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TRIP REPORT: Osaka to Hiroshima and in-between stops (tsuyu / summer)


TRIP REPORT: Osaka to Hiroshima and in-between stops (tsuyu / summer)

Old Jul 11th, 2016, 12:41 AM
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TRIP REPORT: Osaka to Hiroshima and in-between stops (tsuyu / summer)

Greetings to all!
I just got back from my second trip to Japan only a couple of days ago. My trip was an absolute success and I loved every second of it, regardless of my getting sick and the heat! First of all, I’d like to thank you all for helping me out so much with the planning. I tend to ask many questions since I like to have everything under control, so I think I ended up asking quite a bit…
Someone asked for a trip report, so here it is. I’ll say this now, but it’s going to be very long since I like to write down all the details.

On my first trip to Japan last year I only went to Tokyo (+ Kamakura + Takasaki), so I think I missed seeing a more ‘traditional side’ of Japan and maybe more of the countryside / smaller towns. Therefore this trip included lots of shrines, temples, castles and rice fields to make up for that.
My itinerary ended up changing quite a lot since my first post on this forum (http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...p-568906-2.cfm for reference), I ended up taking out Kyoto and Nara completely, trading them for smaller towns closer to Hiroshima and Himeji, and therefore also spending less money on transportation. I had chosen these dates so I was there during Tanabata Festival and the Himeji Yukata Matsuri, although I missed out on the second one because of flight problems I’ll soon tell you more about. I also chose tsuyu because I absolutely adore rain but it never rains in Spain, although now it is very hot in Japan.
Anyway, this is how it went in the end:

Fri 24 June) Landing in Kansai Airport. Bay Ferry to Kobe, Express to Himeji. Sleep
Sat 25 June) Mt.Shosha + Bizen
Sun 26 June) Asakuchi + Kurashiki
Mon 27 June) Onomichi + Fukuyama
Tue 28 June) Hiroshima
Wed 29 June) Hiroshima
Thu 30 June) Hiroshima
Fri 1 July) Miyajima
Sat 2 July) Iwakuni + Hiroshima
Sun 3 July) Takehara + Fukuyama Folk Museum
Mon 4 July) Okayama
Tue 5 July) Kibi Plain attempt + Ako
Wed 6 July) Himeji + Osaka
Thu 7 July) Osaka
Fri 8 July) Kansai Airport and back home

Feel free to post any comments or questions if you’d like to ask something Trip reports helped me a lot while I was planning, so I hope this will also help some of you.

Let it begin!
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Old Jul 11th, 2016, 12:45 AM
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Arriving at Barcelona Airport three hours before my 11:05am flight, the airport not quite yet buzzing with people, I arrived to the gate area without having to do hardly any lines. The flight would be a long one and the seats, as always, would be small, but having done the online check-in myself I was able to choose an isle seat so I could get up and stretch my legs whenever needed.

I would like to say that my flight went just as smoothly, but unfortunately that is not the case. It all started at the airport in Spain, the plan was to first fly to Amsterdam and then to Osaka from there. They cancelled all flights going to London and, as I was thinking 'well, lucky I chose Amsterdam this time instead' (last year I did Barcelona —> Heathrow, Heathrow —> Tokyo), all flights to Amsterdam were delayed 45min. I initially had 1h10min for my connection to Osaka, but now time had been reduced to only 25min. So cue the panic.
45min soon turned into an hour and we still hadn't started the boarding, and we weren't up in the air until at least 20min later.
They gave me a middle seat for the short flight but nobody sat next to me. I took the isle so I could make a run for it when the plane landed. The speaker said they had been late because of tensions in Paris; they had to change their route to avoid flying over it and the weather on the west of Spain apparently wasn't good. The crew gave us extra biscuits as a sorry for the delay. They were so nice and sorry that it was hard to be annoyed with them, even for myself who is expert at being mad at people.
Fifteen minutes before landing they announce: “passengers going to Delhi, Tokyo and Osaka (+ somewhere else) will not be able to make their connections.”
The way I slumped down in my chair was noticeable to everyone around.

