Tour of Japan: Hyogo Prefecture

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Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県Hyōgo-ken)

Hyōgo Prefecture is located in the Kansai region of Honshū Island that stretches from the Seto Island Sea to the Sea of Japan.  It has a population of 5,469,762 (2019) and comprises 8,400 sq. kilometers.  Hyōgo Prefecture borders Kyoto Prefecture to the east; Osaka Prefecture to the southeast; and Okayama Prefecture and Tottori Prefecture to the west. Hyōgo Prefecture has 134 kilometres of ski slopes and 81 ski lifts.  It is also known for onsen (natural hot springs that are fueled by volcanic activity) resorts and ryokan (traditional Japanese Inns).  Hyōgo’s coldest month is January with an average maximum temperature of 9°C (48°F), and its warmest month is August with an average temperature of 89°F.  There are 29 cities in the Prefecture and its capital city is Kobe.  

Hyōgo Prefecture’s famous Himeji Castle (姫路城, Himeji-jō) dates  back to 1333 and is the best surviving example of a hilltop Japanese castle.  Its  83 rooms were built according to the advanced defensive systems utilized during the feudal period.  The castle is known as Hakuro-jō (“White Egret Castle”) or Shirasagi-jō (“White Heron Castle”) because the exterior walls are a brilliant white and supposedly resemble a bird taking flight.  In 1993 it was added as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kobe is the capital of Hyōgo Prefecture and has been one of Japan’s most important port cities for many centuries.  It is located between the sea and the Rokko mountain range.  On January 1, 1868 Kobe’s port was opened to foreign trade, and because of this foreign trade, Kobe’s historic Kitano-chō district reflects the influence of late 19th and 20th centuries European and American architecture.  The famous Uroko House is a massive western-influenced building with turrets and multi-color slate shingles that resembles fish scales.  The Kobe Port Tower is 108 meters high and was constructed to resemble a tsuzumi,  an elongated traditional Japanese drum.  The Great Hanshin 6.8 earthquake or Kobe earthquake occurred on January 17, 1995 and severely damaged Kobe as well as other areas. 

Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県Hyōgo-ken) is famous for:

Yukata – worn for use in onsen resorts or ryokan inns

Kobe beef – beef from the Tajima strain of Japanese black cattle that is only raised in the Hyōgo Prefecture

Nada district, Kobe – Japan’s top sake producing region

Nofukuji Temple, Hyōgo Prefecture – home to one of the three largest statues of Buddha in Japan

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge – the longest suspension bridge in the world, measuring  282.8 meters high and 3,911 meters long.

The Bridge Ōnaruto – suspension bridge over the Strait of Naruto connecting Awaji Island with the Shikoku Island

Kobe Maritime Museum – the architecture suggests a sailing ship

Akashiyaki – A dumpling made with octopus

Ikanago no Kugini – Simmered Japanese sand eel

Matsuba Crab (Snow crab) – looks like a pine needle

Izushi Soba Noodles – served as mouth-sized portions on small plates called sara

Butaman – Steamed Pork Buns

Takomeshi – Octopus Rice

Taimeshi – Sea Bream Rice