Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Tatsuno City – The Perfect Place to Enjoy the Four Seasons

Tatsuno City (たつの市), also known as Harima Province’s “Little Kyoto” (播磨の小京都), is a lovely city with a historical and tranquil atmosphere. Situated along the coast, quite a few of the attractions in the city come with a panorama view of the Seto Inland Sea, including a forest of plum blossoms. The city is also where you can learn how soy sauce and the thin noodles known as sōmen were made hundreds of years ago!

Below is a list of attractions that are worthwhile for you to explore.

Transportation in Tatsuno City

Apart from the JR trains, some attractions in the city are more easily accessed by catching the city’s community bus – Akatonbo-Gō (赤とんぼ号). The timetable HERE has all the stops listed that you can refer to by using the bus stop’s Japanese name.

  • It costs just 100 yen for a ride
    • Free for pre-school children
  • You can also get a One-Day Bus Pass that only costs 300 yen, allowing unlimited rides on the day.
  • As not all bus drivers speak English, you can use the below phrase to purchase your one-day ticket.

Ichinichi Jōsha-Ken o kaitaidesu (1日乗車券を買いたいです)

Important: The community bus services don’t operate on Sundays and public holidays or between the 29th of December and the 3rd of January.

Tip: If you have one of the prepaid rechargeable contactless smart cards such as Suica, you can use the card instead of paying by cash for your journey.

Usukuchi Tatsuno Soy Sauce Museum (うすくち龍野醤油資料館)

Soy sauce is now well-known and common around the world. But do you know how it is made?

Tatsuno City is known for its “Usukuchi” soy sauce. Judging by its name, even some Japanese might think the type of soy sauce contains less salt, which isn’t the case. It is actually the opposite.

The “usu” here, which means light in Japanese, is actually describing its color. This type of soy sauce is perfect if you want to enhance the original taste of the ingredients it is cooked with.

© Hyogo Tourism Bureau 
© Hyogo Tourism Bureau 

Higashimaru Shōyu (ヒガシマル醤油), a soy sauce company, used to make high-quality soy sauce back in the Edo period (1603 – 1867). The English translation of the description of each piece of equipment is directly below the Japanese explanation making it a lot easier for those who don’t know the language to enjoy their time at the museum!

Fun fact about the admission fee: You pay 10 yen upon entry because 5 yen is pronounced as “go en” in Japanese. It has the meaning of fate, destiny, and ties. In this context, the museum (and the company) would like to build a good tie with its visitors. So by doubling the “go en”, it deepens the tie the company has with you, who visit the museum (^_-)-☆.

Exploring the Soy Sauce Factory

If you understand Japanese, you can join the 90-minute factory tour on weekdays at either 10 am or 1:30 pm.

  • Reservation needs to be made at least 1 week in advance
  • To reserve, give them a call at +81-791-63-4567
  • Please arrive at least 5 minutes before the tour’s starting time

Usukuchi Tatsuno Soy Sauce Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Monday. The last admission is at 4:30 pm
    • It probably will take you 30 minutes at the most to stroll around the museum
  • If Monday is a public holiday, the museum will close on Tuesday instead
  • The admission fee is 10 yen
  • It is a 20-minute walk from JR Hon-Tatsuno Station (本竜野駅)

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Tatsuno Castle (龍野城)

© photo-ac.com

Tatsuno Castle is one of a few castles in Japan that is divided into two parts. The reason being the castle that was built in 1499 up on Mt. Keirōsan (鶏籠山) was abandoned in 1658 when the lord of the castle – Kyōgoku Takakazu (京極 高和), was ordered to transfer to another province.

When Wakizaka Yasumasa (脇坂 安政) took over the leadership of the castle in 1672, only the quarter at the foot of the mountain where the lord of the Tatsuno Castle and his family usually lived was restored.

Fortunately, the Japanese are good at reconstructing historical buildings. The old abandoned castle up in the mountain was restored in 1979. So nowadays, if you follow the passageway with white castle walls on your side and hike all the way up to Mt. Keirōsan, you will still have a castle there to enjoy. From there, you will get a wide view of Tatsuno City!

Cherry Blossom Season at Tatsuno Castle

A couple of cherry blossom trees around the castle usually bloom from early to mid-April (^_-)-☆.

Tatsuno Castle’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The castle is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Monday and from the 29th of December to the 3rd of March.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, the castle will close on the next business day
  • It is free to enter the castle
  • It is a 20-minute walk from JR Hon-Tatsuno Station (本竜野駅)

Important: If you are driving, there is a car park, albeit small. The roads leading to the castle are quite narrow, so please choose your vehicle wisely and drive safely.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Tatsuno Park (龍野公園)

The beautiful cherry blossom continues to the west of Tatsuno Castle.