I get off the plane, ask the information desk what to do with my missed connection, get lost in the airport — not purposely — and finally find gate T6 which is where us strays had to go to book a different flight.
The line was huge. Not BIG, we're talking at least two hours wait. Many people had missed connections since many planes going to Amsterdam were delayed, and it was packed full of people flying to Asia. All I could do was wait, but at least I was thankful that I hadn’t checked in any luggage because I don’t know if a suitcase would’ve been able to reach Osaka with everything I went through. At least there was wi-fi. There’s only one direct flight to Osaka from Amsterdam each day, so I was already thinking that I would have to sleep at the airport for a night and catch the next day’s flight, so I was re-arranging my itinerary now that I had one day less. I made friends with a guy in line doing the same flight as me, as well as two Japanese ladies and their kids who live in Zaragoza and were going home for the holidays.
Half an hour into the wait I receive a message from KLM saying they’d reserved me another flight, so I said farewell and good luck to my line buddies and went to a machine nearby to print out my new boarding pass. More difficult than it should’ve been but a lady was there to help and disappeared to use a different printer, coming back with my new boarding pass a while later. The machine did manage to print out a voucher of 5euros though, so I went to a café and got an apple and a banana + grape slushie for free.

I was now going to Shanghai from where I'd take another plane to Osaka. We started the boarding soon after I arrived to the gate and I had a middle seat right at the front of the plane next to where they prepare the food.
And if you think all is well, you'd be wrong. They say through the speakers as we're about to take off that there are some 'technical difficulties' and that the technician is working on it. Ten minutes tops, they say. Ten minutes soon turn into two whole hours and by this point I'm already sure I've missed, once again, my connection to Osaka.
Can I advise against using the phrase 'technical difficulties' when that so obviously means the plane isn't working, especially when said plane is supposed to be in the sky for the next 10h and flying me to China? It doesn't really impose the confidence that we're not all going to die.

The seat-choosing process I had done with the online check-in was useless now that it was a different flight, but I managed to get another isle seat all the same since the one next to me was once again empty, as well as two blankets and two cushions (and 2 TVs!). I started watching Deadpool the movie, but I didn't like it, so I watched an episode of 'The Flash' instead. I was finished just as we took off, so then I listened to music instead and played some puzzles. I soon got bored so I went for a walk around the plane and they brought us the food.
The options were chicken or beef. Last time I had beef by that name it was in Tokyo on my last trip, it was 'beef curry' because I was trying to be adventurous and taste new things. But it was horrible, so I decided to play safe this time and go with the chicken instead. And guess what the chicken option was? Chicken curry. And the beef people had nice looking meatballs.
The flight wasn't too horrid, and I managed to sleep max 3h. The guy next to me was studying Spanish in Spain and was going back to his home in Kagawa Prefecture (Shikoku Island, Japan, he was surprised I knew where that was). We landed at 11:30am (China time) in Shanghai and our flight to Osaka was at 12:15 so we, and many other people going to Delhi and Tokyo and Osaka, ran as fast as we could to catch our flights.

If you thought Amsterdam was bad, China was worse. No proper signs anywhere, I was running around in circles and they were all pointing me in different directions. I had to stand in line and then they asked for my Chinese visa (which I don’t have since I'm going to Japan) and then I had to go through a passport control and finally, somehow, made it to the gate area even though that was mostly just pure luck. There were only two gates and all of the people waiting to fly out were there. There was a sign saying 'Osaka last call' so I pushed to the front of the line of people going to Tokyo and said “Osaka!” to the lady at the counter. She pushed me into a dark corner with a pile of people waiting for Osaka. The only other white person in the whole swarm of bodies of the room was near tears. After shouting in Chinese at everyone in the room in a disorderly manner the desk lady shoved the Osaka group through some doors where someone checked our boarding passes and pushed us towards a bus. I was following a lady with long grey hair who, or at least I thought, was also going to Osaka, but I had no idea what was happening. Next I know I'm on a plane and two hours later I finally reach Japan, 8h after my initial plan.

