You know, sometimes I wish that I can live 100 lives, so that I can spend each life living a different existence in different places in Japan. As a farmer, as a fisherman, as a sushi master, as a popular comedian, as a ninja, as a Shiba Inu lolol. That is how amazing Japan is. Allow me to borrow their tourism tagline: Endless Discovery. Because one life is not enough.
#GetHomeAwayinSetouchi is the hashtag for my most recent trip to Japan together with my co-traveler, Chanwon.
What is HomeAway? What is Setouchi? You have been following my Instagram feed for the past week but you still have no idea what where how why. Hahahah. Relax. In this post I am going to explain it all, the beginner way. Because this blog’s mission is to spread the love for Japan to the world. And today I am going show you how traveling to Japan does not only stop at Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, and also how to experience the most authentic local ways of life and get a peek into the historical wonders in the lesser travelled parts of Japan.
What is Setouchi?
I myself, was confused when I was told to go on a trip to “Setouchi” (瀬戸内). I was like YAY I WANT!!! YESSSS!!! And then like, wait… where is it? (Anyway, don’t care. The less I know about the place the better! A whole new world for me to explore!)
I know that every time I see 瀬戸内, I see lemons lolol. I saw Limited Edition Setouchi Lemon Pretz sticks and also Setouchi Lemon mixed juice by Kagome before. I also know that 瀬戸内 is related to the sea.
Alright, let’s get back to basic. Let’s take a look of the map of Japan. Most people know where Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido are. So here’s a map of Japan with their major cities (in blue) and regions (in red) marked:
Do you see the island marked “Shikoku“? Japan is made of four main islands (excluding Okinawa). Most people know Hokkaido, Honshu (where most major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are in), and Kyushu. Shikoku is often quite a forgotten island.
There wasn’t any cities labeled in the map for Shikoku, probably because they aren’t famous enough haha. Just like its Kanji, 四国, Shikoku is made of 4 prefectures, namely Ehime, Kagawa, Tokushima and Kochi. (Just to boast a bit, I memorized this by heart because I spent a whole day studying the map of Japan, and I know where exactly all 47 prefectures are lol.)
So, where exactly is Setouchi?
Let’s have another look again.
Actually, Setouchi is not a place or a prefecture. If you take a look at area of Hiroshima and Shikoku, you will see an inland sea in between, and the sea is called “Setonaikai” (瀬戸内海), and in English, the Seto Inland Sea.
The areas surrounding the Seto Inland Sea, is called Setouchi. So, just like the recently made popular region, Tohoku, Setouchi is also a region. Tohoku’s tourism campaign is very successful, so I think that different regional/prefectural offices in Japan are rivalling to promote their very own local cities. Which is a good thing!! Yes! More tourists to the suburbs of Japan! 😀
And just like Tohoku, Setouchi is made up 7 different prefectures.
Namely Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama and Hyogo from the north of the sea, as well as Ehime, Kagawa and Tokushima from down south.
And now, officially introducing HomeAway’s latest destination: Setouchi, Japan’s Sparkling Inland Sea.
You now know where it is!! 😀
Just to recap, here are the 7 prefectures in Setouchi:
And this time, we were going to Ehime Prefecture (only).
(I know right??? Only ONE prefecture and we already felt that we did not have enough time to explore allllll the beautiful spots in Ehime alone! This 47-prefecture bucket list is indeed a life-long mission!)
Sorry for the very long introduction. Let’s get to the real topic!
So the mission of this trip, was to explore the wondrous destinations in Ehime prefecture, while experiencing the most local ways of lodging, dining and shopping.
HomeAway is a vacation rental platforms that provides a whole home experience for families who loves to enjoy more space and privacy. I have stayed in two listings with HomeAway in Osaka and Tokyo before.
That time, it was simply an alternative to hotels for our family (as hotels were mostly fully booked or ridiculously expensive during sakura season). But this time, it was more than that.
