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If you are in for an adventure paired with lengthy, quirky, brutal honest thoughts then you are in the right place.

My name is Arisa and was a cosplayer for 12 years in Malaysia before settling down in Kyoto, Japan. Exploring Japan full time has been a long time dream of mine, so let's explore it together!
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Places to Visit in Yamaguchi Prefecture | Babymoon [3D2N trip] *UPDATED 30/6/21*

My only excuse to go to Yamaguchi prefecture was to specifically ride JR's newest (okay la not so new by now because it's been last June and i'm only writing about it now lol) shinkansen that has replaced the long serving Evangelion model which unfortunately i wasn't able to catch it despite my numerous visit to Japan over the past 3 years before i moved to Kyoto *sobs* Oh well, at least i caught a glimpse of it from afar if that is any consolation.

This trip was really a spontaneous one over last summer, it was after i found out the hello kitty shinkansen was due to release during my birthday month lol but i've been meaning to visit Yamaguchi prefecture for awhile ever since i saw a photo of the amazing tori gates leading towards the sea at Motonosumi Inari Jinja online, think that was back in 2015?
Told myself die die must go there at least once, how? Don't know we'll come to that later when the time comes lol, that's me with travel plans; always so last minute haha.

When the Hello Kitty shinkansen started operations i noticed one of it's destinations was Yamaguchi prefecture, it was a perfect moment indeed so we quickly bought the next available tickets. Despite us getting the tickets almost a week prior to the release dates, majority of the seats and dates were almost sold out! No joke everyone was so gung ho about this pink kitty themed train lol, not gonna say only girls like Hello Kitty because i saw a guy on the shinkansen with a whole booklet of tickets specifically for this Hello Kitty shinkansen. Not sure how many times he intended to ride it but that shows how hardcore some of these fans are lol. Scary to me la. 

One thing i love about Japan's shinkansen is how efficient and comfortable it is, i may not be eligible for all those tourist passes anymore but i don't mind paying abit more for the speed and comfort (cheaper alternatives are the highway overnight buses) about 3 days before our little trip i started to do a little research on how to get to Motonosumi Inari Jinja and realized how out of the way it was and means of getting there seems pretty limited because it's pretty out from the main city where our train stops at. And if we want more flexibility plus my 7 month pregnant belly hoping from one public transport to another doesn't seem ideal; our only option was to drive.

And the danna hasn't driven in 10 years. Yay!

Luckily i applied for an international license permit so i could drive overseas lol, that reminds me that i need to sit for the Japanese driving license soon because my 1 year international permit is expiring this May! 
First time driving in Japan, that was a whole new experience for me and i learned that one should NEVER book a car last minute because chances of getting one is pretty slim lol (3 days is close to impossible liao) best to book latest a week in advance. I googled car rentals in Yamaguchi prefecture, a few popped up and i went with what's available because beggars can't be choosers at this point. There are many websites you can try to compare rates from like those hotel booking sites, so i can't really recommend any specific ones.

The reason why i went with Toyota's car rental it's because they are a big company, i feel much safer with an established brand as smaller ones with no credentials to their name (again, just my personal preference) which might have a higher chance of bad service(?) i guess and of course they were the only ones with cars available during our visiting dates. Not exactly the best pricing around (there were cheaper options but sold out) but decent enough and we got quite a huge car lol. I've never driven anything this big before imagine how paranoid i was during parking and turning in narrow roads especially in the dark (omg, Nagato city, Yamaguchi is really ulu* area so barely any streetlights at night). 


We boarded the Hello Kitty Shinkansen from Okayama station because both Kyoto & Osaka were sold out, such dedication and effort we had just to ride it lol, and from there it roughly took us about almost 3 hours to reach Yamaguchi prefecture. Could pretty much say half of our day was spent traveling alone but thank goodness that during summer daylight is longer compared to other seasons (winter is the shortest), by the time we arrive at Yamaguchi station we quickly pick up our rented car from the Toyota showroom which was right next to the station (so convenient!) before heading towards our hotel.

