The town of Tsuwano is nicknamed the little Kyoto of San-in, and for good reason. The gray brick road of Tonomachi street contains the white walls and Edo Era buildings found in abundance in the old capital. But that’s not all Tsuwano is about. With attractions such as the massive Shinto Shrine and the Steam Locomotive, as well as events like the annual Yabusame (traditional horseback archery) festival, it’s easy to see why Tsuwano is a spectacular – if not a little unknown – tourist destination. Nestled under the shadow of Mt. Aono, Tsuwano is small and humble, but its year-round beauty is unmatched throughout Japan.
- The Taikodani Inari Jinja: A gigantic Shinto Shrine sitting on top of a mountain. Visitors have the option of walking underneath over 1000 red Torii gates to reach it.
- Yabusame horseback archery: Tsuwano’s pride and joy, this traditional festival is only active in a few places and the site that it is held on is only remaining original site in all of Japan. Visitors from all over the country gather to witness the archers attempt to hit their targets while galloping by on hoseback.
- The Tonomachi Street: Step back in time to the Edo Era where being surrounded by white walls, wooden gates and carp-filled moats was considered normal.
- The Catholic Church and the Chapel of St Mary: The former is dedicated to an old Catholic missionary and the latter to Japanese Christians imprisoned and tortured under the Tokugawa Shogunate. The church remains active to this day and, for a little Japanese flavor, offers tatami mats in place of pews.
- The Steam Locomotive: Running during the spring, summer and fall months the old fashioned steam locomotive takes riders from Tsuwano and Shinyamaguchi who are looking to experience what travel was like before bullet trains.
Japanese Cultural Activities JETs Have Participated In
Two local taiko groups (one in Tsuwano and one in Hikimi) are good options for JETs who have an interest in this powerful form of music. Or if you like to dance, the Yasokoi group combines traditional Japanese and modern dance into a mesmerizing style.
Things JETs Do in Their Spare Time
Local badminton, soft volleyball, baseball, and futsal leagues are just what a JET needs to satisfy their competitive edge. Some restaurants also hold special dinners during the month.
Festivals and Town Events
- The Koi Koi Koi Matsuri. Tsuwano’s summer festival with local performances and fireworks.
- The Nichihara Fireworks Festival. Enjoy a fireworks show over the Takatsu River in early August.
- The Sagi-mai. Japanese for “Heron Dance,” it was brought to Tsuwano from Kyoto (remember, this is the little one) and held twice in the month of July.
Restaurants and Nightlife
- Pommes Souffles. French name, Italian food. Also has a variety of cakes and breads. Cakes may be specially ordered.
- Naniwa. Kansai-style okonomiyaki, rice bowls, and noodle dishes.
- Aoki. For when you’re craving sushi.
- Tokumasa. A large selection of dishes including tempura, fried chicken, and baked fish.
- Kura. The late night izakaya.
- Dajima: an affordable and good small cafe on the road, that’s actually open on Wednesdays (most restaurants are closed on Wednesday here)
To/From Tsuwano by Car
- Masuda: 40 minutes by car/train
- Matsue: 3 hours by express train, 4 hours by car
- Hiroshima: 2.5 hours (2 hours using toll roads) by car; 2.5 hours by bus via Nichihara
- Hagi: 1.5 hours by car
- Yamaguchi: 1.5 hours by car/train