Just before reaching Tokyo on my first trip I was listening to some Ayumi Hamasaki music (I thought it would be appropriate having in mind that I was going to Japan) and, just having opened the window blind after failing to fall asleep for the last few hours, all I could see outside was white. The singer then said ‘mite’ (look) at the moment the plane left the clouds, and a land full of rice fields and bundles of houses stretched out below me, creating the image that is engrained in my mind as my first impression of Japan. The colour of the sky matched that of the water in the distance, and the ships that were passing by on the horizon seemed to be floating in the air instead.
My first sighting of the country wasn’t quite so dramatic this time around, but there was definitely a moment of relief knowing that soon — finally — I would be reaching my destination.

In Kansai I was in familiar territory, so buying tickets for the ferry to Kobe was easy and I was sailing through Osaka Bay on the next ferry. I was lucky to find out about this discounted ferry for foreigners (Bay Shuttle) between Kansai and Kobe airports just a few days before my trip, saving me almost 800yen of transportation on my first day, cheaper than if I had taken the train passing through Osaka. http://www.kobe-access.jp/en/index.php with information about the ferry in case you are interested.
It was drizzling and everything was grey, but from the water I managed to see the outline of Akashi-Kaikyo, the longest suspension bridge in the world, in the distance. I’m sure that on a sunny day it would be seen clearly. I couldn’t see the start or the end of the bridge, and the steel structure seemed to dissapear into the clouds. Staring at Akashi-Kaikyo, imagining stories of cars passing by to the mysterious land beyond the grey, the ferry ride seemed much quicker than the half an hour it lasted.

After getting off the Bay Shuttle at Kobe Airport Port there was a bus waiting for those of us who were heading into the city, dropping us off (free of charge) at the airport’s train station. 330yen to Sannomiya Station, my — although very limited — kanji skills helped me recognise the ‘三’ of ‘Sannomiya’, avoiding that I get lost once again.
The confusing fifteen minutes I spent my first time in Tokyo staring at the train map trying to figure out how in the world I would get to Asakusabashi from Narita were replaced this time by excitement as I saw the ticket machine once again after so long. It finally felt like I was in Japan again!
The people behind me didn’t have to wait long for me to buy a ticket before I was already going through the gate and making my way to the Port Liner. I once read that this was the first train to use no driver, instead being automated. I don’t really know how true that is, but regardless, I was still on a no-maned train zooming over the sea, so that’s pretty good as far as first train rides go.
Kobe, however, was big and full of people. The express train to Himeji was spent squashed up against the door’s window, although that did allow me to have a great view of the Akashi Castle turrets lit up in the night. The first Japanese castle I ever saw!
I would be sleeping the night in Himeji, a hostel close to the castle. It was 8:15pm when I reached the city and the Himeji Yukata Matsuri was going on. I had planned to visit the festival and try out all the street food, but having arrived 8h later than expected I was much too tired to do so and decided instead to go straight to sleep once I reached my room.

That is, if I could. I arrived to the hostel and there was a note saying 'guest, make yourself at home!' but there was nobody there. After going inside through the unlocked door and uncomfortably sitting in the common room alone for fifteen minutes, a man arrives to the house and checks me in, shows me around, and announces he's leaving for the night.
I asked for the dorm but there was nobody else there so I had the room all to myself! In Tokyo I stayed for a week in a capsule hostel, and another week in a dorm bunk, so this was the first traditional room I had slept in.
The place is called ‘Engakudou Himeji Guesthouse’ and is a 101 year old house. I was very excited to see a tokonoma and use sliding doors, although the house wasn’t as clean as I hoped it would be. But for only 2500yen a night I had a pleasant enough stay and decided to sleep there again at the end of my trip.

