Hiroshima’s hidden gems, two small castle towns, and two oceans to explore

  • Guided
  • Osaka / Osaka
  • 10 Days , 9 Nights
  • ★☆☆☆☆
  • ★★☆☆☆

Hiroshima’s hidden gems, two small castle towns, and two oceans to explore

10 Days

Hiroshima, located along the Seto Inland Sea, is known as a city of peace. Nearby you’ll find Miyajima, a sacred island registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This trip takes you to these famous spots in addition to a small island in the Seto Inland Sea called Etajima, where you can experience the slow-paced island lifestyle. Additionally, you can visit the quaint, peaceful castle towns of Hagi and Tsuwano on the Sea of Japan in the San’in region, one of Japan’s most rural areas.

This tour is suitable for those who want to experience a different side of Japan and includes walking and cycling to make it a more active experience.


If you’re visiting Japan, you’ll surely want to visit Hiroshima, but this tour offers more than the touristy parts of the city. Explore unique aspects of Hiroshima by interacting with local guides and delving into the legends and way of life of the people. Hiroshima city and Miyajima island are located on the Seto Inland Sea, one of the warmest and calmest bodies of water in Japan. The people on Etajima live a slow island lifestyle and you will have a unique opportunity to connect with them.

On the opposite side of Honshu, along the Sea of Japan, is the Sanin region, known for its quiet rural areas. Small castle towns in Tsuwano and Hagi, previously populated by samurai, are sure to be a hit for those seeking hidden gems. In Tsuwano, you’ll find spots associated with Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, while Hagi is a town where samurai gleaned information first-hand from advanced Western countries during Japan’s Meiji Restoration.

Enjoy this rural tour of the most western tip of Honshu, where you can combine walking and cycling to access lesser-known areas. If you have a sense of adventure and yearn to go somewhere different, this tour is for you!


  • Guided hiking on Futabayama Mountain, a small mountain near Hiroshima Station, with a local volunteer group.
  • Peace-themed fun-ride cycling tour for those who want to learn more about Hiroshima city and the stories of its residents beyond just the tourist spots.
  • Visit Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Experience local cuisine and cooking. Craft traditional paper cloth of the region on Etajima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea, while enjoying the slow, local way of life.
  • Participate in a zazen meditation experience at a temple among a beautiful Japanese garden in Tsuwano. View Kagura, a traditional performing art. Enjoy a Japanese tea tasting experience.
  • Take a sake brewery tour complete with enjoy tasting of a special sake served by the Prime Minister at diplomatic occasions when foreign dignitaries visit Japan.
  • Try your hands at making Hagi-yaki, a traditional pottery symbolic of Hagi.
  • Walk through a camellia tree forest and cycle around the castle town of Hagi.
  • Walk on Hagi-Okan, a historic road beloved by the locals and used by samurai during the Meiji Restoration who contributed to Japan's modernization.
  • E-bike cycling through Akiyoshidai Geopark, Japan's largest karst plateau, and explore off-the-beaten-path routes to visit Akiyoshi-do, Japan's largest limestone cave. These hidden paths are a highlight not available through regular tours.


Tour starts from Shin-Osaka Station. We will meet at 2:30 PM on the 3rd floor of Shin-Osaka Station   take the bullet train to Hiroshima. From Hiroshima station, we will walk to the hotel near the station, where we have also prepared a welcome dinner.

Accommodation type:
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Hiroshima-Ekimae (or equivalent class. See list).


Depart for a morning hike to Futabayama Mountain near Hiroshima Station at 7:00 a.m. We will be met at the mountain by a volunteer trail maintenance group made up of young and energetic locals working hard to revitalize the region. We will experience a traditional Japanese outdoor tea ceremony on the side of the mountain, while overlooking the early morning dawn of the city, an activity that has garnered an award from Japan Sustainable Tourism. (Note: In respect for the volunteers’ time and efforts, the above activities may be shared with other customers besides our group).

Next, we will enjoy a two-hour cycling tour on e-bikes to explore World War II memorials and uncover stories of Hiroshima beyond the regular tourist attractions which will help you understand the true feelings of the citizens. (Note: Participants must be at least 145 cm tall to ride the e-bikes.)

