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Peter_T Feb 29th, 2016 09:54 AM

Itinerary help
Hey everyone, I'm planning a two week trip to Japan and would love to hear any comments or suggestions you have about my itinerary!

Arrival at Osaka Airport late afternoon. Night bus from Osaka to Hiroshima.
1- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Heiwakinen Park (Peace Memorial Museum, Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims). Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum. Atomic Bomb Dome. Hiroshima hypocenter

2- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Hiroshima Museum of Art. Hiroshima Castle. Shukkuein. Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. Central Park. Mitaki-dera

3- MIYAJIMA (Sleep on Honshu right next to Miyajima Port)
Itsukushima Shine. Senjokaku. Miyajima giant rice scoop. Mount Misen hike. Daishô-in. Momijidani Park. Folk Museum. Crafts Museum. Shinomiya Shrine. General walk around.

4- IWAKUNI morning + MIYAJIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Kintai Bridge. Kikkō Park (Iwakuni Art Museum, Kikkō Shrine, Chokokan Museum, Kikkawa Hiroyushi statue, Tosenji, Kikkawa Museum, Mekata residence). Iwakuni ropeway + castle. Uno Chiyoda Birthplace. Shiinoohachimangu Hongu if time.
Miyajima whatever I didn’t have time to do the day before.

5- KURE morning + HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
JMSDF Submarine museum. Yamato Museum. Irifuneyama Memorial Museum. What else?
Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum. Rai Sanyo Shiseki Museum. Former Bank. Hondori Street (Animate + Jump Shop)

6- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail (Includes Waterworks Museum and Peace Pagoda). Museum of Contemporary Art and Hijiyama Park if time. Shimizu Gekijo Theatre

7- KURASHIKI half day + OKAYAMA (Sleep in Okayama)
Ohashi House. Kurashiki City Art Museum. Kanryuji. Chi Shrine. Archaeological Museum. Kake Museum. Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft. Japan Rural Toy Museum. Momotaro Museum. General walk around. How much does a boat ride down Kurashiki river cost, and is it worth it?
Okayama Castle + Korakuen.
Order may be inverted since I’m coming from Hiroshima with Shinkansen.

8- KIBI PLAIN + HIMEJI (Sleep in Himeji)
Bike ride through Kibi Plain from Bizen-Ichinomiya Station (not until Soja, just past Kibitsu Jinja to see the Momotaro sites)
Himeji Castle + Kokoen. What else? Are the art museums in Okayama worth going to? I’m already going to three in Hiroshima and a few others later on, so… I’m thinking maybe spend another day in Okayama / Himeji area, but I don’t know what else there is to do in these two cities really…

9- NARA (Sleep in Nara)
Nara Prefecture Art Museum. Kōfuku-ji. Sarusawa Pond. Nakatanidou. Gangō-ji. Naramachi Mechanical Toy Museum. Kasuga-taisha + Wakamiya Shrine + Kinryu Shrine. Kasugayama

10- NARA (Sleep in Nara)
Tōdai-ji + Todaiji Nigatsudo. Isui-en Garden. Narahimuro Shrine. Yoshiki-en Garden. Nara National Museum. Ukimidō. Mount Wakakusa Grass Hill. Byakugoji Temple
Do I have time to do all this in Nara in two days?

11- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
Fushimi Inari (hike to top). Sanjusangendo. Kyoto National Museum.
I would like to start the hike up Inariyama very early so I can see the shrine and gates at the bottom without interruption and people. I can buy stuff when I come down if needed. I know I could add more here but I’ll be tired. My hostel is really close to the National Museum. How long would it take to walk from the National Museum to Kiyomizu-dera? I know there’s a bus, but I prefer to walk :)

12- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
If I’m in the mood, the Philosopher’s Path. If not, then just Kyoto Station (skyway) + tower. Afternoon Gion area (including Shôren-in + Chion-in + Maruyama Park. I’ll be around until I can go to Gion corner -show starts at 6pm-. Yasaka Shrine afterwards, I want to see it after dark)

13- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
Arashiyama / Sagano (Gio-ji, Bamboo grove, Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji, Okochi Sanso Villa, Jōjakukō-ji Temple, Rakushisha Poet’s Hut, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, Sagano Scenic Railway round route if time)


