The old castle town of Hagi, sitting on the Sea of Japan in northern Yamaguchi Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most historic cities and a delightful destination for any traveler. Allow yourself to be swept back in time as you walk the striking white walled streets, immaculately preserved to look just as they did in the Edo period, over three centuries ago. Though the once-proud castle has been reduced to ruins, the majestic former residences of prominent samurai and merchant families still stand to the present day, many of them opening their doors to the public to give visitors a glimpse into what life in Japan was like in the feudal age. It’s little surprise that the castle town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The gateway and centerpiece of the district is the Hagi Meirin Gakusha, a stunning architectural specimen that is Japan’s largest wooden schoolhouse building. Built on the site of the former Hagi Domain School, the main structure now serves as a museum and tourist center dedicated to showcasing Hagi’s rich cultural heritage. Free to enter, here you can learn about the history of the school and the surrounding district and get all the information you need to explore the city to the fullest. There’s even a restaurant-café where you can dine on freshly caught fish from the Sea of Japan and mouthwatering specialties prepared from locally grown vegetables. The second building (admission fee required) serves as a museum dedicated to the five World Heritage Sites located within the city limits, as well as to the Bakumatsu Period and the Meiji Revolution.
Take your time to wander and explore the city, and you’ll find no end of cultural and historical delights, from temples to art and pottery museums, and even a beach that stretches out beneath the castle ruins, offering stunning views of the sea and mountains. Hagi is truly an off-the-beaten-path gem just waiting to be discovered by the discerning traveler.
Hours: The castle town district can be accessed at all hours. The Hagi Meirin Gakusha building and visitor center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Access to the castle town district and the main schoolhouse building (visitor center) are free of charge. Admission to the second schoolhouse building (museum) is 300 yen for adults, 200 yen for high school students, and 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students.
Address: 602 Emukai, Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Meirin Gakusha)
Airport: Yamaguchi Ube Airport
+81-838-21-0304 (Meirin Gakusha)
From Yamaguchi Ube Airport, take an airport bus to Shin-Yamaguchi Station. From there, take the Super Hagi express bus. It is approximately a 60-minute trip to the Hagi Meirin Gakusha.
Hofu Tenmangu Shrine, Mohri Garden, Suo Kokubunji Temple, Amidaji Temple
Akiyoshidai and Akiyoshido
Rurikoji Temple’s Five-Storied Pagoda
Ube Biennale Art Walk and Sunrise at Kiwa la Beach
Yanai City’s White-Wall Townscape
Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge (Great Tsunoshima Bridge)