Is Yamaguchi City Japan’s New Go-To Destination?

Is Yamaguchi City Japan’s New Go-To Destination?

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Yamaguchi City
Picture: M・H / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A New York Times article puts a spotlight on a hot new destination in Japan. Will the attention given to the spectacular Yamaguchi City help with the country's overtourism problem?

When it comes to Japan travel, the Big Three cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka – get an undue amount of attention. The result is that popular tourist destinations in all three cities are overcrowded and services that cater to tourists are stretched thin.

What’s sad is there are so many other wonderful cities and towns in Japan for tourists to enjoy. A New York Times article put a spotlight on one such city – much to the delight of local media.

NYT calls out Yamaguchi City

Yuda Onsen in Yamaguchi City in the winter. (Picture: kokoro / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

The New York Times included Yamaguchi City as the only Japanese city in its list of 52 Places to Go in 2024. Some of the highlights mentioned by the Times include the city’s main tourist attraction, the lovely Ruriko Temple (瑠璃光寺; rurikouji). Originally built in 1399 in Japan’s Ouei Era, the temple was moved to its current location in 1442. Its towering pagoda is Japan’s 10th oldest five-story pagoda and ranks as one of the three most beautiful pagodas in Japan.

The NYT also called out the city’s Yuda Onsen (pictured above), which provides a spectacular viewing and bathing experience – particularly in the winter. It also recommended the city’s Gion Festival (祇園祭; gion matsuri) as an alternative to the larger Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. The July Kyoto festival, which the city has held for over 1,000 years, has struggled with massive crowding for all three festival days for the past four years.

The Times also called out the city’s local cuisine, as well as its small modern coffee shops and roasters like Haraguchi Coffee.

Yamaguchi City is located in Yamaguchi Prefecture on the southern portion of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Visitors can fly in from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport or take the shinkansen bullet train from Osaka. The city is also close to other great Japanese cities such as Hiroshima on Honshu. You can also easily reach Kitakyushu and Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu.

In other words, on top of being a great visit in its own right, visiting Yamaguchi situates you to see a part of Japan apart from the madding crowds of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.


Japan mentioned!

The massive line of torii gates at Yamaguchi City’s Motonosumi Shrine provides a long, beautiful walk next to the sea and is a refreshing alternative to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine. (Picture: kazukiatuko / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

The shoutout for Yamaguchi City made headlines news in Japan and received a fair share of local coverage. TV news reports have lauded the coverage and used it as a springboard to talk about the city’s numerous charms.

Yamaguchi TV  on local TV
Local broadcast on NTV: “NY Times Must-Go Locations – The world takes not of Yamaguchi’s charm!”

Naturally, a lot of this stems from local pride. The focus on cities like Yamaguchi helps serve a larger purpose of spreading Japan’s tourism burden across the country.

Inbound tourism has come booming back to Japan in 2023 and will likely continue to increase throughout 2024. That’s a huge economic boon for the country.

However, it’s also created issues for locals just trying to live life. Residents have complained of tourists taking up all the spaces on rush-hour buses and creating dangerous conditions via bad behavior.

For their part, officials in Yamaguchi City are welcoming the attention. The city’s tourism bureau’s site is available in six languages and contains extensive information about the city’s attractions.

U Kana, who leads the Yamaguchi Tourism Convention’s efforts to attract inbound tourists, says they hope the attention also spreads to other attractions that show off some of Yamaguchi’s and Japan’s rich cultural history. They specifically called out Saikotei (菜香亭). The former restaurant now houses calligraphy by famous writers as well as pottery and artwork.

Saikotei in Yamaguchi City
Saikotei at night. (Picture: 松本 辰也 / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

More information

Want to find more spots to plan a tour? Check out Yamaguchi’s great English-language guide to the city. The guide lists an astounding 500+ places of note throughout the city. It also features stunning accommodations like Inn Hagikomachi, where you can bathe in a pool with a panoramic view of the sea.

Planning a larger tour throughout Japan and want to enjoy off-the-beaten-path experiences? Contact us at Unseen Japan Tours to create a custom itinerary and arrange an interpreted tour.


52 places to go in 2024. New York Times

4年ぶり制限なし×3連休と重なるハイライト×戻る訪日客…80万人超見込む祇園祭、混雑に「遊撃隊」も. Yomiuri Shimbun

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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