© Tatsuno City

Following the road leading to the tea house that was built in the Edo period – Shūentei (聚遠亭), you should start seeing the gorgeous flowers blooming if you visit Tatsuno City in spring.

Tatsuno Park’s ground is big. The side of the park where Shūentei is located is famous for its stunning autumn foliage, and if you follow the Bungaku no shōkei (文学の小径), or the Literature Path, to the other side of the park, you will be passing through a cherry blossom tunnel!

The cherry blossom season here is usually between early to mid-April. But if the weather warms up earlier, the flowers might be to blooming from late March, which was the case in 2021.

As the flowers start to bloom, the Tatsuno Cherry Blossom Festival (龍野さくら祭) will take place as well. The most interesting part of the festival is probably the warrior parade (武者行列), where samurais dressed up in the battle gear patrol from Tatsuno Castle!

© Tatsuno City

Shūentei (聚遠亭)

© photo-ac.com

If you like matcha green tea, don’t miss out on your opportunity of having a cup of tea that comes with a traditional sweet when you come to Shūentei. After all, what beats the experience of having a bowl of freshly made matcha at an authentic tea house?

Plus, it will only cost you 300 yen!

But plan your visit properly as the tea is only served on weekends. Furthermore, a reservation is required in January, February, and from July to September if you want to enjoy tea at the tea house. And please note it might be a slight chance that the tea isn’t served even on the weekend without notice.

Tip: If you are coming to enjoy matcha at Shūentei, arrive a bit later than 9 am as they do need some preparation time.

Autumn Foliage at Shūentei and Momiji Valley (紅葉谷)

Each year from late November to early December, you can enjoy a very scenic stroll and hike around Shūentei and the Momiji Valley at the foot of Mt. Keirōsan. Following the path, you will also pass by Tatsuno Shrine and a few observation decks. If your accommodation is close by, you might want to have a nighttime exploration as well because the view with the maple leaves lit up is just as stunning as the scenery in the daytime!

How to Get to Tatsuno Park

  • Shūentei is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily except Monday and between the end of December to the beginning of January.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day instead
  • It is a 20-minute walk from JR Hon-Tatsuno Station (本竜野駅)

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Higashiyama Park (東山公園)

Another spot that is perfect for hiking and admiring the azalea in spring or the stunning autumn colors is Higashiyama Park, also known as the Little Arashiyama (小嵐山).

From JR Harima-Shingū Station (播磨新宮駅), to get to the park, you have to first pass a 159-meter-long suspension bridge that your young children will have a lot of fun on. But remember to keep a close watch on them to avoid accidents.

The slope of the trails in the park is quite flat, so even if you don’t exercise regularly, you should still be able to have a relaxing and enjoyable time here. Wooden benches and stone tables are placed throughout the park if you ever want to take a rest or simply just want to stop and indulge yourself in the surrounding beautiful nature.

From the beginning to late November each year, a nighttime light-up event will take place at Higashiyama Park, including the red suspension bridge. On weekends and public holidays, outdoor live music performances will also be there to entertain you!

How to Get to Higashiyama Park

It is around a 15-minute walk from JR Harima-Shingū Station (播磨新宮駅).

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Ibo-no-Ito Sōmen Museum (揖保乃糸資料館そうめんの里)

You might have heard of a type of noodle in Japan called sōmen noodles. It might be sold in your local supermarket or on the menu of a Japanese restaurant you have dined in. If you like this type of thin noodles and want to know more about it, drop by the Ibo-no-Ito Sōmen Museum when you come to Hyōgo Prefecture!

In the museum, you will also be able to observe the manufacturing processes of sōmen, from raw dough to when the products are wrapped.

For those who like to see how things are done without machines, there are even five live demonstration sessions every day on an hourly basis from 11 am to 3 pm for the professional noodle makers to show off their skills (≧▽≦).

And if you only care about how tasty the noodles are, visit their tasting corner between 9:30 am to 12 pm and 1 to 4:30 pm to find out which types of sōmen you like the most. You can then head to their shop and grab a few packs of the noodles to take home (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Important: Please note the live demonstration and noodle tasting events are suspended due to COVID-19.

If you visit the restaurant in spring, summer, or autumn, the restaurant may serve Nagashi Sōmen (流しそうめん), which is a must-try if you can use chopsticks! Nagashi Sōmen is a fun style of sōmen that the Japanese eat in warmer months. The noodles will be resting in water flowing through a pipe, and you have to catch the noodles with your chopsticks before you can dip them in the sauce!

Important: Please note that the sauce or broth the restaurant uses contains traces of bonito. If you are strict with your diet but still want to enjoy the noodles, we recommend you bring your own sauce when visiting the museum so you won’t be eating plain noodles.

For more information about the museum, please visit their website HERE. Even if you want to give this spot a skip, still check out their website for tips on how to boil the sōmen noodles that you bought from your local supermarket!