Unfortunately no sightseeing happened on my first day, but I have news for my first full day in the country for the next post, heading off to Mt.Shosha early morning!
Peter_T is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2016, 03:42 AM
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Great start. I'm looking forward to more.
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Old Jul 11th, 2016, 04:37 AM
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Wow Peter, talk about a frustrating rough start. Glad you made it to Japan though. Enjoying the read and looking forward to more.

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Old Jul 11th, 2016, 05:27 AM
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Crikey, what a start!

Glad to see you arrived safely, eventually. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Jul 11th, 2016, 07:06 PM
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Can't wait to hear the rest!
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 04:11 AM
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Looking forward to more. We'll be going to many of those places later this year. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 04:42 AM
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Following your trip with interest. Mt Shosha is a possibility on our forthcoming Nov. trip, so I look forward to hearing about your experience there.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 10:51 AM
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Thank you all for the encouraging words! While there were things that didn’t go as planned, nothing beats the plane trip in regards of frustration.
I’m trying to upload the photos onto my blog so you can see a few, but my internet isn’t working too well so I don’t know when I’ll be able to share a link with you. Hopefully I can get them up soon.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 11:13 AM
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The jet lag had me waking up early but I decided to stay in bed for an hour because, knowing myself, I’d be waking up early every day for the rest of my trip and this would be one of the few mornings I would be awake before my alarm clock. But alas, I was starting to get fidgety and I wanted to get the day started, so soon I was up and getting ready for the day.
Check-out was at 10am but considering I’d be out until noon, I folded up my futon as neatly as I could manage without waking anyone else up (the walls were very thin, and there was a couple in the room next door) and left my bag packed next to it. I had already warned the hostel that I’d be up early and would return to pick up my luggage later on.

My first stop of the day was Mt.Otokoyama right in front of my hostel and the shrine at the top of it’s 200 or so steps. Princess Sen from Himeji Castle used to pray to this shrine from a window in the Sen Tower of the castle, and from here there is a great view of the castle itself too.
So after a beautiful view to start the day and packed with my little backpack I made my way to the station to catch an early bus to Mt.Shosha. In Tokyo there were three convenience stores around every corner, but in Himeji there are only two along the main road between the castle and the station and none close to my hostel, so I made a stop along the way to buy some breakfast and lunch for while I was away.
Any remains from the night before were now all cleaned up (that’s definitely not how Spain works) and, hadn’t I been there myself at the time, I wouldn’t have believed that a festival had taken place only a few hours earlier.

Internet had told me that I should be taking bus number 8, but as I reached the station I realised that there were about twenty different bus stops and I had no idea which one the bus would be stopping at. I tried bus stop 8 because that seemed like the most logical answer, but 8am came and went and no buses stopped, so I knew it wasn’t the right one. As I crossed the road and walked around all the other bus stops trying to look for the kanji ‘山’ belonging to Mt.Shosha, I came across the bus information centre that had just opened. They spoke no English so I decided to practise my limited Japanese and they pointed me to bus stop 18. Buses numbers 41, 42, 43 and 45 stop here, all going to Mt.Shosha (no sign of bus 8), and I managed to make it to an empty seat of the 8:05am bus and set off for the 30min ride through Himeji as the city slowly began to wake up.
For those of you wondering what there is to see at Mt.Shosha, there is a temple called Engyo-ji known as the location for the movie ‘The Last Samurai’. I was reluctant to go since I hadn’t seen the movie and that seemed to be the feature that everyone remarked about this site but, and thanks to the recommendation of someotherguy, even for the less cinematically inclined like myself the temple is pretty stunning and definitely worth a visit if you have the time. And don’t worry, although the temple is at the top of the mountain, there is a ropeway for those who don’t want to walk up to it. Although the ropeway does still require a bit of a walk to reach the main building of the temple and the other buildings around it.
I was trying to save money wherever I could, so I opted to take the trail instead. I had been promised a 40min walk, but I definitely took a long hour to reach the maniden. Maybe I was very slow because my legs were hurting from all the sitting down and waiting around in lines from the day before, plus a breakfast break, but I still think 40min is a bit generous.
For me, the interesting thing to note about this place is that Benkei is said to have studied here, and the architecture is simply amazing.
At this time in the morning it was just me, myself and the spiders (and another man who walked past me as I took my onigiri break). I’d been watching a few videos of giant spiders before my trip and was pretty paranoid, but rest assured that the spiders I found probably weren’t too dangerous and seemed more interested in just sitting there than attacking me. I do think something may have bitten me though, because after this day I had a lump on the side of my foot that lasted for a week.
You have to pay an entrance fee of 500yen for the temple just after the ropeway station, and they gave me a map of the top of the mountain with all the sub temples’ locations and a bit of an explanation in English. The lady there said some form of the verb ‘arukimasu’ (walk), so I don’t really know if she was congratulating me for the walk I had done, or telling me that I still had 15min more in front of me.