Renting & Driving in Japan
  1. Prepare your International driving license at your home country's city road council office for Malaysians it's at any JPJ branches, costs RM150 for 1 year
  2. Book via online on selected car rental sites of your choice, select the dates, type of car, collection & return location before submitting with your card details. They won't charge your card unless you decided to cancel last minute, majority will incur a penalty for such cancellations. 
  3. Collect your car from the selected location, payment has to be made upfront via cash or card, car is given in pristine condition & full tank, tank must be filled full again before returning.
  4. When it comes to highway tolls, best to get a ETC card (they are preloaded cash cards) from the car rental outlet or pay manually at the toll by cash (i did this). You can save abit more with special expressway passes
  5. You don't have to fill in your own oil tank, the staff at the petrol station will do it for you. Just let them know what you want (half/ full tank) and pay once they are done
  6. Use the GPS in the car, it works quite well especially if you have bad phone signal & can't load google maps. Remember to ask the car rental store to change it to English if you don't understand Japanese
  7. Enjoy your driving trip around Japan and don't forget to stop by Service Areas for rest & some shopping!

I've not driven for a couple of months (ever since moved to Kyoto) so i was feeling abit scared (my driving skills rusty & big car some more), but after a few meters down the chill town roads i felt everything coming back to me and for us who survived KL driving madness on a daily basis; driving in Japan is a breeze. But start with less busy areas like outskirts you can go as slow as you want without worrying about blocking others. Anyway busy city areas probably have a well established public transportation system that you won't even see the need to drive around lol.

For our 3 days trip, i've almost drove 100km. That's a new driving distance record for me lol.  

Shuho Royal Hotel (秋芳ロイヤルホテル)

UPDATE: 30/6/2021

I actually found out about the hotel's closure a couple months back on TV (i was in denial stage as well because i refused to believe what i saw) and it broke my heart to see such a beautiful family friendly ryokan losing everything just like that. I mean yes, the area isn't exactly what you would call a "high traffic" tourist zone but they still managed to push through all those years until 2020 was their breaking point. It was a really beautiful ryokan with rooms overlooking the Akiyoshidai Karst hills and we were hoping to visit again someday but guess that's not going to ever happen 😢

The danna was in charge of handling the accommodations because i'm already the driver for this trip so all transportation lies on me lol; he ended up booking a very old style ryokan which kinda gave out like the 80s-90s vibe. Could be the way it's designed and the choice of colors back then were probably in trend for "high class" hotels, but no doubt it was comfortable and had their very own public onsen located on the same floor as the lobby.

Lobby/ lounge area

Early morning view at the onsen with no one around at all

The hotel isn't crowded with foreign tourists and according to the staff here, they mostly get family locals visiting the area & staying for the night. For a ryokan- 10,000yen per person a night with breakfast & dinner included daily seems like a very good deal. The meals aren't your average buffet style, in fact they serve washoku style breakfast and dinner in generation portions too; I found it hard to finish my entire meal as i was so full!

I would recommend this hotel to people planning to visit Yamaguchi prefecture! It may not look exactly 100% new at least it's well kept, clean & good services.
It also isn't exactly that near from Yamaguchi station but i would consider it to be the "middle" of places we wanted to visit around Yamaguchi prefecture, we drove for about 40mins on the highway (30km ish) before reaching the hotel. 

Akiyoshido Cave - Mine City

We kinda stopped by here first after checking in, this place was suggested by the hotel's staff serving us (so nice of them), our drive here from the hotel took us barely 5 mins because it was only 850meters away haha!
Super duper near, you can even walk there if you want but with barely anyone on the road around it's kinda scary to walk alone la and one of the roads to the hotel is rather steep (like really steep, had problems driving up though i've changed gear lol) so imagine walking your legs sure pancit from this mini hike up & down. By the way Akiyoshido is located in Mine city of Yamaguchi prefecture and it is Japan's largest and longest limestone cave stretching out about 9km in total.

