Next Stop, Japan

Next Stop, Japan

Yamaguchi Prefecture

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Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県) is the westernmost prefecture on Honshu, the main island of Japan. It is surrounded on 3 sides by water and so enjoys a mild ocean climate. Its capital, Yamaguchi City, is the smallest in Japan and only the 4th largest city in the prefecture. Shimonoseki City is the largest city.

The prefecture was once divided into Choshu (Nagato) Province in the northwest and Suo Province in the southeast. Many prominent architects of the Meiji Restoration (1866 - 1869) and Japan's modernization came from Choshu Province. After the abolishment of the feudal system in 1871, the two were merged into a single prefecture which was called Yamaguchi Prefecture after its most central city and new capital, Yamaguchi City.

Yamaguchi Prefecture's close distance to Korea and China meant many trade routes in ancient times were established and these exchanges helped transmit the advanced culture and technology from the Asian mainland to Japan.


Akiyoshidai (Plateau)

Akiyoshi Plateau is the largest karst formation in Japan and is located northwest of Yamaguchi City. This unique section of Japan covers a total of 130 square kilometers and contains more than 300 caves. The scenery is famous for its lush pampas grass landscape which is spotted with grey limestone boulders.

Akiyoshido (Cave)

Akiyoshi Cave is part of the largest cave system in Japan. It is location underneath Akiyoshidai to the northwest of Yamaguchi City. Akiyoshi Cave took over 300,000 years to form and is still slowly being shaped by water flowing out of the karst plateau above. The temperature remains a steady 17C (62.6F) in the caves all through the year.


Omijima in Nagato City faces Korea across the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on the northern coast of Honshu in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The island's scenic outcroppings on the north coast are called the "Sea Alps."


Tsunoshima is a scenic island off the northwest end of Honshu in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The first modern lighthouse on this side of Honshu was lit up here in 1876. The island is connected to Honshu by the second longest free bridge in Japan.


Fugu (puffer fish) from around Shimonoseki City is considered to be among the highest quality in Japan. Many people travel to the city to try this Japanese delicacy. While having a fearsome reputation, fugu is probably one of the safest foods in Japan because of the high standards that fugu chefs must adhere to. Some locals are said to intentionally mispronounced its name as 'fuku' which means luck.

Yamaguchi Prefecture's Cities

Yamaguchi Prefecture has 13 cities, 19 towns and 7 districts.

1. Shimonoseki City

Around 275,000 (2014) people live in Shimonoseki City (下関市) next to the historic Kanmon Straits which separates Kyushu and mainland Honshu. The city has benefited tremendously since ancient times from controlling this junction and from trade with nearby mainland Asia. Today, daily sailings travel from its port to Pusan in Korea. Shimonoseki Aquarium which overlooks the Kanmon Straits is the city's biggest modern attraction.

One of Japan's most famous samurai battles took place at Dan-no-Ura between the Heike and Genji clans in 1185. Akuma-jinju Shrine east of JR Shimonoseki Station is dedicated to child-emperor Antoku who was killed there. The "Bombardment of Shimonoseki", another famous battle, took place in 1864 when a combined Britain, Holland, France and US navy fleet attacked the city in reprisal for attacks on their trading vessels by rebel Choshu clans.

2. Yamaguchi City

Yamaguchi City (山口市) is one of the smallest prefectural capital in Japan with only 194,858 (2014) people. It is the center of politics and education in the prefecture but, despite being a pleasant and attractive city, is mostly ignored by businesses and tourists. On the other hand, 5-story pagoda Ruriko-ji, dating from the Warring States period when Yamaguchi City was an alternative capital to Kyoto, St Francis Xavier Memorial Cathedral and the Yamaguchi art, history and prefectural museums are all in the city.

Japan's largest karst formation, the Akiyoshi Plateau, is located to the northwest of the city.

Website: Yamaguchi City (Japanese)

3. Ube City

Ube City (宇部市) is located in the south coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture between Shimonoseki and Yamaguchi cities. Around 169,906 (2014) people live in the city. A popular recreation area, Tokiwa Park (常盤公園) which is centered around Tokiwa Lake is located east of the city. Yamaguchi Ube Airport (山口宇部空港), the prefecture's only large airport, is located in Ube City.

Website: Ube City (Japanese)

4. Shunan City

Shunan City (周南市) is west of Yamaguchi City and its 145,104 (2014) residents live in the prefecture's newest city. It was created in 2003 through the merging of Tokuyama City and Shinnanyo City.

Website: Shunan City (Japanese)

5. Iwakuni City

Iwakuni City (岩国市) is located on the south coast and near the eastern border with Hiroshima Prefecture and is a popular day trip destination. Around 141,636 (2015) people live there.

The city is famous for its wooden arched Kintaikyo Bridge (錦帯橋) over the Nishiki river. The old samurai quarter of the city across the bridge is part of Kikko-koen Park. On display are the remain traces of period buildings, Iwakuni's famous Imazu white snakes, a large collections of samurai armor and a library of period documents. Iwakuni Castle, a concrete reproduction, is perched on the hill above the park. Traditional cormorant fishing takes place from June to August.

6. Hofu City

Hofu City (防府市) is east of Yamaguchi City. An estimated 116,227 (2014) people live in the city overlooking the Suo Sea. Hofu-Tenmangu Shrine is considered to be one of the best Tenmangu shrines. The powerful Mori clan ruled this area during the 16th to the 19th century and their mansion, the Mori Hontei Villa, and its garden can be toured in the northeast of the city.

Other Cities: Kudamatsu, Hagi, Hikari, Onoda, Yanai, Nagato, Mine

Professional Sports Teams

Yamaguchi Prefecture has no major professional sports teams.

Official Symbols of Yamaguchi

The official symbol of Yamaguchi Prefecture combines the shapes of the two Kanji (Chinese characters) that make up its name.

FlowerBitter summer mandarin (Citrus natsudaidai)
TreeRed pine tree (Pinus densiflora)
BirdHooded crane (Grus monacha)
FishFugu (Grus monacha)
AnimalHonshu deer

Getting There

Yamaguchi Prefecture has an extensive rail network which is run by JR West. Train lines encircle the entire coast of the prefecture and two train lines cross Honshu from south to north.

A well developed toll expressway system exists in the southern half of the prefecture but very few major highways exist in the north. Highway buses are available in all large cities along the southern coast.

The Sanyo Shinkansen Line has stations in the cities of Iwakuni, Shunan (Tokuyama Station), Yamaguchi, Onoda (Asa Station) and Shimonoseki. Only the Kodama Class trains stop at all station. Many trains only stop at Shin-Yamaguchi Station or Tokuyama Station after leaving Hiroshima Station bound for Kyushu.

Yamaguchi Ube Airport (山口宇部空港) is located on the south coast in Ube City. The airport only has regular domestic flights to Tokyo only but also has a fair number of chartered flights to domestic and international destinations. Free parking is available for cars. Website: Yamaguchi Ube Airport (Japanese)

Posted: April 5, 2011 Updated: February 14, 2015

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