When most westerners think of Japan, the images that come to mind are generally from a bygone era. Samurai and geisha predominate, perhaps along with woodblock prints coming from 19th-century artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Certainly, a large part of old Japan lives on in the values and mentality of the country today, but if you think that Japan is filled with people walking around in bamboo hats and wooden sandals, you have another thing coming!
Western Japan is home to several locations that will interest those who are more concerned with the present century than the Edo era. First is the Mazda auto-making facility in Hofu (Yamaguchi prefecture). This state-of-the-art plant is fully automated and provides a cutting-edge look into modern industrial Japan. Seeing a car get put together virtually from scratch in about a minute stretches one’s credulity, but you can see it with your own eyes.
In Kure (Hiroshima Prefecture), people can tour the naval base, home to the only submarine training facility in the country. The Self-Defense Force finds its home here, and there are tours that you can take into various naval vessels and through display museums that lay out lots of information concerning Japan’s naval preparedness. Starting in Spring of 2005, there will be a replica of the battleship Yamato on display as well.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Also relating to World War Two is the International Peace Park in downtown Hiroshima. Here you can tour a museum that shows what happened during the day that the first atomic bomb was dropped, and tour the park itself, which is filled with sculptures and monuments to those who lost their lives in the bombing.
Adachi Art Museum
In Matsue, you can visit the Adachi Art Museum, which mainly displays works of contemporary Japanese artists. Vogel Park is another interesting spot, with birds and flowers of every variety. The trained owl show is a particularly unusual and popular attraction.
For fans of manga and anime, two art forms that are taking the entire world by storm, there are several points of interest in Western Japan. Hiroshima city has a manga library where manga can be perused for free. If you come at the right time, Hiroshima also plays host to the bi-annual World Animation Festival, during which time artists from various countries converge upon the city and animated films are shown at venues all over the city.
Add to this list all of the museums, parks, gardens, and restaurants that are available to tourists and you come up with a picture that is very different from that of centuries past. Japan is a country that maintains a closer contact with its own history than most, but it is also looking forward to the new millennium.