Savor the temples and the cuisine and skip the crowds : Yamaguchi is often called the Kyoto of the West, though it's much more interesting than that - and it suffers from considerably less ''tourism pollution.''

A compact city of about 190,000, it lies in a narrow valley between the Inland and Japan seas.

With the impeccable gardens and its stunning five-story pagoda, Rurikoji Temple is a national treasure.

The city's small winding lanes offer an assortment of experiences : pottery kilns like Mizunoue, situated on the grounds of Toshunji Temple; chic coffee shops like Log and Coffee boy; and wonderful counter-only shops that serve oden, or one-pot dishes.

Just a 15-minute walk south is the hot-springs village of Yuda Onsen.

Yamaguchi's Gion Festival, which features parades, costumes and dancing, also takes place in July; 2024 will be its first year operating again at full tilt since the pre-Covid era. [ Craig Mod ]


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