Since Osaka has the International Airport, I will come to Japan through Osaka many times on other trips, so I can slowly see the city bit by bit at a time (which is why I’m not giving it a proper full day). Hiroshima and Nara are two personal favourites and though I understand that many people do them as day trips, I would prefer to spend more time there than in Kyoto. I would like to leave Kyoto for another trip when I’ll be doing South Kansai and the Biwa Lake area, I’m really only going there since I had a few empty days and I wanted to settle down in one place (I easily get tired of moving between cities) and there’s a lot to do in Kyoto. Although I will be taking it easy since I’ll be doing a lot of walking throughout the trip, Kyoto is my rest time haha. Note that I will be back to Kyoto, but I probably won’t go to Okayama, Himeji or Kurashiki again so I’m willing to take a day off Kyoto and add longer time to any other place.
And I was looking at different passes, particularly for Hiroshima travel, but none seem to pay off. I will only be taking the shinkansen between Hiroshima-Okayama. Do you know of a pass or something that could help with travel costs? (Last time I was mostly around the Kantô area, so I have no experience with this).
I’m pretty sure of my itinerary up until day 6, from day 7 onwards it’s a bit more open to change. I hope you can help me out or comment your opinion on this!
Thank you! :)

someotherguy Feb 29th, 2016 06:04 PM

This is a very thoughtful itinerary. You plan to do far more than I could, but I assume you are young and fit. I think you'll have a great time.

Here are a couple of ideas for consideration.

Since you will be in Kure, take the ferry from there (right by the Yamato museum) to Matsuyama on Shikoku. A very interesting and pleasant place with a fine castle. Then on to Imabari--another fine castle. From there, a bus over the bridges (forgotten the name) to Omishima and the Oyamazumi Shrine. This is a beautiful shrine, one of the best I've seen, but the highlight is its museum, which contains 80% of all the NT armor in Japan. Truly astounding. I visited as a round trip from Imabari, but I assume you can continue to Honshu. You'd have to lop a few days off your Kyoto stay to fit that in.

And if you intend to return to Kyoto later, I'd suggest more time in Nara: visit the really ancient temples: Horyuji, Yakushiji, Shin Yakushiji (excellent statues). And then other places around there: Iga Ueno (ninjas, Basho's home), Asuka (prehistory), Sakai (keyhole tomb, Sen no Rikyu memorabilia), Kishi (stationmaster cat)... Oh, and don't forget Uji.

kja Feb 29th, 2016 07:49 PM

Could be a great trip! But I must admit that I am not commenting on your specific plans -- they are, I'm sorry to say, far too detailed for any effort I am willing or able to put into them, especially because you will, I think, need to adjust them.

- I'm not sure you need two nights for Hiroshima and Miyajima. IME, 5 or 6 hours is enough for the A-Bomb Domb, Peace Park, and Peace Museum. If you can reach Hiroshima in a timely way, that should give you plenty of time to go on to Miyajima by late afternoon (the latest you ryokan will allow).. But you DO need to reach Miyajima by late afternoon, so see what your itinerary requires....

- Kurashiki / Okayama -- I enjoyed Kurashiki, and found it a good base for Okayama and other destinations. I was disappointed by Okayama's Korakuen; JMO. And I used Kurashiki as a base for Himeji and Kokoen -- a plan that worked for MY interests and MY ultimate decisions about passes. YMMV.

Fushimi Inari is open 24/7 , so you can see it after other things close.

OK, I give up -- too many questions for which ONLY you and decide. Sorry! I'm going no further, but wish you well.

I'll be happy to comment on a revised or streamlined itinerary should you choose to provide one. (And if you do, please do so on THIS thread, rather than starting a new one!) And please tell us WHEN you plan to travel.

Peter_T Feb 29th, 2016 09:52 PM

Sorry, I forgot to mention it’ll be the first week of July (I know it’s rainy season but it’s the only time I can travel haha. Last time I went was also during tsuyu so I know what to expect!)
I would love to go to Imabari! I was kind of leaving that for when I do the Shikoku henro, since I would be doing tourism around the island at the same time. I was actually looking at cycling the Akinada Island chain, but Etajima seems to be the closest bike rental place I found and not very convenient. If I linked it together with the islands from the Shimani Kaido I could easily find a bike (say I take a ferry to Matsuyama and add Matsuyama and Imabari to the list, then starting the Shimani Kaido from there taking a detour along the Tobishima Kaido and up to Onomichi), but that would take up a lot of time since there’s so much to do on the islands and in onomichi and imabari, I’d probably have to change everything around!
I will take a day off Kyoto and spend it in Nara. There is so much more things to do that I have pinpointed on my map in Nara Prefecture!
Thanks for the comments!

CaliforniaLady Feb 29th, 2016 10:35 PM

Kyoto is a sweat bath in July. There is no way you can do all that hiking and walking on day 11, unless you are super-human. I'm a pretty fit lady, and I could barely stand the humidity when we were there in July, and my son got sick from the heat. If you insist on running around in Kyoto in July, at least drink lots of water, and wear a hat.

Regarding your itinerary, I would not break up my five nights in Hiroshima with a one night stay in Miyajima. Is there any way you can put Miyajima at the beginning or the end? Also, while in Hiroshima, I suggest seeing a baseball game if the team is playing one of the nights you are there. It's such a hoot to see a Japanese baseball game.

