As you might expect from its name, Sakurae is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring but you can also see millions of fireflies in June and enjoy some workshops with local artists at Kaze no kuni. It makes a nice day out for a drive or you can enjoy an onsen after a hard-day skiing. You can eat at Mizu no kuni or Kaze no kuni. We had lunch at the cafe in Mizu no kuni and the service and food was great.
Sakurae is famous for its nature but also features a cool little museum, Mizu no kuni, about water with lots of hands on devices for kids to play with. Mizu no kuni is great on a rainy day when the sculptures in the pond around the museum make musical notes in the rain. About an hour will take you round the museum so it’s best to combine this visit with a trip to another place of interest, or if you are taking the low road (261) to or from Hiroshima, it makes a nice stopping off point for lunch.
If you exit the Hamada highway at Asahi, you can go through Asahi onsen towards Sakurae. Asahi has some excellent hot springs and you can enjoy turtle noodles, if you so desire… Kaze no kuni and Mizu no kuni are fairly well sign-posted. Route 261 from Gotsu to Hiroshima follows the route of the Gonogawa River so there are some nice views along the way. But watch out for monkeys at the edge of the road!