Outside the cave there are some souvenir shops

I wouldn't recommend this cave to children, elderly people or who are scared of the dark and traumatized by that movie -The Descent because it's pretty dark and slippery in here with only certain parts dimly lit. Chances of slipping is pretty high especially with the wrong kind of shoes. 
As for me who always had strong interests in archaeology, caves are one of the many places where the world's histories are kept safe.

Most of my pictures turned out super dark & grainy so i sorta gave up taking any pictures

Consider it a mini hike as there are some stairs that you'll need to climb (roughly about 1km), and during my visit they closed off the elevator (for maintenance or something) at the exit so visitors have to turn back and exit through the Akiyoshido entrance (main one out of 3 entry points).

Akiyoshido entrance

The best way to see the entire cave is via Akiyoshido entrance, at this entrance you'll be greeted with a mini waterfall and the water pooling underneath it is cobalt blue, a great spot for a photo!
As this is a natural cave monument, visitors are not allowed to drink or eat in the cave and please don't litter as well.

For foreign visitors, do bring your passport and present it so you can enjoy a discount rate on the entry fee. Normal rate is 1,200 yen, with passport it's 700yen!

Above the cave is the Akiyoshidai Plateau where visitors can follow the trekking trail to explore the 300 million years old coral reef remains, the landscape is definitely one of its kind in Japan and it also offers stunning seasonal views. During summer (the time i went) the area was in lush green stretching out for miles, though i didn't manage to trek through the plateau, at least i got a decent view of it from my stay at Shuho Royal Hotel.

My room view at Shuho Royal Hotel

Motonosumi Inari Jinja - Nagato City

The next day we drove to Motonosumi Inari Jinja, was feeling so excited because my dream is finally coming true!! Yes Kyoto might have its own Inari Jinja, why would i bother to go so far out for another one? Kyoto's Fushimi Inari isn't anywhere near the sea, that's one way to put it lol.
It was about an hour's drive from the hotel because Motonosumi Inari jinja is located at the coastal area of Nagato city, i'm used to following guided tours (with drivers) but having to drive such distance jumping from one city to another on my own is really a mind opening experience, was so sleepy so we had to make multiple konbini stops to refill my sour sweets to keep me awake lol.

There is a designated paid parking area (1000yen per entry if i'm not mistaken) outside the shrine but it gets filled pretty fast and people roughly spend and hour or 2 max so my advice when visiting this place is to go early like arrive at 9am so you don't have to go around in circles looking for parking and avoid weekends, then you are good to go.
The only crowds here are mostly local guided tours but it still isn't that packed, you can easily take nice photos without people bothering you.

 The path heading down is pretty steep, so be careful!

Half of it has stairs while the other half is smooth like this

Puny human & large rock

Aside from the breathtaking view, you can have a go at the shrine's offering box as it is rather unique. Normal offering boxes are often at eye level or lower but for Motonosumi's it's located on top of the torii gate, and it's said your prayers will be answered if your offering made it inside the box. Oh, and it's a small box so your aim has to be good lol, i managed to get it in with 1 try!!! Super lucky but the danna wasn't so lucky because his numerous attempts were all futile lol, overall it was a small fun activity for all visitors to try.

Good place to pray for relationship

Random cat staring at me lol

There is a souvenir shop opposite the shrine that sells the "mascot" of Motonosumi Inari Jinja

Tsunoshima (Tsunoshima Ohashi) -Shimonoseki city

It took me while before i realized i was actually on the highway bridge lol

On the same day we drove all the way to Shimonoseki for lunch after spending the morning at Motonosumi Inari Jinja, this place was also recommended to us by the hotel's staff. Tsunoshima is an island with a long highway bridge (1780m) connecting it from the mainland, the view of the bridge cutting through the deep blue ocean just looks so surreal, like how is it possible?