Ibo-no-Ito Sōmen Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Mondays and from the end of December to the beginning of January
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
    • If Monday is a public holiday, the museum will close on the next business day instead
  • The sōmen restaurant – An (そうめんレストラン「庵」) is open from 11 am to 9 pm
    • The last order is taken at 7 pm
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 200 yen for high school students
    • 100 yen for children
  • It is a 15-minute walk from JR Higashi-Hashisaki Station (東觜崎駅)

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Sōmen Shrine (素麺神社)

Japan has quite a few weirdly named shrines. One of them is Sōmen Shrine, just minutes from Ibo-no-Ito Sōmen Museum.

Formally known as Ōmiwa Shrine (大神神社), the gods that are enshrined here look after the prosperity of the sōmen noodle business of Ibo-no-Ito. In the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), sōmen-related competitions used to be held at Ōmiwa Shrine. The winners got the highest honor in the sōmen-making circle.

Ōmiwa Forest Observatory (大美和の杜展望台), where you will get a spectacular view of Mt. Miwa (三輪山), is just a few-minute walk away from Ōmiwa Shrine. The whole mountain is treated as an object of worship that is believed to contain the spirit of a deity of Ōmiwa Shrine. Especially in spring from late March to mid-April, the extra color of the cherry blossom will make the scenery more breathtaking!

You might be wondering how come the cherry blossom period is so long. It is not a mistake. While each year the season differs, as there are many types of cherry trees there, it prolongs the period that we can enjoy the beauty of the flowers (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Another thing that is worthwhile to mention is that this shrine is the oldest shrine in Japan, according to the old Japanese historical documents. But when you get there, it might not feel like the architecture there is old. This is because of the big repair of the buildings that were completed in 2004. We don’t want the shrine to collapse after all (^_-)-☆.

How to Get to Ōmiwa Shrine

It is less than a 5-minute walk away from Ibo-no-Ito Sōmen Museum.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Saijōsan Park Momijiyama (最上山公園もみじ山)

© Tatsuno City

Our favorite autumn foliage spot in Tatsuno City is, however, Momijiyama (Maple-Mountain) in Saijōsan Park.

The maple trees aren’t just planted on a flat surface but also on the slopes. So on the west side of Saijōsan Park, the bright autumn color is just everywhere. When the autumn foliage peaks (usually from mid to late November), the color is so red that the mountain looks like it is aflame!

The light-up event usually takes place from mid to the end of November, whereas the Autumn Festival with temporary stalls happens over two days on the weekend in late November.

How to Get to Saijōsan Park Momijiyama

From JR Himeji Station (姫路駅), take bus services bound for Yamasaki (山崎) and get off at the terminal stop – Yamasaki (山崎). Momijiyama is just another 10-minute walk from the bus stop.

The bus trip will take around an hour, so it might be easier if you get a taxi from a train station closer to the park, such as JR Harima-Shingū Station (播磨新宮駅), which will take around 20 minutes.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Shinmaiko Beach (新舞子浜)

© Tatsuno City

Shinmaiko beach is a beautiful coastal area with a panoramic view of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea. It is famous for its tidal flat that continues for more than 500 meters!

Especially in winter, from December to February, when the timing of sunrise and low tide overlaps, photographers flock to the beach to capture the mysterious scenery as the sun slowly shows its face from the horizon (*´ω`).

A lot of people don’t just go home after the sunrise. As the scenery changes together with how the sunlight reflects on the wavy tidal flats, many tend to relax on the shore for the entire day!

Tip: A few days before and after the new moon and full moon, the area of the tidal flat will be even bigger. With a larger reflection medium, during the sunrise, the view is dyed in orange, which is just going to be extra stunning (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The Clam Picking Season at Shinmaiko Beach

From April to June, a lot of clams will be washed up to the beach shore by the tides. It is thus the clam picking season at Shinmaiko Beach. While we don’t advocate clam picking, please note that the beach shore is only open from 10:30 am to 4 pm every day except Tuesdays during the clam picking season.

  • To access the beach shore, it will cost you
    • 1,600 yen for adults
    • 1,000 yen for elementary school students
    • 500 yen for children 3 years old and above
    • If you want to chill by the beach shore, it will cost you an extra 200 yen.

Swimming Season at Shinmaiko Beach

From late June to August, the beach shore is open for leisure activities.

  • The cost to enter the beach is
    • 1,000 yen for adults
    • 600 yen for elementary school students
    • 400 yen for younger children that are 3 years old and above

How to Get to Shinmaiko Beach

From JR Tatsuno Station (竜野駅), take Katsuko City’s Community Bus – Akatonbo-Gō (赤とんぼ号) and get off at the terminal stop – Shinmaiko (新舞子). From there, it is around a 10-minute walk to the beach shore.

