Hagi Travel Guide
While its castle did not stand the test of time, Hagi retains the Edo Period town which grew up around it.
This, plus the fact that the thought leader behind the Meiji Restoration once taught here, makes this place a popular domestic tourist destination in Japan.
Come check out our Hagi travel guide to Japan as we cover the best things to do in Hagi.
After getting settled at your accommodation, make the Castle Town of Hagi the first thing you see in this part of Japan. This settlement surrounded Hagi Castle, which stood throughout the Edo Period. Although this fortification now lies in ruins, the community managed to retain its buildings through the Meiji Restoration to the present day.
As such, visitors can take a rare trip into a time when samurais and geisha were staples of everyday life. There are numerous white-walled buildings (a common building style in the Edo Period) that will be of interest to visitors.
Start with Kikuya Residence, which housed a samurai who became a merchant later in life. Standing for 350 years, it is best known for its sliding door that opens up a corner room to the beautiful garden that lies outside.
Next, move on to the Kubota Residence. The stately home of a businessperson who had extensive interests in the local kimono and sake industries, you will be impressed by the large kitchen and extensive tatami floors contained within. It also acts as a mini-museum, with tools and other artifacts from the Edo and Meiji Periods on display.
Whatever you do, be sure to not miss dropping by the Shoka Village School during your visit to Hagi. It is here where the seeds of the Meiji Restoration were planted; teacher Shouin Yoshida railed against the old ways of the shogunate, advocating for power to return to the emperor.
This activism ultimately cost Shouin his life, but by the time he was executed, his students had already begun to affect the change that overturned the shogunate, ending the Edo Period and starting the Meiji Restoration.
The building itself is small, but it drives home the point that change does not start at the top but from the grassroots.
The contribution of Shouin Yoshida to Japanese history is immortalized by the Shoin Shrine. Built in 1955, this Shinto hall of worship pays homage to this revolutionary figure with its aged wood torii gates, flowering trees, and lush stands of evergreen trees.
Within the treasure hall, you’ll find a chronology of Shoin’s life. However, virtually all of the displays are in Japanese, so be sure to bring along a Japanese friend or a guide to make the most of your visit here.
Check out the most significant Buddhist sight in Hagi by checking out Tokoji Temple. Brought into being in 1691, the monks here follow the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism. Due to its position on the Sea of Japan, it was close to where Chinese Buddhist monks arrived aeons ago; this has influenced its design, as it resembles Chinese temples more than Japanese temples further east.
Within the main hall, you’ll find a Buddha statue crafted in the Shaka Nyorai style, and out back, a sombre but beautiful graveyards marks the final resting place of Mori lords.
Learn more about the history of Hagi by stopping by Hagi Hakubutsukan, which serves as its museum. While many of the exhibits are in Japanese, the staff have a number of English resources that will help you make the most of your visit here.
Displays will enlighten you on the story of the city of Hagi and its flora and fauna (especially giant squid which has been caught in its waters). Feel free to have a coffee during your visit, as a small cafe is located on site.
While in Hagi, make time to get out in nature. A visit to Mount Kasayama will allow you to experience forest bathing in-depth, as the trails that scale its slopes will take you through groves of Camellia Japonica.
Located northeast of the ruins of Hagi Castle, these lands were left untouched due to the ‘unlucky’ nature of lands situated on this side of a fortification. Thankfully, this allowed massive stands of Camellia Japonica to grow.
When in bloom, they drop thousands of gorgeous red flowers all over the surface of the trails here. The views from the top are amazing as well, but definitely, don’t miss this place in spring.
Indulge in more nature by visiting the sea cliffs of Susa Hornfels. While hazardous during a time of high surf, the layered rocks of this feature will captivate geologists or anyone who enjoys checking out rocky outcrops.
Check out the catch of the day at Michi no Eki Hagi Seaside Market. Here, you’ll find what is caught by local fishers; this includes the infamous fugu, which is skillfully prepared by restaurants on site. Try some, if you dare!