place Where Japan Began

Hyogo Prefecture is home to many of Japan's “firsts” and “bests”, including Awaji Island, the legendary birthplace of Japan, and Himeji Castle, considered to be the most beautiful castle in the country. Hyogo is convenient to both Osaka and Kyoto. By train, Hyogo's central city of Kobe is about 20 minutes from Osaka and 50 minutes from the ancient capital of Kyoto. Discover the charms of Japan through the culture and food of this fascinating prefecture.

 

① Himeji Castle, Himeji City

 

Himeji Castle is called Shirasagi-jo Castle (White Egret Castle) for its graceful appearance, which resembles an egret spreading its wings. It is the largest existing castle structure in Japan and was designated Japan's first World Cultural Heritage Site in December 1993. It has a 31.5-meter-high (103 ft.) castle tower, which is one of the largest in the country. The castle is considered to be one of the most beautiful wooden structures in Japan and is unparalleled in the world, and still looks much as it did when it was built around 400 years ago. Visitors can explore the inside of the castle, which retains some original features such as the bugukake (armory).

 

The outer walls of the main keep of Himeji Castle are coated with white plaster (nurigome), earning it the name Shirasagi-jo Castle (White Egret Castle).

 

Some of Himeji Castle’s original features remain, such as the bugukake (armory). Weaponry and armor were hung from the wooden racks.

 

② Kobe Beef, Kobe City

 

The world-famous Kobe Beef, reputed to be the best of Japan’s famous wagyu beef, has its origins in Kobe City. Kobe opened to foreign trade as an international port in 1868, and it is said that it was the British who first tasted Tajima Beef in Kobe, at a time when Japan’s meat culture was not yet established. After that, foreign ships entering the port would ask for a supply of the beef, and the name “Kobe Beef" became common. When the port was opened, foreign residents settled in the area, and Kobe Beef was born into a cosmopolitan culture.

 

Indulge in delicious Kobe Beef in its birthplace of Kobe.

 

The Kazamidori no Yakata built in 1904 as a residence by a German trader, overlooks the city of Kobe (© KOBE TOURISM BUREAU).

 

③ Tajima cattle and Yumura Onsen, Shinonsencho Town

 

Although it is famous around the world, Kobe Beef is not a breed of cattle. Kobe Beef comes from Tajima cattle in the Tajima area of Hyogo Prefecture. Most of the beef from Tajima cattle is sold as Tajima Beef, however the beef that meets the very highest standards is sold as Kobe Beef. 

 

For more than 100 years, the characteristics of Tajima cattle have been improved by preserving their pedigree, without crossbreeding them with Wagyu cattle from other regions. These efforts, led in the Mikata area, were recognized with Japan’s first Japan Agricultural Heritage designation for animal husbandry in 2019. At the Tajima Cattle Museum in Tajima Pasture Park, you can explore the history of these celebrated cattle and learn the secrets behind the delicious taste of Kobe Beef.

 

Nearby, Yumura Onsen is an ancient hot spring that is said to have been discovered nearly 1,200 years ago (848). Near the center of the hot spring town, the Arayu spring flows at a speed of 470 liters per minute, at 98 degrees Celsius (around 208 degrees Fahrenheit).

 

Tajima Cattle graze on rich pasture.

 

Steam rises from the Arayu hot spring waters of Yumura Onsen. A footbath by the riverside draws water directly from the source.

 

④ Awaji Island, the birthplace of Japan, Minami Awaji City, Sumoto City, Awaji City

 

In Japanese mythology, Awaji Island is the first land that the deities Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto created, making it the birthplace of Japan. Onokorojima Jinja Shinto Shrine is on the hill which is said to be the sacred birthplace of Japan. Nearby, Mt. Senzan, said to be the first mountain the two gods created, is home to Senkoji Temple and Iwato Jinja Shinto Shrine, which has a huge stone related to the famous myth of the sun goddess, Amaterasu-Omikami. The stone with a deep crack is said to be the door of the cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu-Omikami once hid herself, plunging heaven and earth into darkness. 

 

The Onokorojima Jinja Shinto Shrine’s huge 21.7-meter-high vermilion torii gate is one of the three largest torii gates in Japan.

 

A huge stone at Iwato Jinja Shinto Shrine is said to be the door of the cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu-Omikami once hid herself.

 

⑤ Nijigen no Mori, Awaji City

 

Awaji Island is also home to Nijigen no Mori, Japan's first theme park for Japanese manga and anime. You can experience the world of two-dimensional content in a three-dimensional theme park, through interactive exhibitions and activities.

