If you love Japanese history, then visiting Hagi in northern Yamaguchi prefecture is a great place to escape modernity and enter the 19th Century. Those willing to put in the extra effort to get there will be rewarded with a peaceful city that most tourists aren’t even aware of. Hagi has a castle town preserved since Samurais inhabited the city. It also has the school where Yoshida Shoin, one of the most important teachers and scholars in Japanese history, taught his students. In addition to being a great town of history, there are beautiful orange trees growing everywhere, beaches, museums, and nice temples. Hagi is a peaceful and charming place to enjoy a day of sightseeing.
Enjoy the historical attractions in Hagi City
Hagi has many attractions, but the best is walking through the well-preserved castle town. Starting near the bus stop, tourists can walk through the Edo-period streets and enjoy the old residences of Samurai families such as the Kikuya clan. There are a number of notable residences and several museums available to stop at. When you reach the Northwest corner of the castle town, visitors can shop for the famous Hagi pottery (Hagi Yaki), a region specialty since the 1600s. Not far from the pottery museum is the old foundation of where the castle used to stand near the ocean. Those interested in swimming can check out Kikugahama beach near the castle ruins. For those further interested in history, you don’t want to miss the famous school where revolutionary thinker Yoshida Shoin used to teach his students.
Yoshida Shoin: a revolutionary mind
Pointing on the left, Yoshida Shoin was one of the most brilliant political thinkers and schoolteachers in the history of Japanese society. Born in 1830 in Hagi, Shoin became an excellent reader and teacher early in life. Shoin spent his teenage years lecturing and traveling the country to study with other influential teachers. He traveled much of Kyushu in the South where he met foreigners in Nagasaki, and to the Northeast of Japan where he met important figures and studied economic issues such as viewing the conditions of mine workers on Sado Island. Shoin returned to Hagi and taught his revolutionary ideas at the school in Hagi.
Visiting the school that shaped the minds of many leaders
During the 1850s, Yoshida Shoin ran the famous school Shoka Sonjuku. He and his students advocated a vision for a new society in Japan. Visitors can look inside and imagine Japan’s future leaders studying under Shoin. The two most important contributions of this school to Japanese society were; first, to substitute preferment or opportunity due to birth, for opportunity due to merit; the second, was to do away with wasteful and lavish ceremonies and redirect institutional energies on everyday people. Since 1850, Yamaguchi Prefecture has produced the most leaders in modern Japanese history and tourists can see where this tradition began at Shoin’s school in Hagi.
Enjoying a peaceful trip to the past
The best way to reach Hagi City is to take a bus from Yamaguchi city. The 40 km will take about one hour. Exploring the city is enjoyable by bicycle or on foot. The locals enjoy fishing and farming; make sure to try barbequed squid and green tea ice cream. The city enjoys a lot of tourism, but the majority of it is from Japanese people. For those with a great sense of history and imagination, as well as a wish to leave the busy urban centers, Hagi is a great place to spend the day.
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