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6 Things to Do in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
As the prefecture lying next to Osaka and Kyoto, Hyogo is usually missed out in favor of spending more time in the Kansai region's tourism meccas. However there's plenty to do in just Hyogo itself, that warrants putting aside the overcrowded hotspots and heading to this underrated gem.
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6 Things to Do in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
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Connected to the mainland by one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, even the journey to this island in Osaka Bay is exciting enough. Shrouded in Japanese mythology, Awaji is a must-visit for any culture enthusiasts. Even more alluring however, are the beautiful golden sand beaches, that seem like a world away from the neighboring cities of Osaka and Kobe. Top it all of with the island's delicious cuisine and it's a wonder this spot isn't more popular with foreign tourists.
Splurge on Kobe Beef
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Once known worldwide for the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the city in 1995, Kobe is shedding its negative history and becoming famous worldwide for its delicious beef. A type of wagyu from cattle raised in Hyogo Prefecture around Kobe, the beef is known for its flavor and marbling, giving it a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth texture. While it's not a cheap meal, even budget travelers should put aside some yen to try some of the local beef.
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As the pride of Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji is worth the trip here all by itself. The largest, most complete and arguably the most beautiful castle in Japan, Himeji Castle has been wonderfully preserved and restored, offering a incredible window into feudal Japan. Also referred to as Shirasagijo, the White Heron Castle, this national treasure of Japan dates back to over 400 years ago. After taking a walk through history inside the castle and its grounds, make sure to head to the top of the six-story keep for stunning views over the city and the surrounding mountains.
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Known as one of the 'top three night views in Japan' the view over Kobe and Osaka Bay from Mount Maya is nothing short of spectacular. Getting to the top is easy, just take the cable car at Shin-Kobe Ropeway, a few minutes walk from Shin-Kobe Station. If you have more time you can also take the hiking trail that leads up the mountain from the station, taking around an hour to get to the top.
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Yumura is a quaint little hot spring town in the northwestern region of Hyogo Prefecture, surrounded by lush mountains and wilderness, and famous for its high-temperature spring waters. In fact the spring water is so hot that a local specialty are eggs cooked directly at the hot spring source, an activity guests are invited to try for themselves. There are several free-to-use foot baths located along the river, and most of the resorts allow day use of their facilities for a fee.
Compared to most of the other places in the prefecture, Yumura is a little more difficult to get to, with no direct train access. If you're not traveling by car, the best way is to take a bus from
Takeda Castle Ruins
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Often referred to as the 'Machu Picchu of Japan', the nickname is a testimony for the incredible landscape and sweeping vistas seen from this hilltop settlement. Also known as the Castle in the Sky, if you want to take the iconic photo of these ruins surrounded by clouds, it's best to visit in the fall season during the early morning. However the sea of clouds also depends on the weather and can be quite sporadic.
Luckily unlike Machu Picchu, the ruins don't require a long hike through the mountains to get to. Despite its seemingly out-of-the-way location, there is a train station at Takeda which makes for an easy journey.
Hyogo offers enough to see and do in the prefecture alone to easily fill up a holiday. At a short trip from both Osaka, Kyoto and even Hiroshima, the region is easy to get to, also making for the perfect places to stop for a few days on longer trips to Kansai and beyond.