Chugoku is the Middle Kingdom -- written, incidentally, with exactly the same characters that the Chinese use for their own Middle Kingdom ("Chukoku" to the Japanese). The westernmost part of the island of Honshu, Chugoku lies geographically and mentally in the middle of the court rituals of Kyoto and Nara, the temples of Shikoku and the boisterous subtropics of Kyushu.
"Before the plain of Bi", this valley between Himeji and Hiroshima is best known for its subtle but refined pottery.
Shown: A spectacular bowl at the Bizen Prefectural Pottery Museum, Imbe
Does this city really need introductions? The legacy of the atom bomb lives on, but Shukkeien Garden and Hiroshima Castle might be worth a look even on their own.
Shown: The cenotaph to the victims of the atomic bomb
Home of Itsukushima Shrine and the world's largest spatula. In my humble opinion one of the most beautiful places in Japan.
Shown: The floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine before dusk
The home of the Pleasure-After-Garden and Japan's only black castle.
Shown: Part of the Korakuen garden
A little industrial town home to the Jodo sect of Zen Buddhism and graced with a wonderful little walking path connecting 30+ temples.
Shown: Colorful gate guarding the secrets of Bishamonten Shrine