Kavey Feb 29th, 2016 11:23 PM

I don't know Hiroshima well, so can't comment on your plans for the city, other than that it looks as though you know it well and have a strong plan on what you want to see.

But I'm wondering whether you can extend to give a little extra time to Miyajima, and at least do the overnight on the island itself? Before deciding, do check what time first and last ferries of the day are, as you may find you can't spend as long a day on the island as you plan, depending on the schedule. It's worth being able to enjoy the island at different times (and tides, for the floating gate) and be able to relax during your hikes around the island, rather than be rushed.

I don't think it's a problem to break your time in Hiroshima with the Miyajima visit since they are so close in any case, plus you can, if you want, stay in two different locations / hotels in Hiroshima.

I adore Kyoto, so glad to hear you'll be going back for another trip to enjoy it more. I think that's a great idea.

Hope you have a marvellous trip and particularly look forward to reading your thoughts on Hiroshima when you get back, as you'll be visiting lots of places I've not read others talk about.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 02:51 AM

When I say I’ll get to Fushimi Inari early I mean I’d like to be there at around 6-7am (I wake up early when I’m traveling), I’d do the walk mainly during the morning before it gets too hot. I’m guessing it will be fine inside Kyoto National Museum since it’s indoors, so I’ll only have to suffer the walk from Sanjusangendo to Kiyomizudera :)
The start of July isn’t as hot as the end of July / August though, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. The vending machines’ cold drinks will help me out if needed!
I was thinking about going to see a baseball game, but since I’m traveling solo and don’t really like crowds (or baseball much either :P ), I’ll probably be satisfied by looking at the stadium from the outside haha. Baseball is pretty popular in Hiroshima though, from what I’ve been reading.
I put Miyajima in the middle so it will feel like I’m still based in Hiroshima city since I don’t really like moving around. If I add it to the start I’ll be too tired from the plane and bus to enjoy it properly (which is why day 1 doesn’t have too many activities anyway) and if I add it to the end I’ll feel like I’m rushing too much doing Miyajima-Iwakuni-Kurashiki-Okayama-Himeji all one after the other only one day each. I did something similar when in Tokyo with a night off in Kamakura and returned to the same hostel afterwards, I enjoyed the change of pace but not enough to feel like it was a completely different place. Also I can leave my suitcase in the hostel in Hiroshima since I’m only away for one night. Saves me having to go to the Miyajima hostel in the morning and leaving my suitcase there, I can just go straight to Miyajima.

The first ferry to Miyajima is around 7am, the last back to Honshu around 10pm, so I’ll be able to see the Torii both high tide and low tide and the city during morning-afternoon-evening. I think that if I get one of the first ferries and one of the last back to the hostel, I’ll have time to see the area properly and do all I want to do with no rush (in a day and a half). Miyajima is a pretty small island actually. If not I can take a while after some Hiroshima activities to go back. My hostel is literally right next to the port to Miyajima on Honshu, it’ll take me a minute walk to get a boat there and back. The hotels on Miyajima are a bit too expensive for me (the cheapest one I found around 7000yen, the hostel I chose around 2500yen) and the campsite seemed a bit complicated to organize. I think I’ll enjoy taking the ferry four times, it isn’t expensive hahaha
Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

shelleyk Mar 1st, 2016 04:24 AM

We did exactly what you describe in your last paragraph....took an early ferry to Miyajiima and a late ferry back to Hiroshima. It worked perfectly for us. We checked the tide tables so we had an idea when low and high tides were. We had a whole day and part of an evening on the island, hiked, and saw the tori at both high and low tides.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 10:35 AM

I don’t have too much money so I’m going for the cheapest option I could find in each case when it comes to transportation.
Osaka - Hiroshima: Willer Express (night bus ¥3500)
Hiroshima - Okayama: Ryobibus (¥2900)
Okayama - Himeji: JR Sanyo Line ¥1500
Himeji - Kyoto: Non JR trains ¥1,580
Does anyone have any experience with these buses and trains?

If taking the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Okayama, would I pay ¥3020 or ¥5500? Do I have to pay the seat price if I have no reserved seat?
I’m doing Kyoto before Nara because going Himeji-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka is apparently cheaper that doing Himeji-Nara-Kyoto-Osaka.

I decided to spend the night after day 8 in Kyoto instead of Himeji (I found a hostel that gives a good discount if I stay there for more than two nights haha). Also that way I can start the morning in Kyoto without having to change cities.
Days 9 / 10 will be full days in Kyoto, day 11 I’ll leave Kyoto early to go to Nara, stopping at Fushimi Inari along the way. I then have the rest of day 11 + days 12 / 13 in Nara-ken. I’m still working out my Kyoto/Nara itinerary though, I’ll probably have a couple of questions about Nara :)

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 10:39 AM

There are some odd lacunae in your itinerary--for example, there's a famous shrine up the hill by Himeji that you seem not to know.

