Yamaguchi City (山口市 Yamaguchi-shi?) is the capital of the prefecture, but you wouldn't know it. It is the smallest prefectural capital in the country and overurbanization is highly discouraged here. That being said, Yamaguchi is a beautiful city tucked down in the middle of the mountains. If you are in the know, Yamaguchi does offer a bit of nightlife, especially in the Yuda Onsen section of town. Central JETs will often visit here for some limited shopping at the boutiques lining the station street, as well. The attraction to the rest of Yamaguchi, though, is the city's beauty and quiet. Temples, rivers and gardens abound. Many of the prefecture-wide conferences are held at the Prefecure Government building in town, so most ALTs will be stopping by a few times. Yamaguchi City's site can be accessed here .
- With 198,000 people, Yamaguchi is the smallest prefectural capital in Japan!
- All ALT/AET meetings take place in fair Yamaguchi, whether at Kencho or Caliente Yamaguchi!
- Yamaguchi was once known as the "Kyoto of the West".
Places to visit
Some of the most famous places to visit include the following:
- The 5-Story Pagoda - Built in 1442, the beautiful pagoda is one of Yamaguchi-ken's most beautiful and famous sights. It is especially rare because each story is the same width. If you have a chance, try to see it at night. The pagoda and the pond in front are illuminated and it is spectacular. The pagoda is a 5-minute walk from Kencho.
- Sesshutei (Sesshu Garden) at Jyoeji Temple - This garden is located a few kilometers north-east of central Yamaguchi (don't walk) but definitely worth a visit. The garden is very beautiful and peaceful. You can sit on the tatami and look out into the garden, or take a walk along the path through the woods and bamboo grove. There is also a hike up to a tiny shrine but the view is not really worth the climb.
- Sabieru (Francis Xavier Church) - Taking it's name from the Portuguese missionary who visited the city 450 years ago, this is one of the most ultramodern-looking churches you will see anywhere. It is no secret that locals prefer the older structure, which burned down mysteriously on its 40th anniversary. It also may be worth your time to walk to the park at the top of the hill surrounding the church. Sabieru is about a 10 minute walk from Yamaguchi Station.
- Ichi-no Sakagawa - The name refers to a beautiful 1 km-long stretch of stream running through the city. It is lined with cherry trees and crossed with numerous foot bridges. The best time to visit would be late March when the trees are in full bloom and late May when the fireflies are dancing. Ichi no Sakagawa is about a 3 minute walk from Kencho.
- Ryuzoji - This temple is a about a 30 minute uphill bike ride from Yamaguchi Station. Taking a car or taxi might be a good idea. You will find a beautiful Buddhist temple set in the woods with a small waterfall. There is also a huge statue of an evil-looking deity. A good time to visit would be during Obon (mid-August) when there is a festival with taiko drumming, food and more.
- Furosato Densho Sogo Center - Make your own chopsticks! For about ￥1000 per pair they supply all of the materials! A great momento of Japan!
- Chomonkyo Gorge - A beautiful hike about a 40 minute train ride from Yamaguchi Station. Stay away from here during the rainy season because you can quickly be caught in a flash flood and left stranded in the gorge - as a few JETs can attest to this.
- Yamaguchi lantern festival (early August – first Friday and Saturday)
- Yamaguchi Firefly festival (Juneish depending on the weather)
- Various other small local festivals
Fast Food & Family Restaurants
- Mister Donut
Japanese Food & Izakayas
- Hakkenden Izakaya - One of our favorites of many in the city. The menu has pictures, reasonable prices, and is open until 2 a.m. (083 923 2112)
- Kinryu Ramen - Located under the movie theater in Yuda. Cheap and good ramen. Great on those slightly chilly evenings. Look for the yellow sign with the green dragon.
- Shiva - One of the most popular restaurants in the ken, Shiva is located on the left side of Route 9 a little ways past Kencho going towards Ogori. It is famous for its authentic curry which can be ordered on a spice scale from 0-50! The menu is in English and has pictures, so ordering from the ever-cheerful waitress is easy. You can eat well for about ￥1500.
- La Francesca - Perhaps the nicest restaurant in the city, this beautiful building is an exact copy of an Italian villa. The food is gourmet, offering a high-quality pasta, pizza and fish or steak. Last summer they offered an all-you-can-eat and drink (with wine!) ￥3000 for women and ￥4000 for men.
- Xavier Campana - Next door to La Francesca. There is an all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays. The menu offers a good variety of Italian foods. The Xavier Baking Company is located under the restaurant.