On weekends and public holidays when the community bus isn’t operating, it is a 10-minute drive from Sanyo Electric Railway (山陽電鉄)’s San-yo-Aboshi Station (山陽網干駅).

There are also bus services departing from San-yo-Aboshi Station bound for Ōura (大浦), which will stop at Kamayanishi (釜屋西). From the bus stop, it will be around a 15 to 20-minute walk to Shinmaiko Beach. But just note that on weekdays and Saturdays, there are only 2 services per day and 5 services per day on Sundays and public holidays.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Ayabeyama Plum Forest (綾部山梅林)

Many come to Japan for its cherry blossom, but do you know plum blossom is just as beautiful as cherry blossom?

One of the best places to adorn the flowers is Ayabeyama Plum Forest. Not only is the side of Mt. Ayabe covered by plum trees, but you also get to enjoy the panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea at the same time! The only shortfall here is there is some climbing required to get to the top of the hill…(´▽`*).

The red plum usually start to bloom from mid-February, closely followed by the white plum, which will be fully bloomed between late February and early March. With so many plum trees blossoming, you will be surrounded by the elegant fragrance of the flowers (*´ω`).

There are also a few monuments scattered across the forest. Those tumulus groups can be traced back as early as the third century.

Ayabeyama Plum Forest’s Opening Hours, Cost, and Access Information

  • The forest is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The entry fee includes a cup of plum juice or Amazake (a fermented rice drink) distributed from the shop at the top of the hill, which is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 400 yen for children
  • When the forest is opened, there will be bus services departing from JR Aboshi Station (網干駅) and Sanyo Electric Railway (山陽電鉄)’s San-yo-Aboshi Station (山陽網干駅) to carry you to the forest
  • Parking will cost you 500 yen for average vehicles

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Sekainoume Park (世界の梅公園)

© Tatsuno City

Just next to the Ayabeyama Plum Forest, there is a park with around 315 different species of plum, totaling around 1,250 trees planted on the park’s wide ground. As the original species of plum is from China, the buildings in the park are Chinese-style, making the visitors confused about where they actually are!

On the weekend in early March, the night at the park will be brightened up by the nighttime light up. So how about planning your visit for that weekend and head to Ayabeyama Plum Forest in the afternoon following by Sekainoume Park?

Sekainoume Park’s Opening Hours, Entry Fee, and Access Information

  • The park is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm except for Monday. If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day instead.
  • During the plum blossom season, the park will open until 9 pm daily
  • Except during the plum blossom season from mid-February to late March, the park is free to enter
    • In 2022, the season is from the 11th of February to the 25th of March
    • The cost was
      • 400 yen for adults
      • 200 yen for elementary and junior high school students to enter
  • Parking is 500 yen for average vehicles and 1,500 yen for medium to large vehicles
  • About how to get to Sekainoume Park, please refer to the access information of Ayabeyama Plum Forest for the special bus services operating during the plum blossom season
  • During other times of the year, from JR Tatsuno Station (竜野駅), take Katsuko City’s Community Bus – Akatonbo-Gō (赤とんぼ号) and get off at the terminal stop – Shinmaiko (新舞子). From there, it is around a 10-minute walk to the park

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Kamo Shrine (賀茂神社)

© Tatsuno City

Another shrine with a long history that might be worth visiting is the Kamo Shrine standing at the top of a mountain facing the Seto Inland Sea. Originally built 900 years ago, the eight buildings on the shrine’s ground are all designated National Important Cultural Properties. Instead of the worship halls, we, however, love the horse statues the best (´▽`*).

If you are driving, just note the road leading to the shrine is extremely narrow to the point that if there are oncoming vehicles, one of you will have to back off so both vehicles can pass through the road eventually.

Different from the Kamikamo Shrine (上賀茂神社) in Kyoto, the Kamo Shrine in Tatsuno City don’t get many visitors. It is one of those shrines where you get to enjoy the whole shrine and the scenery around it by yourself.

How to Get to Kamo Shrine

From Sanyo Electric Railway (山陽電鉄)’s San-yo-Aboshi Station (山陽網干駅), take bus services bound for Ōura (大浦) and get off at Murotsu (室津). From the bus stop, it will be around a 10-minute walk to the shrine.

But just note that on weekdays and Saturdays, there are only 2 services per day and 5 services per day on Sundays and public holidays.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Tatsuno City.

Discover Japan’s Most Elegant Castle in the Himeji City Next Door

Himeji-Castle-With-Cherry-Blossom
Click the photo to find out more about the castle!

The beautiful white Himeji Castle that was chosen to be the best castle in Japan is really close to Tatsuno City. No matter which season you visit it, it just has a way to enchant you!

For more information about the castle, please refer to our article on Himeji Castle (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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