Are you doing all your research online? If so, you might want to get this print guidebook: "Gateway to Japan" (Kodansha Guide) by June Kinoshita, Nicholas Palevsky. It is far and away the best guidebook to Japan, but is out of print and used copies often go for $100 so keep checking the online resellers and snap it up when a reasonably priced copy comes along.

A really encyclopedic guide (also out of print) is "Japan Inside Out (A Personally Oriented Guidebook)" by Jay, Sumi, and Garet Gluck.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 10:56 AM

Would you by chance be talking about Senhime Tenmangu Shrine? I will spend most of day 8 in Himeji and will be visiting this Shrine along with other places I’ve found.
I have a couple of guide books and lots of tourism magazines about Japan, but I do do most of my research online because I can find information more in depth and quicker. I’ll look out for the book just in case though!

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 12:20 PM

I beg your pardon, I meant temple, not shrine: Engyoji on Shoshazan. It's 1,000 years old but has recent fame as one of the locations in "The Last Samurai".

Speaking of history, I highly recommend this podcast series:

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 01:55 PM

Have you been to Himeji? It seems like you know what you’re talking about. I had read about Mt.Shosha but discarded it since I didn’t care much for the movie haha. But with further research it seems very interesting, it definitely looks worthy of a detour to go there. Also it seems to be one of the 33 temples on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage! I’ve added it to my list.
I was wondering though, I’ve heard that Himeji Castle has become very popular in the last years and sometimes there are long queues to get in. I was thinking about starting the day at Himeji Castle, already waiting at the door at opening time so I wouldn’t have to wait. How true is that though? Should I be worried?
In Himeji City I basically want to visit the castle + Koko-en, the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of History, Otokoyama Hachimangu and Okayama Senhime Shrine with a walk down Senhime no Komichi and the Village Mall / district (old part of town). They are all close by around the castle though, so I can walk between all these places.
Hmm… If I visited Himeji city after doing my bike ride in Okayama (day 8), I could stay the night in Himeji like in my original plan and hike Mt.Shosha the next morning before heading to Kyoto in the afternoon.
Ahh, I have to rethink this again, I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to go everywhere but I don’t have time! :P
I’ll post an update of the itinerary when I have it more figured out…

That podcast is great, by the way! I’ve just been looking through a few of the episodes, I’ve downloaded a few of the first ones so I can listen to them during the day. Thank you for telling me about it!

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 03:40 PM

Yes, I've been there, but it was many years ago, before the recent renovation. It was a different world in those days, with just a handful of visitors.

Japanese tourism was up 47% last year alone:

My recent experience is that the top sites are often crowded, but one step down and it's OK. For example, in Nikko the Toshogu Shrine was a madhouse, but all the other places there were just fine. And at his other shrine (in Shizuoka), there were just a few people.

kja Mar 1st, 2016 04:25 PM

"I can leave my suitcase in the hostel in Hiroshima since I’m only away for one night."

True! And another wonderful option is Japan's excellent luggage-forwarding option so you only need to take an overnight bag with you. Luggage-forwarding is called takuhaibin; here's the info:

"I’ll leave Kyoto early to go to Nara, stopping at Fushimi Inari along the way."

That could be a great idea. An alternative would be to visit Fushimi Inari in the early evening, when almost everything else is closed. You can get sunset information here:

someotherguy recommended a great out-of-print guidebook, "Gateway to Japan". Another really good, out-of-print guidebook is "Japan Solo," which had not only great information, but the best maps I found in advance of my trip. I see it for sale once in a while....

Re: your time in Nara -- I could be mistaken, but I think you are being ambitious, so it would probably be to your advantage to think through your priorities in advance, just in case. And FWIW, I particularly enjoyed Horyuji and Chuguji, both of which are just a bit outside of Nara in Ikaruga. You might look them up to see if they interest you before finalizing your plan for the area.

You are going to have an amazing trip!

kja Mar 1st, 2016 07:35 PM

Also, re Himeji-jo -- like someotherguy, I was there before it's recent renovation, at a time when far fewer people were traveling in the area. I would think your plan to get there in time for opening should work, but of course, I can't guarantee it. If it helps, IME, many tour groups hit popular places between 9 and 10:30 a.m., so I would probably aim to either get their earlier or later -- but again, I could be wrong. For a question as specific as what time is currently best for reaching Himeji-jo, you might consider posting on the forum -- I found the responses there extraordinarily helpful when I planned my time in Japan.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 11:21 PM

