Yamaguchi City is located nearly in the center of Yamaguchi Prefecture and is the center of the local administration and economy.
Yamaguchi was built in the middle of the 14th century by a warlord of the Ouchi family in imitation of Kyoto, which is why Yamaguchi City is often referred to as ‘Western Kyoto’.
In the 16th century, Ouchi was attacked by Mori who had a base in Hiroshima, then Ouchi family finished. In Edo period, the base of Mori was moved from Hiroshima to Hagi which locates in the northern part of Yamaguchi Prefecture.
After Hagi had become the center of Mori domain, Yamaguchi was given to Yoshiki Mori family until the middle of the 19th century. Then, Yamaguchi flourished as a center of politics in the west. Mori family contributed a lot for the Meiji Restoration to finish the Tokugawa Shogunate.
There are many popular sites in the city such as longstanding temples. Rurikoji is a Buddhist temple famous for its beautiful old five storied pagoda which was constructed in the mid 15th century by Ouchi family.
The height is 31 meters. It is the 10th oldest five-storied pagoda and listed as one of the top three pagodas in Japan as well as the ones in Horyuji Temple in Nara and Daigoji Temple in Kyoto. Also it was designated as a National Treasure. The roof is made of cypress bark. There is a pond in front of the pagoda. The view over the pond is really beautiful.
Yamaguchi St. Francisco Xavier Church
St. Francisco Xavier was a member of Society of Jesus and came to Japan in 1549 as a Catholic missionary. He was the first person who brought Christianity to Japan.
Yamaguchi St. Francisco Xavier Church was constructed in 1952 to commemorate 400 year anniversary of Xavier’s visit to Yamaguchi. The first church was an imitation of Xavier Castle in Spain. After the fire, the new church was reconstructed in 1998 mainly by the donation of the local people. It is a modern style church which is the shape of the tent with two towers.
Other temples and shrines
There are many other important temples in the city. Ryufukuji Temple was also founded by Ouchi family. The beautiful main hall called Shakado from 16th century is designated as national important cultural asset.
Joeiji Temple is famous for its beautiful garden. It was designed by the famous painter Sesshu. He was a Zen Buddhist monk but also an artist of ink blush painting. He painted mainly beautiful scenery. The garden he made here is a pond strolling garden, but he included the technique of dry landscape garden. He added dry waterfall, which means he made a waterfall by the combination of the rocks without using water.
Yamaguchi Daijingu nickenamed as the Ise Shrine in the west was founded in 1520 by the Ouchi family. Ise Shrine is the most important shinto shrine in Japan which enshrines Amaterasu or the goddess of the sun who is believed to be the ancestor of Japanese imperial family. This Yamaguchi Daijingu also enshrines Amaterasu.
While you are in Yamaguchi, it is recommended to also experience steam locomotive SL Yamaguchi, running between Shin-Yamaguchi Station and Tsuwano Station on the JR Yamaguchi line. JR, which used to be Japan National Railway finished the operation of steam locomotive in 1975, but Yamaguchi Line restarted the operation in 1979 for the tourists.
They operate the SL only on weekend of tourist season and special holidays, so please check the date of the operation if you want to try it.
Shicchoru-nabe is a hot-pot dish of Yamaguchi. It was made recently by the local people. There are 4 different patterns by the four seasons. They put local ingredients by the season. Shicchoru means “I know.” So they want everyone to know about it.
Uiro is a Japanese sweet. You may find in many different places, but the one in Yamaguchi is special. They mix bracken powder and sugar, then steam it. They sometimes add azuki beans or matcha powder.
Access to Yamaguchi Station (JR):
From Shin-Osaka Station: Take Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi. Then take Yamaguchi Line to Yamaguchi. It takes about 3 hours.
From Hakata Station: Take Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi. Then take Yamaguchi Line to Yamaguchi. It takes about 1.5 hours.