Guideto JapanCulture History
In the west of the Kansai region, Hyōgo Prefecture stretches from the Sea of Japan in the north to the Seto Inland Sea in the south. Awajishima, one of Japan’s largest offshore islands, is also part of the prefecture, and it is connected across the Inland Sea by the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, which is one of the world’s longest suspension bridges, with a central span almost 2 kilometers long. The Japan Standard Time Meridian of 135 degrees east longitude passes through the city of Akashi.
Hyōgo Prefecture at a Glance
- Established in 1871 (formerly Tajima, Tanba, Harima, Settsu, and Awaji provinces)
- Capital: Kobe
- Population: 5,465,000 (as of Oct. 2020)
- Area: 8,401 km2
Hyōgo Prefecture is the home of one of Japan’s finest fortresses in Himeji Castle, which was among the first of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, registered in 1993. Meanwhile, the ruins of Takeda Castle have become famous for a phenomenon whereby they seem to float on clouds when autumn fog rises. The prefectural capital of Kobe is a harbor city with an international feel, while Takarazuka is known for its all-female musical theater troupe.
Hyōgo Prefecture has a strong industrial base, with a tradition of shipbuilding and heavy chemicals production. Kobe Steel is headquartered in the prefectural capital. The prefecture is the leading sake producer in Japan, known particularly for its Nada breweries. Kobe beef is a world-famous wagyū brand. The longstanding Western influences in Kobe have also encouraged the development of many bakeries.
In the predawn hours of January 17, 1995, Kobe and the neighboring island of Awaji were struck by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, Japan’s deadliest in decades.
- Doi Takako (1928–2014): Japan’s first female leader of the opposition as head of the Japan Socialist Party.
- Uemura Naomi (1941–84): Adventurer, who was the first person to complete a solo expedition to the North Pole.
- Mikitani Hiroshi (1965–): The billionaire founder and CEO of Rakuten.
(Originally published in English. Banner photo: Himeji Castle’s imposing presence. © Pixta.)
For the complete list of the country’s 47 prefectures, see “The Prefectures of Japan.”