- Mare - An Italian restaurant with good food, reasonable prices, good selection of wine (Spanish wine too!) and a nice atmosphere. One is located in Yudaonsen and one is just beside You Me Town.
- Tomiden - A Korean restaurant located in Yudaonsen. Friendly service, fair prices and the food is excellent. (083-933-1030)
- Au Quartier Latin - This cozy cafe is located directly behind the Prefectural Library or you can find it by walking along the Ichi no Sakagawa. With one of the best cafe au laits you can find in the city, you can order the "lunch set" for a reasonable ￥900. The dessert isn't bad either.
- The L.A. Cafe - Actually in Ogori, this Mexican place is easily accessible on the Yamaguchi train line. Being one of only two or three Mexican food restaurants in the Ken, it is quite popular among JETs. The owner, who has assumed the name Carlos from his 18 years of restaurant ownership in the U.S., is very friendly and does a passible job at bringing L.A. flavor to rural Yamaguchi.
- Otto Bar - A hidden treasure of a cafe with an original menu infusing Japanese, Italian, and French cuisine. Reasonably priced with excellent service, come and check out their delicious lunch pasta sets or make it an event with their superb dinner menu. You can find this cafe down the side street to the right just past the 7/11 convenience store when heading north away from Yamaguchi station towards the shopping arcade. It will be immediately on the right when you turn the corner. Lunch: ￥1000, Dinner: ￥2000
- Pompadour Bakery - One of the best bakeries in the ken, Pompadour is located in the shotengai (shopping arcade) on the ground level of the Izutsuya department store. You can find many original and traditional pastries and breads always in stock and always fresh here.
- Maison Greek Bakery - If you have a craving for an ever so hard-to-find bagel while in Yamaguchi City, look no further than the Maison Greek Bakery to satiate your appetite! A variety of sandwiches, pastries, breads, and, of course, bagels can be found here. If you visit, make sure you try the cheese bagel!
- Yamaguchi Narutaki Kogen Brewery - A beautiful, log-cabin type, restaurant on a hill just off Route 9 towards Hofu. They brew their own beer (dark included!) and you can Yakiniku or order western food. Also take a walk along the grounds if you get a chance. (083-933-1030)
- Frank - A highly recomended spot on the Yamaguchi Station street with good food, good booze, and great deserts! The staff is hip and friendly, including the owner, her daughter, and a cute little dog. Thursday is a big foreigner night, but at most other times, too, you will feel at home in the relaxed and open attitude. I mean the name of the place is "Frank."
- Ragtime - Small bar just a 2-minute walk from Yudaonsen Station. The highlight of this place is that they serve Guiness!!
- BIG G - The place where foreigner get-togethers have occured. This place has a pool room numerous tables, with a dance room and a few small karaoke rooms in the back. A medium-sized beer costs about ￥500.
- Taps - This pool place has four floors with a few tables on each floor. You can bring in your own food and drinks if you wish!
- Oshare Jaya - This popular izakaya is famous for its shabu shabu. They offer all you can eat and drink specials for about ￥3000 for 2 hours.
- Music Station - A small karaoke box is a great deal. Here you pay for the room and not per person. The more people the better! They also have a wide selection of tunes to choose from.
- Yudaonsen also boasts many onsens--public and private. One favorite is located across from the Hotel New Tanaka where you can bath privately for ￥600.
- The Shotengai (shopping ginza) offers a ￥100 PLAZA, and the Chimakiya department store as well as many others. The ginza is a 5 minute walk straight ahead of Yamaguchi Station.
- You Me Town shopping center has a new part called HARD OFF (go ahead and laugh if you wish). But, it sells used EVERYTHING and nothing is over 5 years old. Looking for a stereo to last you the year? This is your place.
- BIG discount shop: Huge department store with very reasonable grocery prices and other `stuff`. Sort of like a Japanese Target or Woolworths store.
- Izumi Cut House - My personal hero, Izumi-san, is a very friendly guy who loves to talk with foreigners (in English!). Even better? If you let one of his apprenticing students cut your hair then you don`t pay. He offers this special service on certain weeknights and he won`t let you go until you are satisfied. Call ahead for an appointment. (083-023-2727)
- Sara - Located in the Dojomonzen shopping arcade, this full service salon offers anything from shampoos and cuts to perms and dyes. A little expensive but the service can't be beat. You must call ahead and schedule an appointment.