Hiroshima in-depth Part 2: The Underrated Gems

In Part 1 of this series, we went over some of the most popular and well known tourist destinations in Hiroshima, such as the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City and Itsukushima Shrine's big red tori gate in Miyajima. In part 2 we will dive deep into the unknown parts of Hiroshima that are underrated gems. 

Setoda 瀬戸田: A quaint seaside town famous for lemons
Setoda town is part of Onomichi area, but on an island called Ikuchijima. You can access it by ferry from Onomichi or by driving. It’s well-preserved with historical buildings that date back to the edo period, one of which is the beautiful Hotel Azumi Setoda.

Created by the founder of luxury hotel group Aman, Azumi Setoda is a gorgeous modern hotel within a historical house. It’s minimal at the same time not losing touches of the Japanese experience. The rooms are fit with sliding paper doors for window shades, and a fragrant hinoki bathtub. Light colored wood finishing within the rooms also gives you a feeling of staying at a traditional onsen ryokan. The rooms have either a private balcony or a garden. Across from the estate is the bath house yubune where guests can enjoy and relax. It’s opened from 7am to 10pm and offers indoor bath, sauna, and cold bath.

The essence of Azumi Setoda is preserving as much of the history and originality as possible. This means the dinnerware used within the hotel restaurant was inherited from the family that used to reside in this estate. The meals served here features vegetables and meat from farms within 50km radius of the hotel and are hand selected by the chef.

Shiomachi Shopping Street is the main street of about 600m from the ferry port to Kosanji temple. It has a historical retro vibe with 50+ stores offering local dishes and shopping. The icon of Setoda arehe lemons, which thrive under the warm climate of SetInland Sea. At the Lemon Valley, you can see a grove of lemons with a backdrop of Tatara Bridge in the blue ocean. You can rent a bike and cycle the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road which is a 70km bike path that will tour you through these gorgeous ocean views.


Tomonoura 鞆の浦 - The seaside town that inspired a Ghibli movie
This is the seaside town that inspired Ghibli’s movie: Ponyo. It’s said that Miyazaki spent a few months here, drinking coffee each morning with the gorgeous ocean view. You can spot Sosuke’s yellow and red house on the hillside, and according to locals they can also spot their neighbor’s houses throughout the animation.

Historically, Tomonoura was a popular stop for delegates from Korea visiting Edo. Fukuzenji Temple is a place that retains the friendship between the Korean and Japanese delegates as that was one of the favorite places for Korean visitors to stay. The panoramic view of the sea and the islands from the temple is what attracted the Korean delegates at first, and in modern times it has been featured in various animation as well.

Strolling through Tomonoura, you can really feel the tight nit community as well as their history of this place. One of the most iconic landmarks in Tomonoura is the Joyato Stone Light House which lights up the coast and provides safety to the town. The buildings are well maintained, one of my favorites being the shop for Okamoto Kametaro Honten for Homeishu alcohol. Homeishu is a herbal liqeur that dates back to the 17th century. It’s a specialty of Tomonoura area. I love this shop because they have a gate of Fukuyama castle and an elaborate wood carving of two dragons inside the shop.

If you are staying the night, I highly recommend Hotel Ofutei ホテル鷗風亭. This hotel is a really nice onsen resort with has both traditional Japanese tatami floor rooms as well as large western rooms with beds. The onsen has both indoor and outdoor baths, sharing the same beautiful panoramic view of the ocean. It’s especially beautiful during sunset and sunrise.

Takehara 竹原 製塩町 - a quiet town rich with history and bamboo crafts
About 1.5hr from Hiroshima station is Takehara city. It’s a coastal town known for their salt production and bamboo crafts. The charming town is also filled with historical houses dating back to the Edo period. One of them now belongs to a group of hotels known for renewing old houses called Nipponia. They have 3 buildings for both accommodation and dining. You can see within the buildings the preserved wood engravings from the past.

Because of the booming salt production, at one point there was as many as 26 breweries that trived. We got to visit one called Fujii Shuzou- brewery. We were able to taste 3 different types of sakes brewed there, each with a different taste, some light, others fruity.

Before leaving Takehara, we stopped by the visitor’s center to do some bamboo crafts. There we were paired with local elderly volunteers to teach us how to make bamboo windmills. The process took about an hour and was easy to follow. You can walk in, or please make a reservation for those traveling in larger groups.

Akiota 安芸太田町, deep within the woods of west Hiroshima
Deep within the mountains on the west side of Hiroshima is the town of Akiota. The population there has been on a year-on-year decline since the 1950s and now only has around 5,000 inhabitants. Most of it is mountainous with forests and rivers covering the landscape.

We visited 2 Yokohata residences, first one for sushi making and second one for wood crafting. Though they share the same name they are 2 separate households next door to each other. Other than sharing names, they also share this amazing warmth of welcoming visitors, it felt as if I was in my own grandparent’s homes.


The wood carving was one of the best crafting experiences I’ve tried in Japan. You get to learn first-hand from Yokohata San who has been practicing this craft for almost 70 years. This style of carving has existed since Edo period and is an invaluable cultural asset to Japan’s history. It took us about an hour to refine a roughly cut-out spoon. You can find Yokohata-san’s work in large department stores throughout Japan, or you can book your own crafting experience here: http://yokohata-craft.com/



I hope you’ve learned about new and interesting places you’ll want to visit in Hiroshima. It was my first visit and I was blown away by how beautiful and diverse it is. There are so many undiscovered places, and I’d highly recommend Hiroshima to anyone, whether it’s for first time visitors or those who live in Japan and are looking for a quiet sea-side getaway.

If you are looking for more off the beaten track locations, you can check out this article about 5 Cities other than Kyoto and Tokyo to visit. Todd is a well established writer for Japan travel that has written for global brands such as Lonely Planet. 

Follow me on instagram @ariel.land for more Japan insights

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