West Japan Steel Works, Fukuyama
This massive plant is one of the main reasons why Toyota, Honda and Nissan are such hugely productive carmakers. The West Japan Steel Works, a 90-minute bullet train ride west of Osaka, is operated by the Japanese steel company JFE. Its two sites – the main one is at Fukuyama, with a smaller plant 40km away in Kurashiki – are run as a single works whose 13,000 employees make about 21 million tonnes of steel a year. A speciality is ultra-thin steel sheets used to form the outer skins of cars. JFE is also currently conducting research at the plant – in conditions of great secrecy – into high-purity silicon for the solar-cell industry.
The roses of Fukuyama
A single air raid razed most of this city to the ground during the second world war. As reconstruction got underway 1,000 rose seedlings were planted, harking back to a centuries-old tradition in this part of Japan. Groups of residents tended the young plants, and today Fukuyama is known as the city of roses. Its rose park alone has 4,500 roses, of 280 varieties. The park is obviously at its best in the summer, heralded by the city’s annual May rose festival. And if roses are not your thing, buses run every 15 minutes to the tranquil fishing village of Tomonoura, 35 minutes away on the inland Sea of Japan.