Hôryû-ji and Chûgû-ji are also on my wish list (Hôryû-ji is one of the 7 Great Temples of Nara, Chûgû-ji has a statue which is said to have one of the “top three smiles of the world” along with Mona Lisa and the Sphinx), and they are both one next to the other. Unfortunately they are a bit out of the way so I may not have time to catch the train + bus to get there.
What I usually do is bring with me a list of places I’d like to go to with their opening times and prices and maps even if they aren’t on my itinerary so I can add something to my list if I have extra time. It’s very useful since usually my itinerary changes in situ and I can change it around easily.
All the places I mentioned going to in Nara are around the Nara Park area and I can get to each by foot between them and from the station and my hostel. I too think maybe I’m being too ambitious though.
I’ve heard great things about Takuhaibin, but it might be a bit too expensive for my liking. Are there lockers at Fushimi Station?
I’ve tried the japan-guide forums and trip advisor forums, but this one gas been the most useful so far…

Kavey Mar 2nd, 2016 01:54 AM

I agree, those ferries will give you enough time to enjoy Miyajima during a long day there. Sounds perfect! Enjoy!

kja Mar 2nd, 2016 06:26 PM

Yes, the Miroku Bosatsu -- the statue at Chugu-ji -- is extraordinary, and the chance to see it was my primary reason for going to Chugi-ji and Horyu-ji. I chose to give up a little time in Nara to make time to see these places, and I have NO regrets about that choice. But, of course, I have no idea what I gave up by taking that fork in the path! Given what I am inferring about your interests, I would NOT skip the Nara National Museum, Kofukuji treasure hall, Kasuga shrine (or its lantern-lined walk), Todai-ji, or Naramachi. How to balance your other priorities is, obviously, your call, and (of course) I may be mistaken in my inferences about your interests.

At least in 2006, there were lockers at Fushimi Inari station of the Keihan line -- I'm not sure about the other line (which is close enough for you to easily use the lockers at the Keihan line, even if traveling on a different line), or whether the lockers are still there.

CaliforniaLady Mar 2nd, 2016 09:36 PM

Regarding the question about lockers at train stations, there is no guarantee that a locker in your needed size will be open. I have seen almost all of the lockers full at busy stations.

In Japan, I never put myself in a situation where I am dependent on the lockers being available. I have used them on occasion, but only for small items that I could carry with me anyway.

You can typically check your belongings at any museum, including electronics and cash. I have left large amounts of cash in my purse at some museums in Japan, and I would not dream of doing that in any other country.

kja Mar 2nd, 2016 09:52 PM

I think CaliforniaLady raises a very important caution: One should not assume that lockers will necessarily be available, so it would be wise to make sure you have a back-up plan. On the other hand, I would never leave large amounts of cash in my purse anywhere! I use a secure under-clothing pouch for any amounts of cash beyond the nominal amounts I might need for a day, and for any important documents, too. To each his / her own!

CaliforniaLady Mar 2nd, 2016 10:41 PM

You are right, kja. I left $300 in cash in my checked-in purse at the Kyushu National Museum, which was probably a dumb idea. I should not recommend it to others. The one thief in all of Japan could have been there that day.

I am usually extremely cautious, but I think it's part of the fun of going to Japan to leave my purse on my chair at a restaurant when I use the restroom. I don't think I'll be doing it again.

Peter_T Mar 2nd, 2016 10:41 PM

Sorry to change it all around now, I’ll keep all your answers in mind when planning next time! I felt like Kyoto and Nara weren’t fitting in with the trip I was trying to achieve, so I’m reserving them for another time when I think I will enjoy them more. Although they are both beautiful places, they don’t have that ‘personal’ feeling to it that Hiroshima and Kobe give me, and I’d like to make this trip my own. I feel a sort of obligation to go to Kyoto and Nara since they are on every tourist’s route and so famous (how can I go to Japan and not have seen Kyoto!), but to be honest I’d prefer to go somewhere else this time. I will definitely visit them in a future though, I’m not crossing them off my list forever! :)

As for my new itinerary:
- Up until day 7 everything remains the same.

Day 7- Kibi Plain bike ride in the morning. Okayama Castle + Korakuen before heading up to Takahashi. Sleep in Takahashi

Day 8- Takahashi full day. Sleep in Takahashi

Day 9- Kurashiki, maybe a bit more sighing in Okayama if time. Sleep in Okayama

Day 10- Early morning travel to Himeji to be at the castle at opening time. Enjoy the area around the castle and the other places in Himeji (Koko-en, the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of History, Otokoyama Hachimangu and Okayama Senhime Shrine with a walk down Senhime no Komichi). At around noon or so head to Mt. Shosha. Maybe I can visit the Village district in Himeji during the evening and eat around there somewhere since I’ll be staying the night in Himeji.

Days 11 / 12 / 13- Kobe

Day 14- Osaka and back home

There are many things I’d like to see in Kobe, but if I have spare time I can go to Nishinomiya or do the Takedao Tunnel Hike (Namaze Sta - Takedao Sta).

