The city of Hofu on the Seto Inland Sea in Yamaguchi Prefecture boasts a wealth of cultural treasures certain to enchant even the casual history buff. First and foremost is Hofu Tenmangu Shrine. Founded in 904, it is the oldest of 12,000 shrines dedicated to the Japanese god of learning. Its history museum houses priceless ancient relics, including a seven-century-old picture scroll that exquisitely details the shrine’s history. The grounds are especially beautiful when the plum trees bloom in mid-February to March, and the view overlooking the city is always a sight to behold.
After visiting the temple, treat yourself to a stroll through the vast, immaculately maintained Japanese garden of the Mohri clan, who once ruled over all of Yamaguchi. Centered around a serene pond and stately residence, it features almost 250 varieties of trees, nineteen stone lanterns, and countless flowers—with all the elements arranged in perfect harmony with each other. From cherry blossoms and wisteria in the spring to Japanese irises in the summer and brilliant foliage in the fall, it welcomes visitors with stunning sights in all seasons.
Suo Kokubunji Temple, commissioned by Emperor Shomu in the year 741, is another of Hofu City’s most remarkable historical specimens. One of the few of Japan’s ancient temples to still stand in the same layout as when it was first built, its premises are ornamented with countless Buddhist statues—including fifty in the main hall—with many dating back to Japan’s medieval times.
Last but not least, you won’t want to miss Amidaji Temple, home to multiple designated National Treasures including a massive 3-meter-high, 820-kilogram treasure pagoda which is Japan’s oldest. Ideally visited in the June rainy season, when the multicolored hydrangea flowers—nearly 4,000 in all—are in full bloom, the temple grounds are also striking in autumn, when the abundant maple trees burn in hues of crimson and gold.
Airport: Yamaguchi Ube Airport
Hofu Tenmangu Shrine
The shrine grounds are open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The grounds are free to enter. Admission to the museum is 500 yen for adults, and free for high school students and younger.
14-1 Matsuzaki-cho, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Hofu Tenmangu Shrine)
From JR Hofu Station, take the Bocho Bus bound for Amidaji and alight at the Hofu Tenmangu bus stop (about 4 minutes).
The gardens are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Last admission is at 4:30 p.m.)
Entering the garden requires a fee of 400 yen for adults, or 200 yen for children.
1-15-1 Tatara, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Mohri Principle Residence Garden)
From the north exit of JR Hofu Station, take the Bocho Bus bound for Amidaji and disembark at the Mohrihontei-Iriguchi stop (about 6 minutes).
Suo Kokubunji Temple
The main hall is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is closed every Monday.
The main hall requires an entrance fee of 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for junior high students and younger. (Discounted to 400 yen and 250 yen per person, respectively, for groups of twenty or more.)
2-67 Kokubunji-cho, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Suo Kokubunji Temple)
From the north exit of JR Hofu Station, take the Bocho Bus bound for Amidaji and disembark at the Hofu Kokubunji-cho stop (about 5 minutes).
The temple museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations are required.
The temple grounds are free to enter, except in June during the Hydrangea Festival, when a fee of 200 yen is required for adults (junior high students and younger are admitted for free).
The temple museum requires an entrance fee of 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for junior high and high school students. (Discounted to 300 yen and 150 yen per person, respectively, for groups of thirty or more.)
1869 Mure, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Amidaji Temple)
From the north exit of JR Hofu Station, take the Bocho Bus bound for Amidaji and disembark at the Amidaji Temple stop (about 20 minutes).
Akiyoshidai and Akiyoshido
Hagi Castle Town and Hagi Meirin Gakusha (Historic Schoolhouse)
Ube Biennale Art Walk and Sunrise at Kiwa la Beach
Rurikoji Temple’s Five-Storied Pagoda
Yanai City’s White-Wall Townscape
Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge (Great Tsunoshima Bridge)