Between Niomon and the ropeway the path is lined with statues of Kannon (I think there were 33 belonging to the different Saigoku pilgrimage sites). Some of them were very elaborate and they had even gone to the lengths of giving her a large number of arms, all holding different objects! Not quite the thousand arms Kannon is said to have, but easily up to thirty of them. In some cases people had tried to place coins on her open palms, so I tried my luck and left one there too.
After the Niomon gate the walk is somewhat downhill and easier than the rest of the trail had been. There is a ryokan here that also offers shojin ryori but I didn’t have the money for such an experience, so I made my way to the main temple complex, maniden, instead.
Crossing a small bridge I entered a cloud of mist that surrounded only the maniden, making it look even more imposing and mysterious than it already was by itself. We don’t get much mist here at home so it isn’t something I see often.
There were few people out and about at the time I arrived, mostly only people who worked there and a couple other visitors, but one of the workers ran up to me as soon as he saw a foreigner and excitedly asked where I was from and how I had heard about this place.

I decided to visit the maniden now that the serenity and silence of the morning was still in place, and was blown away by the complexity of the architecture! I didn’t see any nails, it seemed like most of the pieces were cut to fit together, and this was used to enhance the beauty of the temple rather than any added on decorations. There were a few wood carvings and very detailed latticework added in, but since they were made out of the same material and colour it only managed to fit in naturally.
The inside of the maniden sells all the pertinent omikuji, omamori, good luck charms and related objects. Particularly, Mt.Shosha sells two beautiful shuinchô, temple stamp books, one with a flower pattern (available in blue and pink) and another with the maniden of the temple pictured in red between many trees. The priest or miko stationed at the counter will stamp the book for you with the temple or shrine’s seal —usually in red—, plus write down the name of the place and the date you visited in elegant calligraphy. It’s definitely interesting to see the stamp being drawn in front of you, since each one is unique and different, and now that my trip is over seeing them all in a line (you can unfold all the pages of the book like an accordion to see them all) is truly a better memory than any souvenir I bought.
You do have to pay for the stamps though, all of which cost me 300yen each. I read that sometimes the temple you buy your shuinchô at gives you the first temple stamp for free, but Engyo-ji doesn’t.
As I showed the stamp book I wanted to buy to the priest, he started talking to me in Japanese while he signed it. I understood nothing.
He also gave me a small piece of paper shaped somewhat like a leaf with black ink writing on it because Engyo-ji is a temple along the Saigoku Pilgrimage. I guess I would collect these if I were to do the pilgrimage, but this is the only one belonging to the route I went to.

