The Setouchi Inland Sea, encircled by seven prefectures, encompasses more than 7,000 metres of pristine coastline and some 3,000 islands. So it’s no wonder that it is the source of some of the country’s most incredible seafood – high praise indeed in a nation like Japan.
But fish isn’t all it has to offer: it’s also home to notable foodie hotspots Hiroshima and Kobe, is the origin of world-famous Kobe beef, and the fertile lands around its waters produce an incredible array of vegetables, all used in fantastic local dishes. And let’s not forget about the region’s long tradition of sake production.
If Japan’s food culture is a big draw for you, you could do no better than a trip to Setouchi. Take a look at our picks below and explore more curated food and drink highlights here, or be inspired by this model four-day gourmet trip taking in all of Setouchi’s must-eats.
Kobe Beef, King of Luxury Wagyu
Thickly marbled and melt-in-the-mouth tender, Kobe beef is widely considered the ultimate beef. Made from only pure-bred Tajima black cattle, this superstar beef is a culinary highlight for any meat-eating visitor to Japan. And where better to try it than right from the source? Kobe is a vibrant coastal city with a stylish international vibe, perfect to explore before making your way to somewhere like Michelin-starred Setsugetsuka, a restaurant specialising in teppanyaki (iron grill) cuisine, meaning your beef will be grilled to perfection in front of you. Pair with wine or some locally brewed sake—Kobe is a traditional centre of sake production—for a truly indulgent meal. Where: Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.
Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki, Casual Dining Champion
The crown jewel of Hiroshima’s rich food culture is Hiroshima-style okomiyaki. This simple “as-you-like-it” grilled savoury pancake has a base of a cabbage-egg batter and noodles (udon or yakisoba), on top of which an array of ingredients can be layered—you guessed it—as you like it. Take your pick from one of the two thousand-plus okonomiyaki eateries in the prefecture and experiment with flavour and texture combinations. We recommend Koshida Honten, open since 1957, although you might have to wait in a queue: think of it as plenty of time to dream up the ultimate toppings combination. Head off afterwards to Hiroshima’s buzzing Onomichi night market for street snacks and retro shopping. Where: Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture
Sensational Seafood at Shimonoseki
Seafood is synonymous with Japanese cuisine and there’s no better place to taste it that straight off the boat. Karato Market in Shimonoseki is a fish market situated on the Eastern entrance to the Setouchi Inland Sea, next to the Kanmon Straits which are teeming with sea life. This regional seafood market is home to both wholesalers—you can watch live auctions—and restaurants where you can sample that day’s catch. Shimonoseki is also famous as perhaps the best place in Japan to try the notorious pufferfish(also known as blowfish), which can only be served by certified chefs due to the poison present in the fish’s intestines, ovaries, and liver. Other seafood highlights in Setouchi include Hiroshima’s oysters: head to the Miyajima Oyster Festival held every February on the picture-perfect island of Miyajima for an unforgettably indulgent oyster feast. Where: Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Online Introduction Course to Setouchi via Online Travel Training
The Setouchi Training Platform is an agent training tool that will allow you to learn about the seven prefectures that make up the Setouchi region and the 3,000 islands that rise from the tranquil waters of the Seto Inland Sea. In this training programme we will teach you about the distinctive character and alluring attractions of each prefecture, and this relatively unexplored region’s unique geography. Just as Setouchi’s visitors do, you will discover breath-taking landscapes, fascinating history, rich culture both ancient and new, cosmopolitan cities and unique adventures – all with a warm, revitalising welcome. Find out more here.