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Discover the Enchanting Seto Inland Sea

The Seto Inland Sea: World-Class Scenic Beauty

The Seto Inland Sea is bounded by three of Japan’s four main islands: Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. Hundreds of scenic islands, girdled by white sand beaches and thick pine groves, lie scattered across its sheltered waters. Terraced rice fields, once so prevalent in Japan, can still be seen on the steep island slopes, remnants of a traditional lifestyle that has almost vanished elsewhere.   Western visitors in the nineteenth century extolled the beauty of this area before many Japanese were aware of its charms. Among those who paid tribute to its beauty were German physician and traveler Philipp Franz von Seibold and the father of modern tourism Thomas Cook. German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, who gave the Silk Road its name, introduced the Seto Inland Sea to the world in his travelogue while the Japanese educator and diplomat Inazo Nitobe, called it “the jewel of the world”.
The beautiful Seto Inland Sea has also served as a strategic transportation route since ancient times. The passage of people and goods from different parts of Japan, as well as the rest of the world, gave rise to unique island industries and cultural traditions that persist to this day.

Internationally Recognized as a Center of the Culinary and Fine Arts

Of the many islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Shodoshima has a particularly rich culinary culture. For centuries, it has been a key production center for traditional Japanese foods, condiments and seasonings, including soy sauce, sesame oil, a Japanese-style vermicelli known as somen and tsukudani, a condiment made from fish, seaweed, or other ingredients simmered in sweetened soy sauce. Olive cultivation in Japan originated here and Shodoshima’s olive oil wins top honors at international competitions and exhibitions. Thanks to its beautiful scenery and to the many traces of traditional ways of life, the island is also a prime movie location. The Japanese fondly remember it as the setting for Twenty-four Eyes, an award-winning film that has become one of Japan’s most popular and enduring classics.   The Seto Inland Sea region is also rapidly gaining international recognition in the field of fine arts. In 2010, Art Setouchi showcased collaborations between contemporary artists and the islands and their residents. The event was a huge success and another is planned in 2013. Naoshima, in particular, is known as a mecca for contemporary art lovers. Artworks are not only housed in the unique Bennesse House and Chichu Art Museum, both designed by internationally renowned architect Tadao Ando, but are also scattered among the weathered homes of tiny fishing villages and in strategic scenic spots. The fusion of site-specific works with the spectacular natural environment is one of Naoshima’s great attractions.   Scenic views, delectable foods, a variety of arts and traditional culture: Every island in the Seto Inland Sea, whether large or small, offers its own special treasures that sparkle and delight, like sunlight on the sea. The islanders continue to cherish their history, culture and traditions while constantly perfecting their production techniques and developing new products to offer the world. The charm of the Seto Inland Sea, which has won the hearts of every visitor since ancient times, waits for you, its splendor unfaded.