Western Honshu

Old Sep 14th, 2018, 02:27 AM
  #21  
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This trip grew from original 5 to 7 days mentioned in first post to 10 nights - as we realised we could stop on way back in Osaka area for the famous Danjiri Matsuri. We are now in Kishiwada on our last two nights.

It has been fantastic trip: Matsue was a revelation -we didn’t see another western tourist until the last morning at the train station. And then we didn’t say any until Hiroshima en route to Miyajima. Three nights was definitely not too much in Matsue - and we were so glad we went for the two nights on Miyajima at the Auberge Watanabe (thanks to Kavey’s recommendation).

The countryside - green rolling hills and mountains -in Yamaguchi and Shimane was gorgeous. The Iwami Ginzan silver mine was a highlight as was the inn there, the Yuzuriha, a very nice blend of East and West. The whole thing is done beautifully via English audio guides for the village as well as the mine. It is truly an immersive experience, not just a glimpse into the industrial heritage but a really comprehensive look at the social structure of the village, art, architecture etc.

Food and drink - so good and for these two Tokyoites, a true bargain. Some wonderful seasonal dishes - fig tempura with shiso salt!

The Adachi Museum is a bit of a marmite experience but a must see for anyone with an interest in gardens. There is a 3 km walk through lovely rural landscape to the ruins of what is claimed to be one of the top 5 mountain top castles, hard to believe but the walk was very enjoyable.

One night in Hagi was enough for us, but we understood the appeal, especially for anyone interested in the Meiji restoration.

The island of Suo Oshima is still one of the most beautiful places in Japan for me. Almost 40 years ago this was an island of mikan groves and fishing villages. Now there is a link to Hawaii and the Sunshine Resort Hotel we stayed at features luaus on weekends. But the sunsets are spectacular and that coastline looking out to Seto Uchi is unforgettable. Fewer mikan groves these days but it is still a rural backwater - an inoshishi ( wild boar) ran in front of our car. We were there for personal reasons.

We added on the Danjiri Matsuri as we were so disappointed in the tame Takayama festival last September. This one is a wild one! Today was practice day and it was still thrilling. Everyone sporting Festival gear - the children and babies are adorable and the girls’ elaborate braids are something I’ve not seen before here.

This was not really a trip report but happy to amplify/answer any questions. In short: Western Honshu seems largely unvisited by Western tourists but yields rich rewards for anyone looking to get off the beaten path. It is easy to navigate, people were keen to practice their English and there is so much to enjoy ( the quilt museum in IZumo in a beautiful 200 year old house, the Lefcadio Hearn sites in Matsue, the moat tour...). Oh, and the automatic very generous discounts given in Matsue for anyone with foreign passport or foreign residency card indicates how genuinely welcoming the city is to visitors.
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Old Sep 14th, 2018, 05:50 PM
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Sounds wonderful! Thanks for the report.
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Old Sep 14th, 2018, 08:34 PM
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Boveney,
Thanks for letting us know your trip went well.
We felt the same way about Shimane, after the crowds at Kyoto and Tokyo sites it seemed we had the place to ourselves.
I checked out the Yuzuriha online and it looks like you found a gem. It would be cool to be able to stay in Omori and be there for the night and early morning hours and the food looked wonderful.
So many places to see in Japan but we hope to get back to Matsue again.

Last edited by kalihiwai2; Sep 14th, 2018 at 08:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Sep 15th, 2018, 01:05 AM
  #24  
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You’re welcome, Kja and kalihiwai2! Yes, the Yuzuriha was a find. The owner (?) spoke excellent English, made sure we had a map and English language info and loaned us English language DVD on the area. The Inn was in an old building but it was Western in that shoes were worn in the rooms and there was a big Western bathroom enusite. Meals were taken in the dining room at a table, but the dinner was excellent Japanese. Lots of local sashimi. There was a choice of Western or Japanese breakfast which I for one appreciate. I had Western, my husband Japanese and we were both happy. We arrived in the evening and it is literally a minute’s walk to the Info centre where one rents bikes and audio guides. We had a walk through the village that evening which was a pleasant taster for the following day. We noted there were spaces for three coaches in the village car park but when we were there, there were no big tours. Kalihiwai2, we were amazed at how unspoiled/undiscovered Shimane appeared.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
From there we will drive to Hiroshima, give up the car and take the train and ferry to Miyajima. Looks like we can book one night at Auberge Watanabe (thank you, Kavey!) but have back up at Iwaso on booking.com. Would be open to any strong arguments to stay two nights vs. one.
We didn't feel rushed with our one night but I would have loved two. We arrived mid-afternoon after a morning and lunch in Hiroshima, so we had the rest of that afternoon and evening -- we strolled into town after dinner too. The next morning we visited Daisho-in, the access stairs are right next to Auberge Watanabe, and spent a relaxed time there before eventually leaving to return all the way to Tokyo (a longish but restful journey). With another night, we'd have taken the cable car and explored more of the island, and tried more of the streetfood options for lunch.
The dinner at Watanabe was so delicious (served in a dining area downstairs, not in the rooms) and all our friends who've also visited have loved the homey vibe, beautiful rooms, location and food too.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 04:17 PM
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We felt hugely lucky that a second night opened up at Auberge Watanabe. Iwaso is the classic Japanese ryokan that our Japanese friends all recommended but it is a very large facility - we did cut through its garden a couple of times en route back to Watanabe's.

