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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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