In the afternoon, we will visit Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, a World Heritage Site. We will find out why Miyajima is called “the Island of the Gods”.

We will return to Hiroshima for the night. For dinner, explore the night streets of city on your own.

On this day we will use public transportation. IC cards will be provided.

Accommodation type:
2 consecutive nights.

Breakfast, Lunch

Check out of Hiroshima hotel and leave main luggage in lobby to be sent ahead to our next destination. After breakfast, meet in the hotel lobby at 7:30 am and take public transportation 30 minutes to the quiet island of Etajima in the Seto Inland Sea, known for its oyster farming, seaside cycling and hiking.

Here, we will have a cooking experience with hospitable locals to taste the regional cuisine. We will also have a craft experience using “Shifu,” cloth woven with paper thread. This traditional craft is only found in Kyoto and Etajima.

By experiencing the simple regional cuisine and craft unique to this island, you will take on the important role of becoming the next generation of inheritors of the local culture and stories.

After experiencing the slow life of Etajima, we will return to Hiroshima by boat. We will be picked up by private transportation to Iwakuni. Along the way, we will have dinner at a unique local restaurant called “Irori Sanzoku,” where the locals gather for celebrations such as family birthdays.

Accommodation type:
Green Rich Hotel Iwakuni (or equivalent class. See list).

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

8:45 am – After checking out of the hotel, we will meet in the lobby for a local bus tour. First, we’ll visit the Kintai Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in Japan. This arched bridge, first constructed in 1673, is one of the few wooden bridges in Japan and also serves as a popular spot for viewing autumn leaves.

The bridge has been repeatedly washed away in natural disasters, and then rebuilt. Thanks to the efforts of the local people, its original wooden form has been preserved without the use of concrete reinforcements. The arched structure increases in strength when pressure is applied from above, showcasing the high level of Japanese craftsmanship.

After visiting the Kintai Bridge, we will transfer to a local bus, bullet train, and express train to reach the town of Tsuwano. We will enjoy Japanese eki-ben (train station bento lunches) while watching the scenery pass by from the train.

In the afternoon, we arrive in the castle town of Tsuwano, nestled in the mountains. With a population of just over 7,000, some people call it “Little Kyoto” for its quiet beauty. Here, we offer a Zen meditation experience at Yoomeiji Temple, while looking out onto its beautiful Japanese garden. From there we go to Otome Pass, the site of a dramatic story of Christian martyrs who were once prohibited in Japan. Here we will learn about the little-known history of Japan’s “hidden christians.”

After dinner at the ryokan, we will enjoy a traditional local performing art called Iwami kagura, expressing the identity of the local people. Through this exchange, the group strives to pass down their local traditional performing arts.

Accommodation type:
Ryokan Meigetsu (or equivalent class. See list).

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast at the hotel, our exploration of the charms of Tsuwano continues. We will visit Taiko-dani Inari Shinto Shrine, a popular place of worship to the god of prosperity in business and good fortune. The shrine attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, particularly during the New Year. The shrine boasts a beautiful and orderly arrangement of red torii gates, similar to the iconic torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

After lunch, we will visit a local tea plantation and learn about Japanese tea. Mamecha, is a type of tea that has been cherished by the townspeople of Tsuwano for a long time. Its name comes from mamenaru, Tsuwano dialect for “becoming healthy.” Originally, mamecha was consumed as a medicinal herb for treating illnesses and injuries, but in recent years it has gained favor as a delicious and healthy tea that can be enjoyed every day. We will also taste sencha, a type of green tea.

Accommodation Type:
2 consecutive nights.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast at the ryokan, we will meet in the lobby at 9 am and head to the castle town of Hagi by private transportation. On the way, you will enjoy the scenic rural landscape of Japan. We will visit the Sumikawa Sake Brewery, located in the Ogawa region of Hagi and learn about the process of sake production, followed by a tasting. This brewery is well-known for its “Tokyo Bijin” sake, long served by Japanese prime ministers when entertaining foreign dignitaries.