Our second night allowed us to do those extras that you mention, Kavey. We walked up the stone steps - but past the temple and all the way to the top of the mountain - which took us 1 1/2 hours. The Mt Misen observatory had featured in the Architecture exhibition at the Mori Art Museum earlier that month so we are anxous to visit it. We ended up spending quite a lot of time on the top level, before taking the ropeway down.

We could have taken a boat or kayak out to the torii but were knackered by the mountain climb. Instead had a pleasant unrushed afternoon watching a wedding party at the Itsukushima shrine, sampling some craft beers and my all time favourite kaki furai (fried oysters.) We didn't even mind the coachloads of tourists being marched around at a fast clip - we knew that come dusk, the island would be ours again....

Just one last word on the Auberge Watanabe - I may be one of the few Western visitors who prefers the communal onsen to the private cedar bath ensuite. I'd enjoyed the female bath at the Hagi Royal Intelligence Hotel and the hot spring at the Sunshine Resort Hotel on Suo-Oshima, but others will appreciate the private ensuite ofuro which the Auberge offers.
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
.....I'd enjoyed the female bath at the Hagi Royal Intelligence Hotel....
I stayed there this April....except for lack of combinis and restaurants (did eat once at the hotel) in the immediate neighborhood I really liked that hotel - particularly the fancy shower room....
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Old Sep 19th, 2018, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
Our second night allowed us to do those extras that you mention, Kavey. We walked up the stone steps - but past the temple and all the way to the top of the mountain - which took us 1 1/2 hours. The Mt Misen observatory had featured in the Architecture exhibition at the Mori Art Museum earlier that month so we are anxous to visit it. We ended up spending quite a lot of time on the top level, before taking the ropeway down.

We could have taken a boat or kayak out to the torii but were knackered by the mountain climb. Instead had a pleasant unrushed afternoon watching a wedding party at the Itsukushima shrine, sampling some craft beers and my all time favourite kaki furai (fried oysters.) We didn't even mind the coachloads of tourists being marched around at a fast clip - we knew that come dusk, the island would be ours again....
Sounds perfect to have had that extra time!!

Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
Just one last word on the Auberge Watanabe - I may be one of the few Western visitors who prefers the communal onsen to the private cedar bath ensuite. I'd enjoyed the female bath at the Hagi Royal Intelligence Hotel and the hot spring at the Sunshine Resort Hotel on Suo-Oshima, but others will appreciate the private ensuite ofuro which the Auberge offers.
We went to Miyajima on our first trip in 2012 and I'd been too nervous ahead of the visit about the communal onsen so we booked ensuite everywhere. We booked the room at Auberge Watanabe with cedar wood bath tub and it was lovely, we did that in a few places, paying more to do so. I don't regret it at all but on later trips I also made more use of those communal onsen in various inns and hotels!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2018, 04:50 PM
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Mara, we were struck by dearth of restaurants in Hagi as a whole - maybe it's because we were there late afternoon and perhaps places had closed for lunch and not yet opened for dinner but we were out and about in the castle and historic area (and wandered through the long shotengai - covered shopping arcade) and saw only a coffee shop and bar or two. We walked back along the seafront and there might have been something there, closed up. So, like you, we ended up at the restaurant in the same building as the Royal Intelligence and it turned out to be one of our favourite meals on the trip. It was absolutely jampacked when we showed up (well, where else is there to eat in Hagi?! - the small place across the carpark had its lights on but looked more like a bar/noodle shop). Luckily there was space in tatami room at the back. The people next to us had coupons from the hotel for their dinner so if you buy a meal plan, that must be where you end up but it did not seem to be a 'hotel restaurant', more like a busy local izakaya. The English menu included the seasonal dishes but not the daily recommendations which were up on the wall. Getting back to lack of restaurants - the only other visitors we saw were coach tours, perhaps Hagi is not an overnight stop and the tour companies feed their clients in restaurants out of town somewhere??
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Old Sep 23rd, 2018, 10:49 AM
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Boveney, when I was in Hagi I don't recall noticing many tourists at all - I was there in early April. While at the hotel restaurant, a woman from the next table came over, said she was a tour guide and asked had I ever eaten しろうお, which in English is translated as Ice goby. I can read some Japanese and saw it on the wall menu. I asked what was it and she showed me - little tiny fish in broth that swim in the soup bowl....alive....I thanked her for the info but declined.....;-) My stay included breakfast so I probably managed during the day with iced coffee and green tea ice cream cones.
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Old Sep 24th, 2018, 02:19 AM
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I would certainly have skipped the live fish in broth option! I think しろうお are the tiny, almost transparent fish? We saw no other Western tourists in Hagi but there were tourists from other Asian countries: Korea, China, Thailand. We met up with Japanese friends today and mentioned our difficulty finding a place to eat in Hagi - they burst out laughing. They'd been there two years ago and had encountered the same difficulty. So the locals rarely eat out?!
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Old Sep 24th, 2018, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
I would certainly have skipped the live fish in broth option!
Me too! My rule is that I don't eat anything alive, I don't need it to be that fresh that it can't be killed a few minutes before serving. And I don't eat anything endangered. Those are my choices. The "eew factor" isn't something that would concern me regarding the swimming fish, it would be the inherent cruelty (in my purely personal opinion) of.
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