It was for us to discover new places, for me to conquer yet another prefecture and check it off my list, and also, to witness the amazing works of historical wonders and immerse myself in the most authentic and traditional Japanese lifestyle.
How often do you get to stay in a 120-year-old historic home built during the Meiji Era? I did. (In fact I was told that we were the first to stay in this listing on HomeAway!!!)
Private vacation lodgings and even farm stays are getting more and more popular in Japan. I’m so happy that HomeAway and Setouchi is collaborating to make the adventure one step easier for foreign travelers! There are many of amazing private lodgings and ryokan in the suburb Japan, but usually their websites are either in Japanese, or they do not have a comprehensive online booking system (I tried calling TWELVE ryokan in Shirakawago to book two nights for my friends who were very last minute and were desperate for my help cuz I was their only friend who speak Japanese lol). So HomeAway is bridging this gap so that more of us can discover the hidden beauty of the suburbs of Japan.
We stayed in 3 different listings during our 4D3N trip in Setouchi.
We spent 3 nights in Uchiko, a rustic little town with a historic preserved district. We met our host in the afternoon and checked into their cafe.
Wait what? Cafe?
This was our first accommodation. The original building was built in Taisho era (about 100 years ago) as Machiya (townhouse). It is now renovated to accommodate visitors, and apparently we are the first guests from HomeAway!! 😀
The first floor is a cafe open to public for dining (although it is quiet almost all the time), and the entire second floor was our accommodation. After 6pm, the cafe closes and we would have the privacy of the entire building!
The living room is soooooo spacious until!
Don’t know what we are trying to do here lol. To show how comfy it is hahahha. If you have more guests, they can sleep on the futon in this spacious living room!
The bedroom houses two semi-double bed perfect for travelers like us.
You can never guess that this building is 100 year old because it certainly doesn’t look like one!
Bed is freshly made and the room is clean with brand new amenity provided.
Love love love!
And the view from our bed room…
It directly overlooks the courtyard of this building. The only thing is that the bathroom (with a wooden bath tub) is on the first floor, so you will have to go downstairs and walk over the courtyard for your bath. If you only need to use the toilet, there’s one next to the bedroom on second floor!
The second accommodation was just a short walk from the first. This building is even older (built in the Meiji era), but has undergone intensive refurbishment 6 years ago to look sparkly new!
Already in love the moment I stepped into the entrance.
Haha look at this Chanwon who planned her outfit to blend perfectly into the picture!
This place is so Japanese yet… infused with the Western elements? The spacious double beds in the attic and the wooden setting reminded me of quaint cottages in Europe. But upon stepping into the house I was charmed by the scent of Hinoki (Japanese Cypress wood), which makes the home the quintessentially Japan.
There are a few things I really love about the house:
Ample sunlight gives the house a very cozy feel, and the little garden makes it feel like a holiday villa!
2. Efficient storage space
This may not be useful for our one-night sojourn, but I was so fascinated with the way everything is optimized for aesthetics, utility and efficiency! 😀
3. Ofuro (bath tub)
Oh. Nothing beats a good bath tub especially in the cold climate.
Hotel bathtubs are good, but the cypress wooden tub gives it a whole “onsen” feel!
This is the final accommodation we stayed on our last night in Uchiko. Actually it is in the same building as the above, just next door! ^^
The interior is pretty much the same, just slightly different layout 🙂
It has the same star-case storage! ^^
This is Onishi san, our very gentle and charming host for all three nights. He not only helped us with all the lodging matters and showed us around the area, he also cooked our breakfast daily and it was sooooo delicious😱. Chanwon was like omg… so multi-talented haha. (By the way his daughter’s name is also Sakura!!😍)
Anyway I will be slowly posting our journey in Setouchi in the coming posts. Meanwhile, if you are planning your holiday soon (not limited to only Japan!), do check out HomeAway to book your vacation home!
Don’t forget to use the code “HOMEAWAYCHEESIE” for 8% off!!
Happy vacationing! ^^