Peter_T Mar 2nd, 2016 11:01 PM

Here in Spain there are always people trying to steal things on the train and metro, I was very happy to be able to fall asleep on the train in Japan without having to worry about my bag. Although when travelling I always have my money on me at all times and in at least three different places just in case ;)

Kavey Mar 2nd, 2016 11:42 PM

Peter, no need to apologise! I find it hugely interesting to watch other peoples' itineraries evolve!

And since you had already said that you'd be returning another time for Kyoto anyway, it makes sense to exclude it this time and give yourself more time for the extra itinerary elements you've added.

Sounds like a really fascinating trip!

kja Mar 3rd, 2016 04:30 PM

@ CaliforniaLad: BYH, if one can leave an unattended purse on one's seat anywhere, Japan would be my guess for the safest! :-)

@ Peter_T: Congratulations for thinking through what YOU want to do with this trip! Always the best strategy, IMO. Enjoy!

Peter_T Mar 6th, 2016 02:25 AM

I’ve re-sorted out the Hiroshima section of my itinerary to add a trip to Ninoshima, but I’d like you to check out the last days of the trip and tell me what you think! I know where I want to go but I don’t know how to sort it out. How I’ve organised it so far:
Day 1) The first bus from Hiroshima arrives to Okayama at 9am, so I’ll be starting the day by visiting Okayama Castle and Korakuen before heading to the Kibi Plain. I will then bike from Bizen-Ichinomiya Station to Soja Station and maybe stay the night in Soja or Takahashi.
Day 2) Bitchu-Takahashi (hike to Bitchū Matsuyama-jō, Shōren-ji, Takahashi Folk Museum, Raikyū-ji, Haibara Samurai Residence, Orii Samurai Residence, Ikegami Merchant House, Historical Museum). Stay the night in Takahashi
Day 3) Takahashi Fukiya area (Bengara-kan, Honkyoji, Sasaune Kôdô, Fukiya folk museum, Hirokane House, between others). There are only three buses a day here and I’ll have to walk between the sights, so it’ll probably take me all day here. Stay the night in Kurashiki
Day 4) Kurashiki (Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft. Japan Rural Toy Museum. Momotaro Museum. Ohashi House. Kurashiki City Art Museum. Kanryuji. Chi Shrine. Archaeological Museum. Kake Museum). Head off to Himeji, a bit of sightseeing there if time.
Day 5) I only have one day + the afternoon of day 4 for Himeji, so hopefully I’ll be able to fit it all in. Start the day at Himeji Castle and Koko-en before too many tourists arrive. Head off to Mt.Shosha and hike to top. My hostel is only a five minute walk to Himeji Castle, so once I return from Engyô-ji I’ll do some more sightseeing in the city (Hyogo Prefecture Museum of History, Otokoyama Hachimangu, Okayama Senhime Shrine, Senhime no Komichi, Nagoyama Stupa, Harimakokusoja)
Day 6) Kobe (Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center, Maiko Marine Promenade and Tetsujin Statue as I arrive to Kobe. Shin-Kobe Ropeway up Mt.Rokko, Nunobiki Herb Park and Nunobiki Falls on the walk down. Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum and Kitanocho once I get to the bottom)
Day 7) Walk from hostel to Meriken Park (through Flower clock and Higashiyuenchi Park). Kobe Maritime Museum, Kobe Tower, Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, etc. Walk to Minatogawa Shrine next to Kobe Station. Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, The Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake memorial museum. Ikuta Shrine and Sorakuen Garden.
Day 8) Osaka + plane home

Does anyone know the bus timetable from Fukiya back to Takahashi?
Do you think I’ll have time to do all this in the days I’ve sorted out?
Thank you!

Peter_T Mar 6th, 2016 02:27 AM

And just a few more questions… am I allowed to go inside Nagoyama Stupa in Himeji? Or maybe just the gardens? If so, at what price?
I’ve seen photos of boats circling around the moat at Himeji Castle… what’s the price and where is the pick-up place? Do they have a website I can check? I might give this up and take a boat in Kurashiki instead since it’s only 500yen there, but just to compare the prices and see which I’d prefer!
I’m planning to take a day from Hiroshima and go to Ninoshima, but the maps I’ve found are very pixelled and don’t show any proper directions. I know this is where injured people were brought from Hiroshima after the bombing, so I’m interested in seeing the sights related to this, but I doubt that will occupy my whole day there. What else could I do there? Could anyone give me some sightseeing recommendations, maps, information, anything?

kja Mar 6th, 2016 08:47 AM

If you haven't already checked, I found JNTO's maps excellent for what they cover.

As for what you can do in the time you have -- I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us can say as it depends entirely on your pace of travel. One person can spend an hour doing something that another person would take 3 hours to do. I generally plan out a route, but know -- in advance -- what I'll skip if I find that I'm taking longer than I expected.

