Yamaguchi: Landscapes and Their Stories
Yamaguchi Prefecture lies in the far west of Japan's main island, Honshu. It has numerous landscapes that are unlike any other part of Japan: a limestone quarry evoking a giant ancient amphitheater; an underground cave system with intricate stalactites and stalagmites; a tiny island where the village boasts traditional walls of stone and plaster; and many more. American actor Charles Glover visits Yamaguchi to take in these magnificent, distinctive views and to discover the stories that underlie them.

Limestone Quarry and Private Highway

This quarry is run by a major chemical company based in Ube City. To transport limestone from the quarry to its port on the coast, it constructed its own private road at a cost of about 25 billion yen (US$ 230 million). Occasional tours of these facilities are organized by the Ube Visitors and Convention Association. However, they are only open to people living in Japan.

Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park

Located in the inland city of Mine, this park features the biggest karst tableland in all Japan. Several hiking courses run through the bizarrely shaped limestone rocks. There is also a huge underground cave system featuring impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

Iwaishima Island

This small island in the Seto Inland Sea has a circumference of just 12 kilometers. It is known for its distinctive walls made from layers of stone alternating with pure white plaster. These walls were built to protect the local buildings against the fierce winds, especially during typhoons. Another feature of Iwaishima is its steep rice paddy terraces, which have walls rising over 30 meters high. Amazingly, this massive feat of engineering was dreamed up and carried out by 3 generations of a single family.

Access

To reach Yamaguchi Prefecture by air, flights from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi Ube Airport take about 90 minutes. To the Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park, it's a 45-minute bus ride from Shin-Yamaguchi Station. Ferries to Iwaishima Island leave from Yanai Port and take about 70 minutes.