This view from Amagase park

You can stop at the mouth of the bridge as there is a mini viewing spot (Amagase Park), there is a platform you can climb up to take pictures, and every shot you take is definitely magazine/ poster worthy.

Once you reach the island it would be a waste if you did not go to the beach for a little soak, the sea water is so clean and blue, never in my life i've ever seen it this clear! Coming from Malaysia that sight is just impossible and up at Amanohashidate (Kyoto) the color of the seawater doesn't even come this close! Luckily we just packed our swimsuits along despite not having any intentions to swim lol. There are a few public beaches along the coast you can stop by, some are crowded while some are pretty empty. One of the beaches i passed by on the way here barely had any crowd, should have stopped there instead but i didn't mark it down on my map.

We stopped at Shiokaze Cobalt Blue Beach since i was too lazy to turn back, at least they had an open parking area opposite the beach and a makeshift showering/ changing area which made it more convenient. Like the beach's name the sea is cobalt blue and a beautiful contrast against the fine white sand, it's abit crowded here so finding a spot to set up your things will take some time and you can even rent floats, towels as well.

 The entry fee for this beach is 600yen for adults and 300yen for children.
Just make sure to not leave any of your trash behind when leaving, wouldn't want to pollute another beach in Japan with our garbage that may potentially harm sea creatures as well.   

Shiokaze Cobalt Blue Beach is still alright, busy but clean.
No filter needed for photos taken in Yamaguchi!

Shave ice & more grilled squid post beach snack from the nearby stores at the parking lot opposite the beach

Tsunoshima lighthouse

You can also visit the Tsunoshima lighthouse for a 360 panorama view of the bay, but it's all stairs so not really suited for elderly/ expecting people to climb. On this island you can get some nice local food souvenirs (mostly seafood related) from any of the stores and do try their local seafood restaurants, you won't be disappointed with its freshness and generous portions.

 Grilled squid is always the best

We had so much seafood everyday for our meals but still can't get enough of it because it's sibeh fresh! I might not be able to enjoy prawns, clams and other shellfish creatures but variation of sashimi alone is enough to keep me satisfied, regardless of any store you visit all of them serve sashimi in such thick & big slices. Foodgasm road trip i tell you, back in Kyoto we hardly get to enjoy such fresh sashimi around because we are far from the sea but here in Yamaguchi every restaurant serves them.

You can say that Yamaguchi prefecture has not been hit by the overtourism wave yet unlike major developed cities like Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka so it makes a great stop for some of us seasoned Japan travelers who would like to visit new places and experience a different atmosphere. The prefecture's beauty has only been touched by the tip and i do hope it stays that way because it's really peaceful here.

Just be careful when driving after sundown especially through forest roads, chances of you getting hit by a wild deer is pretty high. That's what happened to us on the way back from the beach, our map brought us through some narrow mountain roads that doesn't have any lamp posts, out of no where a wild deer jumped above our car! Luckily i hit break instead of gas or else we would have went off the road and down the mountain, super scary experience there. 

I feel like making a family trip down here every summer just to enjoy the clean cold blue sea with fine sand underneath our feet. Think lil penguin would love this place very much though the danna isn't a huge fan of seawater because it was his first time stepping into one (only till knees before he retreated lol). If given a chance think this would be a place i would like to retire in, in the countryside away from the city and near the sea.

Don't forget your sunscreen!
Love this brand- Skin Aqua, you can get it from any drugstore in Japan

If you have not experienced Japan during it's summer's peak you wouldn't understand why some of us would want to soak in the cold sea for hours (if possible). The sun beating down against your exposed skin, cooking you alive it's that hot & painful!
Thank god for sunblocks, applied thick layers of it & kept reapplying every 2 hours so i don't get a sunburn. I've not visited Yamaguchi during other seasons, but since it's near the sea i'm guessing it's temperature can be rather extreme during winter as well with strong cold sea winds and all. Would highly recommend to pay this beautiful seaside prefecture a visit during summer for full HD color scenery view!

Yours Truly,

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