Peter_T Mar 29th, 2016 01:56 AM

I’m posting here again to avoid making a new thread, I hope that’s okay! Thank you kja for the response, I checked out JNTO’s maps and although I probably won’t be going to Ninoshima unless I can find a tour of some sort, I’ve found the maps useful for other places and towns I’ll be going to.
I’m here to ask a couple of questions about Miyajima, I’m mostly worried about crowds and deer.
I hear that the deer at Miyajima can sniff food even if it’s in your bag. Should I be worried that they’ll be poking at my lunch in my backpack and following me around aggressively?
Miyajima seems like a very tourist packed place and everywhere I’ve read seems to say that there are many people. I’ve made sure my stay doesn’t coincide with a weekend, so I’ll be there on June 28th Tuesday (from 6:30am to 10pm). I’ll be able to see Itsukushima Shine at around 6:45am or so so I’m guessing there’ll be very few people on the island at the time, but low tide is at around 10am. Basically, should I expect crowds and, if so, how horrible is it?
I’m also here to ask about the Mt.Misen trails. As I’ll be walking up (after I get to walk to the gate at low tide), I don’t really know which path(s) to take. I was thinking about walking up the Daisho-in Course and down the Momijidani Course, but I’ll be going during tsuyu and read that the Daisho-in trail is open to land-slides and is best avoided in the rainy season. The ropeway is not an option as it’s too expensive for me. Which trail would you recommend as an up-hike and down-hike? (Are there any tengu statues in Miyajima?)
And last of all, there is a tunnel or a dark room (?) at Daishô-in, is this easy to find even if I don’t know where it is, and am I allowed to go in without a guide or specific permission of some sort? What exactly is this tunnel all about anyway?
Thank you!

shelleyk Mar 29th, 2016 05:31 AM

When we were on Miyajima at the height of foliage season, it was fairly crowded from about 10am to 5pm around the main street. But after we left the main street the crowds thinned out considerably, and after 5PM there were not many people left even on the main street. I did see a few deer following some people who were eating food, but I did not think the deer were as aggressive as they were in Nara.

I hope you will post a TR after your trip, as I plan to visit some of the same places you are visiting when we return to Japan in Nov.

ovenbird Mar 29th, 2016 07:17 AM

We were in Miyajima mid-November 2013 on a Thursday and it was not very crowded (a little too early for peak koyo colors). This was the "crowd" at lunchtime on the main street:

The deer were not very aggressive but do keep your bags zipped up tight and be careful what you carry in your pockets!

russ_in_LA Mar 29th, 2016 08:12 AM

We arrived on Miyajima one day in early April last year at just before noon and spent the night. The town was active but not packed at that time. The Itsukushima Shine however was packed, so we headed up the ropeway after lunch where it was busy but not overwhelming. By the time we walked down it was about 4:30 or 5pm and the crowds were mostly gone. In the evening after dinner it was almost a ghost town. I really enjoyed wandering around after dark.

I think if you plan the town, temples and shrines for early morning or in the evening, you will avoid most crowds. Plan to be on the mountain during the day. There were very few people on the trails coming down, as most people seemed to take the ropeway in both directions.

We left the next morning about 9:30am and the shrine and town were empty at that time, but a lot of people were getting off the ferry at that point.

P.S. The deer completely ignored us, but we weren't carrying any food.

russ_in_LA Mar 29th, 2016 08:21 AM

By the way, the cave at Daisho-in was not difficult to find. It is directly underneath one of the buildings, toward the back of the complex. It's not very big and you don't need a guide or permission.

Do a Google image search for "Daisho-in cave" and you will see a lot of pics. I really liked it. It reminded me of the Hall of Lamps in Okuno-in on Koyasan.

mrwunrfl Mar 29th, 2016 10:08 AM

You can get specific tide and daylight info for the day that you visit Itsukushima at this website:

so that you can visit the shrine when the tide is in.

kja Mar 29th, 2016 04:11 PM

I’m glad you found the JNTO maps useful – they are very good, IME.

I had no problem with the deer on Miyajima, but things could have changed! In truth, most of them were sleeping when I saw them -- just sitting around Senjokaku or by the waterfront, completely obvious to my walking by just feet away!

In contrast, if you encounter any of the monkeys atop Mt. Misen, note that those critters are supposed to be quite good at lifting items from passing humans. They didn’t come out when I was there, but there were lots of posted warnings and there were lockers in the ropeway station, where people were encouraged to leave their bags and packs. I think most of them have since been moved....

I adored Miyajima before and after daytrippers came. I spent most of the middle of the day on Mt. Misen, which I really enjoyed. Sorry I can’t help with the trails, though – I took the ropeway up and don’t remember which path I took down. I think it was the Momiji Dani trail, but I can't swear to it....