 

Popular attractions at Nijigen no Mori include Konohagakure no Sato (Village Hidden in the Leaves) from the Naruto manga and anime series.

 

At DRAGON QUEST ISLAND: Zoma and the Archipelago's Origin: The Great Demon King Zoma and the Beginning Island, visitors can become the protagonist of the story and enjoy the world of Dragon Quest through interactive adventures.

 

⑥ Ako Salt, Ako City

 

Since ancient times in Japan, salt has been made from seawater. In the late seventeenth century, a salt production method in the Irihama salt fields 
was established in Banshu Ako, in the southern part of Hyogo Prefecture. The salt produced there became the leading brand in Japan. At the Ako Marine Science Museum, you can learn more about Ako salt.

 

At the Ako Marine Science Museum, you can observe salt concentrate being heated to evaporate excess water and produce salt crystals, the final stage of the salt-making process.

 

⑦    Dekansho Bushi, Tamba Sasayama City

 

Dekansho Bushi is a folk song that originated in the castle town of Tamba Sasayama, in the Edo period (1603–1867), and became popular all over Japan. Culture, history, famous places, local specialties, and more are incorporated into the lyrics, and the song is updated and adapted each year. Due to its constant evolution, there are now as many as 400 versions of the song.

 

The Dekansho Festival is held over two days in August (8/15–16) every year. Participants dance around a wooden tower to the rhythmic song.

 

⑧ Takarazuka Revue, Takarazuka City

 

The Takarazuka Revue, which is based in Takarazuka City, staged their first performance in 1914. The Takarazuka Revue has a history of more than 100 years, and its all-female members perform under the motto “purity, righteousness, and beauty. The revue continues to make a unique contribution to the world of theater. Performances are held throughout the year at the Takarazuka Grand Theater.

 

In the finale of the performance, there is a group dance on the grand staircase and a parade of all the performers. © TAKARAZUKA REVUE (image for illustration purposes only).

 

The Takarazuka Grand Theater. For the performance schedule, please refer to official Takarazuka Revue website (link at the end of this article).

 

⑨ Geopark and Town of Storks, Toyooka City

 

Rich in nature, Toyooka City is part of the San'in Kaigan Geopark. As the last habitat of wild storks in Japan, a project to return them to the wild is ongoing. You can see wild storks flying around the Tajima region, where Toyooka City is located. Also in the area, the Genbudo basalt caves comprise an internationally important geosite, where the research that led to the discovery of the phenomenon of geomagnetic reversal was conducted.

 

Storks forage for food in a rice field. Local sustainable farming methods nurture the storks, and are friendly to both humans and nature.

 

The basalt caves at Genbudo Park are distinguished by a beautiful pattern of columnar joints, formed by cooling lava.

 

Getting to and around Hyogo Prefecture

 

Hyogo Prefecture is easy to access from major cities. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo, it takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to Osaka International (Itami) Airport in Hyogo, about 1 hour and 15 minutes Kobe Airport. Kobe, the center of Hyogo, is about 40 minutes by bus from Itami Airport and about 40 minutes by Bay Shuttle from Kansai International Airport. By Shinkansen, it takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo Station to Shin-Kobe Station. You can access each spot from Kobe by train, bus, or ferry.

 

Related Links

 

Another Hyogo

WEB:https://www.travelhyogo.org.e.aas.hp.transer.com/

Hyogo Tourism

WEB:https://www.youtube.com/user/hyogotourism

Hyogo: The Heart of Japan

WEB:https://www.facebook.com/HyogoTheHeartofJapan

hyogonavi_official

WEB:https://www.instagram.com/hyogonavi_official/ (Japapnese)

① Himeji Castle

WEB:https://www.city.himeji.lg.jp/castle/ (Select a language from the Japanese page)

② OFFICIAL TRAVEL GUIDE OF KOBE

WEB:https://www.feel-kobe.jp/ko/ 

③ Tajima Pasture Park / Tajimaushi Museum

WEB:http://www.tajimabokujyo.jp/?page_id=3 (Select a language from the Japanese page)

YUMURA ONSEN Tourism Guide

WEB:http://global.yumura.gr.jp/ 

④ Awaji Island Tourism Guide

WEB:https://www.awajishima-kanko.jp/en/  

⑤ Nijigen no Mori

WEB:https://nijigennomori.com/ (Select a language from the Japanese page)

⑥ Ako City’s Salt

WEB:https://ako-kankou.jp/salt-city/ (Select a language from the Japanese page)

⑧ Official Website TAKARAZUKA REVUE

WEB:https://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/english/index.html 

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