With as much time as I wanted in front of me, I set off to discover the sub temples and the surrounding area.
While the maniden may be the most impressive of them all, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention the incredible wood work of the other buildings. Some even covered in moss, others short enough for me to be able to observe the roof tiling and the crests, I spent almost three hours just walking around and looking at everything I could.
One of the buildings, called Jikido, allows access to both floors of the building. Built all the way back in 1174 it used to be both a priest's training centre and a boarding house; now it has different treasures on display and an area for visitors to sit and copy sutras. The sutra copying unfortunately wasn’t available at the time since I was the only visitor there, but the second floor small museum was interesting as it showed tiles, old beams of the temple, statues and Benkei's desk!
Walking around I came across a pile of old roof tiles that had been thrown away and probably forgotten, I tried picking one up to see how much it weighed… it was so heavy! Needing both my hands to pick it up and place it back down, it’s incredible to think how much weight these structures have to hold up just for the roof itself, and yet they still manage to look so graceful and beautiful while doing so!
Only my first day and yet I feel like I’ve ran out of synonyms for ‘beautiful’. But Japan is truly a beautiful country, so I hope you will be so kind as to ignore my word repetition!

The Honda family graves are also in the area. I don’t know much about Japanese history, but I’ve heard of their name and know that the Honda family was very important, so I felt honoured to be standing right in front of their tombs. To think that where I was standing has so much history behind it!
I spotted a small Inari shrine hidden between the leaves, and who am I to ignore an Inari Shrine given how charming they always seem to be, and as I was busy trying to avoid the spider hanging from the short torii gate a deer suddenly jumped out from behind the shrine and ran away.
After all the walking I had done during the morning my legs were in need of a sit-down, so I decided to take the ropeway down instead. Next to me sat the man who had earlier been excited to see a foreigner, he offered me a ride back to Himeji Station since he was going in that direction. Who am I to refuse a free ride? He was a very hardworking man who worked as a schoolteacher during the week and at the temple on Saturdays. We talked about Don Quijote, Momotaro, rice fields and the internet, his English was very good, and I was left at the station much quicker than the bus had brought me to the mountain earlier in the morning.
Back at my hostel, the other two guests from the room next door had also just returned from Himeji Castle. They complained about the amount of people and I felt lucky that I had organised my itinerary so I would be there on a weekday instead of a Saturday.
My plan for today was to go to Ako and Bizen as I made my way to sleep in the town of Asakuchi just past Kurashiki, but it was already 2pm by the time I was on the train (after a quick lunch), and later once I arrived to Banshu-Ako Station, so I decided to only include Bizen in the day’s sightseeing and leave Ako for another day when I could enjoy it with more time.

Bizen is a town known for Bizen-yaki, one of the oldest forms of Japanese pottery. It’s main characteristic is its lack of glaze and instead having a more rough and earthy finish. While I don’t really have much of an eye for pottery, seeing so many different pieces through the shop windows and the chimneys used when making them was curious. One of the workshops had pulled the wall off, and I was able to see the shape the kiln must have had.
Kiln’s are filled with the Bizen-yaki (or sometimes tiles or whatever else it is that the person wants to make) at the further end, then the first half of the kiln is filled with firewood. Heat and smoke go up so it passes through the Bizen-yaki and out through the chimney, hardening the pottery in the process. I read that firing bizen-yaki usually takes ten days!
I also saw an old kura house, although I will talk more about that style of architecture tomorrow when I visit Kurashiki.
As soon as I got off the train I hurried to Tenshin Shrine before it closed. Usually shrines and temples close at around 5pm and I wanted to add another stamp to my shuincho, but as I got there it turned out to be empty. Working by honour code, I left a 500yen coin next to some other coins and bought a small ema board made out of bizenyaki.
Tenshin Shrine was very small but surrounded by pottery of different sizes and shapes, animal figures and covered in bizenyaki tiles on the roof and walls. Having in mind how expensive the pottery is today, this shrine must hold great meaning or sentiments as town members spare no thought on price when making a donation.
I was about to leave when I spotted a statue of Urashima Tarou (also made fully out of bizenyaki)! As one of my favourite legends, this really made my quick stop in Bizen just a little bit better.
From Imbe Station I could see an old tunnel kiln, 500 years old and designated as a national treasure, although if we’re being honest it really just looked like a lump in the ground and I would’ve never guessed it had been a kiln.