I agree that the cave at Daisho-in is easy to see and very well worth it. And consider spinning the sutras wheels while climbing the stairs, see the sand mandala, various halls...
Oh, and speaking of the deer and monkeys -- there was a man near Daisho-in who kept insisting on trying to give me a bottle of some kind of beverage. I kept saying no and trying to move on, but he kept after me until I finally decided to just say yes, and if he was expecting me to pay for it, while he was going to be in for a disappointment. He seemed so delighted when I took it! He bowed repeatedly and kept thanking me. Japanese friends later told me that he had probably made a vow of some sort to give gifts to strangers.... I still have the bottle. :-)

If you can find a way to see the Itsukushima shrine at both high and low tides, I don’t think you would regret it.

P.S. Continuing an old thread is definitely better than starting a new one – good job!

Peter_T Mar 31st, 2016 12:13 PM

Thank you for all the answers!
@ovenbird, I don’t usually have anything in my pockets, but I’ll make sure to keep any food out of sight (lucky I’m pretty tall and they won’t be able to reach if I’m eating while standing anyway). Nice photos, by the way!

@russ_in_LA, I’ll probably head up Mt.Misen after seeing the Folk Museum and Crafts Museum and walking out to the torii, so I guess by 11 or 12am I’ll already be on my way. I’ll eat my lunch at the top with a nice view.
I know most people take the ropeway up, so I think I’ll be meeting more spiders than people during my walk, haha
The cave looks amazing, I can’t wait to go there and see it for myself!

@mrwunrfl, that’s the website I checked to know that the tide is low at 10am! I’ll be visiting Itsukushima Shrine early morning, at 6:30 as soon as I get to the island and the tide will be half in/out. I like visiting shrines and temples in the morning when there’s nobody there, it gives a much more calm feeling and special charm to the place (especially if it’s raining!). I don’t really mind if the tide is in or out for my visit to the shrine, I’ll see it floating from outside during the day anyway. I heard the entrance is 800yen, although some places say it’s 300yen. I might go in early morning and once the tide is high if the price does happen to be 300yen though!

@kja, I’ll be careful of any monkeys then, I wouldn’t want them to take anything. Although I’ll only have a small backpack with my lunch and a couple of other things, everything else will be left at my hostel in Hiroshima.
I wanted to arrive early and stay a bit later so I can also enjoy the islands without all the day-trippers (although to be fair, I guess I’m also a day-tripper)

Peter_T May 11th, 2016 11:07 AM

Hey everyone!
Just commenting to say that it’s finally confirmed that I will be able to go to Japan and I’ve bought the tickets already. Thank you all so much for helping me with all the planning and my questions. I’m looking forward to another tsuyu in Japan and I promise a detailed trip report when I get back!

Kathie May 11th, 2016 11:16 AM

Enjoy! I will look forward to your report.

Adastra2200 May 11th, 2016 03:52 PM

I think overall it's well detailed and covers a lot. It has a few lesser known jewels too like Mitakidera. You should have some other places in reserve too, like the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima (prior reservations required) or the aquarium on Miyajima, in case you're hit with a lot of rain. The Itsukushima Shrine is nice, but the Daishoin temple is the real diamond on the island - take enough time and explore the hidden corners there.
Mt. Shosha is definitely worth it - never mind the movie. If you want more as a back up, there is the Tegara Botanical Garden, with Himeji Aquarium and a small European style castle (I'm not kidding). A bit weird, but it has a spectacular view over the city.
The Chugoku Region is loaded with great places that are often overlooked by the tourist masses, so go for it. If you want some more ideas, consider Onomichi - the temple tour takes about an hour if you don't linger, but the real prize is the Kosanji Temple - so wildly ornate and off the wall that some call it a "Buddhist Disneyland".
Bitchu-Takahashi is another possibility is you want to consider all options, and in Okayama City I found Korakuen to be worth it - but even in summer the Handayama Garden was a secret that few have seen.
Iwakuni is really an often overlooked gem. If you're a fast paced traveler, it doesn't take too long. But try to see it when the weather is good to catch the magnificent view from the mountaintop castle.
But if you want the real prize, it is much farther out there but worth it - go see the Akiyoshido Limestone Cave. It's a 300 million year old marvel with huge caverns and an underground river running through it. It's 9km long (1km open to walk through) and the biggest cave open to the public in East Asia.
For Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is an excellent walk up the 'tunnels', but there is more nearby too if you want. The Daigoji Temple is also superb (best in autumn though) and if you can fit it in, then go for it. Uji also has some excellent places. And for Arashiyama, by all means keep some time for Otagi Nenbutsuji - it's tucked away out there, but worth it - almost impossible not to smile.
The Sagano train takes a bit less than half an hour, and not worth going back on - instead, consider the Hozugawa River Cruise or take the regular passenger trains to get back to Arashiyama quickly.
Lastly, as an escape from the summer heat (and Kyoto is in a basin and it can get baaad), consider going to Kibune or Kurama.
Enjoy your trip.

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