Afterwards, we will visit a Hagi-yaki pottery kiln, a traditional craft of Hagi. Today’s Hagi-yaki originated approximately 400 years ago, when Korean potters brought their ceramics at the command of the Hagi feudal lord Terumoto Mori. Since then it has been made here and become a local product. The Kosai-an kiln is owned by Seigan Yamane, a well-known ceramic artist who produces a beautiful blue color called “Seigan Blue.” He runs a popular Hagi-yaki pottery workshop and his works are sought after from all over the world. Those who are interested can experience making pottery themselves.

Next, we head to Kasayama. This low mountain, elevation 112 meters, is known as the smallest active volcano in Japan. Despite its diminutive height, it has a proper crater. We will stroll along the old road at the bottom of the volcano, through the beautiful camellia grove of 2,500 or so trees (about 1 hour). This is a comfortable walk that allows you to actively experience the nature of Hagi.

Distance: 3 km
Time Required: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: N/A

Accommodation Type:
Ryokan: Senshuraku (or equivalent class. See list).

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will explore the town of Hagi by foot and bicycle. The small castle town is located on the Sea of Japan. This small settlement was used as a place to confine the defeated lords of the Warring States period (1467-1615) who had their ranks reduced.

For several hundred years, samurai dominated this town, and separated from the influence of the modern world, it was gradually left behind. However, at the end of the Edo period, when young Hagi samurai in their teens and twenties witnessed Western civilization for the first time, they felt a sense of crisis about Japan’s future, and these Hagi youths overthrew the ruling shogunate, leading Japan into the Meiji Restoration. Even today, Hagi is a holy land that attracts politicians and entrepreneurs who want to change history without being bound by conventional ideas. Historic points associated with this story are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the Meiji Industrial Heritage.

Distance: 15 km
Time required: 5 hours
Elevation gain: N/A

Accommodation type:
2 consecutive nights

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Leave aside one night’s worth of luggage to take with you and we’ll send your larger baggage onward to the next destination. After breakfast, meet in the hotel lobby at 9:00 am. Today, we will enjoy walking along the Hagi Oukan, a historic road that runs almost straight from Hagi City on the Sea of Japan to Mitajiri Port on the Seto Inland Sea side, a total length of about 53 km. This beautiful old road is maintained and walked by local people even today, as it was the route the samurai used to when transitioning into the Meiji Restoration. The “ishitatami” stone pavement that was developed during the Edo period remains, and is a beautiful ancient road with a sense of history spanning several hundred years. For lunch, we will enjoy tofu dishes at a specialty tofu restaurant representing this iconic Japanese cuisine. After that, we will head to Yamaguchi City by private transportation. In Yamaguchi, we will visit Jueiji Temple, which has a garden constructed by the Zen monk Sesshu, who is famous for his ink wash paintings. After, we will visit Ruriko-ji Temple, where the beautiful National Treasure Five-story Pagoda stands. Overnight, we will stay in the well-known hot spring town called Yūda Onsen to rest our weary bodies from the hike.

(Note: Ruriko-ji Temple is currently undergoing renovation, a process undergone to pass down the National Treasure to the next generation and serve as an invaluable tool for “traditional skill succession” in which the young inherit the wooden building techniques of traditional Japanese craftsmen.

Walking Tour
Distance: 9km
Time Required: 3.5 hours
Elevation Gain: N/A

Accommodation Type:
Hotel New Tanaka (or equivalent class. See list).

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart from the hotel at 9:00 am via private transportation to Akiyoshidai Geo Park. Akiyoshidai is one of Japan’s largest karst plateaus and serves as a reminder of Japan’s historic volcanic activity. The protruding white rocks are made of limestone from coral reefs that were buried deep underground and then uplifted via plate tectonics. This scene is said to look like a flock of sheep! This natural beauty took 350 million years to form, and has become a popular cycling course. This is the last cycling part of our tour (Note: Participants must be at least 145 cm tall to ride the e-bikes.)

Underneath this landscape lies Japan’s largest limestone cave called Akiyoshido. On this tour, we will walk a special course (approximately 2 hours) that has been specially developed for cave exploration. Wearing overalls and headlamps, this spelunking experience will make you feel like a true explorer! The route is designed to be safe and easy, even for beginners.