I hopped onto the wrong train when leaving, accidentally taking an express to Hiroshima instead of a local, so I had to get off at the next station and wait for the next one to come. But all is well, and I arrived to Konko Station and to my new hostel shortly after without any problems. The hostel I stayed at was my favourite out of all the different ones I have been to, so maybe I will make a small review about it in my next post.

For now, just a promise that a day in Kurashiki is coming soon!
Peter_T is offline  
Old Jul 12th, 2016, 11:34 AM
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Very interesting, detailed report, thanks for sharing!
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 01:38 PM
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Yay enjoying immensely!
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 02:21 PM
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Congratulations on surviving the journey!

Thanks for the info on Mt. Shosha. I will be staying in Okayama later this year and will add to my list of places to see.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 02:31 PM
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Peter - very informative. Nice job. I'll be looking forward to more.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 04:43 PM
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Glad you had a wonderful trip. If I've read everything thoroughly and correctly, though, you've been to Japan twice now but have not visited Kyoto? Pourquoi?
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 05:12 PM
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Peter_T - I just noticed you had posted on my thread about my trip to Bitchu Matsuyama castle almost two months ago - sorry, I never saw the post and didn't know the answer anyway....lol....

MinnBeef - I get the feeling Peter_T is an off the beaten track type of person and real budget traveler as well. In his earlier post he was planning to visit Kyoto and Nara but as his plans crystallized he changed his mind. This board has its Kyoto prejudice...I love Kyoto also - spent five or six weeks based there the past three years in a row...but there are other places as well....
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 06:35 PM
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I'm really enjoying this. You write so well and I admire your focus and engagement on where you are.

And thanks for alerting me to the Saigoku Pilgrimage. I've been going to Japan once or twice a year (for work) for 25 years and like to have a goal to guide my side trips. I looked up the pligrimage and by chance I've already done a few, including the first 6 mentioned in this blog http://www.taleofgenji.org/my_saigoku_pilgrimage.html, and will now target the others.

I'm looking forward to your description of Matsuyama Castle in Bitchu Takahashi. Mara and I compared notes on how hard this is in some earlier threads but we both did it from the car park--from the train station it's just a speck on the horizon so I hope you managed OK.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 08:38 PM
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Thanks for the post. I learned a lot. But it seems the shrine in Imbe would be called Amatu.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 11:11 PM
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Thank you everyone for reading and your kind words!

MinnBeef, you are right, I have been to Japan twice and haven’t made it to Kyoto. This is mostly because, as Mara says, there are so many places in Japan to visit! I decided to go somewhere that really called to me (in this case, Hiroshima) simply because it fitted my interests more.
I do think either Matsumoto or Beppu will win my next visit though, so Kyoto will still have to wait!

That’s okay, Mara! Unfortunately I didn’t end up going to Takahashi because I had seen plenty of residences in Takehara just a day earlier (so the samurai residences were no longer a must-see) and I doubt I would’ve made it all the way to the castle with the heat of July. I’m sure I will enjoy a visit there some other time of the year, and also include the Bengara Village nearby. I was able to go inside five other castles though, and saw plenty of ruins and others from the outside.
But for anyone who is interested, I did manage to find the start of the trail during my research. That’s 34.80197, 133.62072 on Google Maps.

Thank you, someotherguy! It was thanks to your recommendation that I added Mt.Shosha to my list, so I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful suggestion. It turned out to be one of my favourite places of the entire trip.
I’m glad you like the report so far and think I write well: I don’t speak much English in Spain so I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the lovely writings of other trip reports.
That link reminds me that I wanted to retry and read the ‘Tale of Genji’. I didn’t make it past the second chapter last time, but now that I know more about Japanese culture and history I think I will enjoy it more.

LuisJp — yes, that is the shrine I visited! I translated the name with Google Translator because I couldn’t find any information about it in English, that is probably where my mistake comes from. Thank you for pointing that out!
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Old Jul 13th, 2016, 05:51 AM
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I managed to get my photos up! https://tokyoanecdote.wordpress.com/...-at-mt-shosha/
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