Adventure & Experience

Setouchi Trip Ideas that are better with a Private Guide

Setouchi Trip Ideas that are better with a Private Guide

The Setouchi region consists of seven diverse prefectures (the Japanese equivalent of a US or Australian State or UK Region) sharing a border with the Seto Inland Sea. Setouchi has been compared to the Mediterranean, with a temperate climate and a calm sea containing a fisherman's bounty of seafood. Yet it is because of this diversity that creating an itinerary to explore Setouchi can be challenging.

We have created 23 sample itineraries to help first-time and veteran visitors to Setouchi explore the region in a logical and enjoyable way. The routes are organized into geographical quadrants, which can help you choose itineraries based on general interests or align easily with other cities already on your Japan itinerary. Each itinerary is created around a specific theme and includes recommendations for accommodations at each major location.


While the itineraries are general enough for visitors to follow on their own, we have taken another step to make your visit to Setouchi more memorable and meaningful. Using these itineraries, we continuously train guides who can accompany you along your journey, providing a deeper level of information, hospitality and assistance as you go. With a trained guide, you'll never need to worry about communication issues, missing transportation, or finding a good place to eat. And if you want to learn more about a location or activity, your guide will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible during your trip.

Setouchi Journeys: 23 Inspirational Itineraries to Discover the Setouchi Region

The itineraries are organized by area (North, South, East, West) and further classified by popular travel styles (Setouchi Highlights, Japan Lover, History Buff, Outdoor). We introduce you 4 itineraries here, one each from the east, west, south, and north.

North Setouchi


Explore the World Heritage Sites and Historical Highlights of Setouchi (Setouchi Highlights)  - This 4-day tour includes 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites, some of the finest examples of historical Japanese architecture, and opportunities to sample the region's finest sake and Kobe wagyu beef.

South Setouchi


A 4-day Tour of Setouchi's Art Islands, Dogo Onsen, and the Shimanami Kaido (Japan Lover)- Setouchi's art culture, both traditional and modern, are in the spotlight as you visit the region's art islands of Naoshima and Shodoshima, followed by centers of traditional arts in Takamatsu and Dogo Onsen. Finally, hop in the saddle and cycle your way along the Shimanami Kaido to the art towns of Setoda and Onomichi across the Seto Inland Sea.

East Setouchi


Exciting Eastern Setouchi: Hot Springs, Samurai Castles and Gardens, Contemporary Art and Architecture (Setouchi Highlights)  - If you have 5 days to spend, why not take a leisurely journey from Kobe to Okayama? On this relaxing itinerary you'll stay at historical ryokan inns, enjoy Setouchi's finest cuisine, and enjoy modern and traditional art experiences and samurai era history along your way.

West Setouchi


A Crowd-free Journey through the History of Western Setouchi in Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and Ehime (Setouchi Highlights)- Discover the hidden gems of Japan on this 4-day itinerary that focuses on the less traveled yet amazing treats found in the western part of Setouchi.

Make Your Setouchi Trip Better With a Private Guide

Although it is entirely possible to have an enjoyable experience in Setouchi using one of these itineraries alone, the depth of the region's history, culture, and traditions can make it difficult for visitors to learn more than surface knowledge about an area. To help provide visitors with a deeper appreciation of Setouchi, we continuously train guides to provide a full-service experience.

During guide training, potential local guides travel as a group on a simulated version of one of the itineraries, led by a group of travel professionals who have experience in working with overseas tourists and travel agencies. Guides are grouped into teams, and each team member gets an opportunity to guide the rest of their team and one of the leaders through a location or event. Teams and leaders work together to give feedback and help each other improve knowledge and skills during the trip. For those who participate, it's a memorable experience during which many long-term friendships are built, as well as an opportunity to build skills for guiding overseas visitors to Setouchi.


Being a skilled guide is more than just the knowledge of each location, although guides are expected to understand each location or experience at a deeper level than what can easily be found in a Google search. Skilled guides are entertainers and hosts, keeping their guests on the edge of their seats with anecdotal tales of history while ensuring their guests stay safe and comfortable. Guides learn places they need to make a lunch reservation in advance to avoid a long wait or ask for special courses for guests with food allergies. They ensure everyone purchases the right transportation ticket and gets on the correct bus, train, or ferry on time. And if a wallet gets lost or a minor medical issue arises, the guide ensures everyone stays calm, and problems are dealt with smoothly.

Meet Hibino-san, a Local Setouchi Guide

Hibino-san is a full-time guide who has lived in the Setouchi area since 2018. She primarily gives tours around the Hiroshima area, near the city where she lives, although like many local guides, she is free to travel around the region when clients request it.


Hibino-san attended Setouchi guide training in January 2023 to broaden her knowledge in leading tours in the region. According to her, the training helped her to learn to tell the big story of the Setouchi area and learn new stories that give depth to her customer's experience. Moreover, the experience gave her the confidence to accept more jobs in the Setouchi area.

When Hibino-san accepts an offer to guide, she typically prepares for 2 to 3 days reviewing new material about the places she will visit. Many tourists already have a working knowledge about an area's history or general information, so she needs to go deeper than what is easy for them to find on their own. Only a fraction of the information about most places in Japan has been translated into English, so using her research skills in Japanese, she can usually find some additional information that is interesting.

Beyond taking guests to the usual places, Hibino-san most enjoys delighting her clients by taking them to places they had not expected. She loves taking clients to hard-to-reach locations or hidden gems known only by locals, and witnessing their excitement. To her, this is one of her favorite aspects of her job.

Hibino-san readily admits that she is constantly learning the best way to guide overseas visitors. She pores over her itineraries, trying to imagine how her clients will react to certain spots and anticipate the types of questions they will have. She considers the perspective of visitors who have been to Japan numerous times (“I don't want to see another temple or shrine!”) as well as first-time visitors who aren't necessarily looking for new adventures and makes a Plan B, C and D for them. But when she sees the joy on her client's faces when they experience something that delights them, all the hard work to prepare for their tour feels like it was all worth it.

Photographs and text by Todd Fong



Hiroshima is the central city of Chugoku region. Hiroshima Prefecture is dotted with Itsukushima Shrine, which has an elegant torii gate standing in the sea; the Atomic Bomb Dome that communicates the importance of peace; and many other attractions worth a visit. It also has world-famous handicrafts such as Kumano brushes.