Hyogo prefecture, in the centre of the island of Honshu in the Kansai region, overlooks both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. This position endows it with highly contrasting climates: the south and the island of Awaji enjoy mild temperatures and low rainfall all year long, while the winters in the north, where rainfall is heavier, can be harsh. At the start of the Meiji era (1868), its main town Kobe was opened to trade with the rest of the world, explaining the cosmopolitan allure of the city and the region as a whole. This major port, strategically located in the bay of Osaka, developed into a thriving economic hub. Unlike Kobe, severely damaged during the 1995 earthquake, the "White Heron" of Himeji, some 70km/43mi to the west, was spared. This 14C edifice is considered the finest castle of Japan. Beyond this densely populated area, the less inhabited North is home to a few gems, among which the "castle in the sky" of Takeda, the unspoiled coast of San-in Kaigan National Parkand the delightful spa resort of Kinosaki Onsen. Nature lovers will make a beeline for Toyooka park where they can observe the emblem of Hyogo, the Oriental white stork.
Despite the devastation of the earthquake in 1995, the Kobe region has almost regained its former economic vitality. Thanks to government subsidies and the participation of major architects, the city has been entirely rebuilt in line with new anti-seismic norms and is today a modern conglomeration.
Tucked away on the north coast of the prefecture, between wooded mountains, rivers and splendid beaches, Kinosaki appeals by its incredible tranquillity, well-preserved architectural heritage and the diversity of activities on offer. Relaxing in some of the country’s most famous spas is a truly unforgettable experience.