After the activities on the western edge of Honshu are finished, we will return to Shin-Yamaguchi Station via private transportation and take the Shinkansen back to Osaka. To round out the last night of our long exploration in the countryside, we will provide a farewell dinner.

Distance: 10 km
Time required: 1.5 hours
Elevation gain: N/A

Accommodation type:
Hotel Villa Fontaine Umeda (or equivalent class. See list).

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After having breakfast at the hotel in Osaka, the tour will disband.


This itinerary is subject to change

Overall Trip Rating:
- Based on 2 travel reviews
Very Good
  1. The whole experience can be described as a moveable feast
    By Jane July 12, 2019
    This is our fifth trip to Japan, previously having walked the Nakasendo and Kumano Kodo, gone snowshoeing in Nagano and gone from Tokyo to Hirado with a different tour company. We are so glad that this time, we booked a trip with Heartland Japan. The whole experience can be described as a moveable feast. Every day brought a new experience, and showed us a different facet of Japan. Riding a fishing boat to catch the sunset, then riding with Naoko early in the morning to haul their catch for the day, feeling the force of nature at the Susa Hornfels, watching history unfold at the Samurai museum, walking in the footsteps of great, resolute men who shaped Japan in Hagi, tea degustation at Tsuwano, learning and making pottery with Seigan-sensei… it is impossible to choose a highlight. The whole trip was a joy from start to finish, and left us with some sadness that it had come to an end. Kimura-san was an excellent guide- patient about my incessant questions, anticipating our needs and even arranging a surprise to celebrate our wedding anniversary at dinner. Heartland Japan truly lives up to its aims of providing unique glimpses of Japan for its guests. We plan to travel with them in future!
  2. This trip is priceless
    By Charmian Hayes July 2, 2019
    My husband and I had an incredible week on a private tour in May. From the booking process to the end of the tour, we cannot recommend this trip highly enough. Being lucky enough to have private tours of soy sauce factories, sake producers, blacksmiths and being able to meet with the owners, executives and their families enabled us to have incredibly informative discussions an gave us great insight and understanding into the effect of depopulation on rural Japan and the desire these passionate people have to revitalise their region. Being greeted with a bunch of home grown flowers in the colours of the Japanese flag by the mother of our bright and breezy local guide Naoko before heading out on her grandfather’s fishing boat, followed by abalone and other fish on an open fire shows the thoughtfulness and consideration of these beautiful locals. The food was incredible, the passion and gentleness of the people, their willingness to share their time and culture, the tea ceremonies, the onsens, the temples, shrines, pagodas, camellia forest, kagura performance. If you are looking for an “off the beaten track” experience with people who are real and passionate and who love their land, this trip is priceless. Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries.

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Personal Information

Start: Shin-Osaka Station (Day 1, 14:30)
End: Dismissal after breakfast on Day 10 at your Osaka hotel
Minimum number of participants: 4

Travel Includes

  • English-speaking guide (Day 1: 14:30 thru Day 10: 9:00 )
  • 9 nights’ accommodation (including Japanese-style rooms in hotels and ryokans) (including all taxes)
  • 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, and 8 dinners
  • Luggage transport for one piece of luggage per person (Hiroshima to Tsuwano, Hagi to Osaka) (The total length, width, and height of a suitcase should be less than 200cm and the weight should be 30kg or less.)
  • Transportation IC card (worth 3,000 yen)
  • JR railway fares as included on the itinerary
  • Admission fees (Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine, Tsuwano Yomeiji Temple, Hagi Shinsaku Takasugi Residence, Hagi Tanaka Residence, Yamaguchi Joeiji Temple, and Akiyoshi Cave as listed on the itinerary)
  • All activities listed on the itinerary
  • Private transportation as listed on the itinerary


  • Cycling may be canceled in the event of rain, in which it may be replaced by a walking tour.
  • When transporting luggage, large suitcases will be sent to the next night’s accommodation. When sending luggage ahead, please set aside one night’s worth of things needed to carry separately.
Travel planning and implementation Liberta Co., Ltd.
Address Minami-cho 15-206, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-6265-329
Email info@heartlandjapan.com
Travel business license 2-7699


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