This is a small town north and west of Himeji. Take the JR to Himeji and then change to the Kishin Line about four stops going towards Tsuyama. At Tatsuno station walk straight ahead toward the river, cross the river and turn right. Get off the main road onto a small winding street with old houses. There is a small castle and above the castle a small garden with a tea house.
Can be done in a day but two days would be better. There are many hotels (of all types) available, this is a big city. Reservations can be made at the Tourist Centre outside the train station.
From Kobe take the JR to Okayama changing at Himeji. The trip to Okayama is long, and if time, rather than money, is important, it would be better to take the Shinkansen from Kobe to Okayama (alt: JR to Nishi Akashi, Shinkansen to Okayama). At Okayama change for the train to Takamatsu, which doesn’t run too frequently. This train crosses a very long bridge to Shikoku, with good views of the Inland Sea.
From Takamatsu Station walk straight ahead along a wide street to the garden – about 20 minutes. The garden is beautiful anytime of year.
A short bus ride out of town is Yashima, a nice park on a hill overlooking the city and the Inland Sea.
++ There are many ferries from Takamatsu going to Kobe, Osaka, Shodoshima, and other points.
This is a nice short trip just outside Kobe. There is a nice park along a stream and a waterfall. It might get crowded during the autumn and spring when the leaves and flowers are at their best.
Take the Hankyu to Juso and change for the Hankyu Takarazuka Line. Get off at Ishibashi and change for the Minoh Line. Get off at the last stop, just about three or four from Ishibashi. From the station walk straight ahead bearing left. There are maps and km markers. Just follow the stream uphill to the falls. You can walk back down on the other side of the river; the trail will take you to the same place at the bottom.
There are supposed to be monkeys there but all I saw were droppings.
There is no reason to go to Nishiwaki, there is nothing the tourist would want to see in Nishiwaki. But if there exists a typical mid-American town somewhere in the states, then this is the typical mid-Japanese town.
There is a river, a temple, some light industry. A short distance away, by train is Hezo-Koen which is the geographic centre of Japan. A little museum there has some work by local artists. Not the place to go if you are looking for excitement. Take the JR to Kagogawa and change there for the Kagogawa line to Nishiwaki.
This is another place there is no reason to travel to unless you are passing through. It is on Shikoku and is mainly a rail junction. There is nothing much to see in the town itself, but a few stops down the line there is a river gorge. From the town you could also take a bus into the mountains where there are bridges made of vines across the river, hot springs and probably good hiking. As of yet I haven’t gone beyond the town but there seems good possibilities beyond.
Take the JR to Okayama and change for the train to Awa-Ikeda, similar to the way to Takamatsu.
A short distance beyond Okayama is this merchant town. A good day trip. It has a very pretty section of old houses of white and black tile lining a canal. There are museums of different kinds; folk art, western art, architecture. Above this section of the town is an interesting walk through an old park.
Take the JR to Okayama (see Takamatsu) and change there for the train to Kurashiki. It is a few stops beyond Okayama. At the rather large train station walk straight ahead for about 15 minutes and turn left. The interesting section isn’t very large and if one doesn’t visit the museums it wouldn’t take long to see everything.
Very easy to get to and worth the trip. This castle is a good one to use as a judge of all other castles you might see while traveling around. Don’t just go to the castle but walk around the outside or maybe up some of the hills behind the castle to get a very different view.
Take the JR right to Himeji. At the station go to the main street and you can see the castle. It is about a 15 minute walk from the station. (Alternatives – take the Sanyo line from Suma, and walk through the shopping arcade to the right of the main street as you face the castle.)
While you are in Himeji this is a good “other trip” if you are tired of castles and not yet tired of temples. This is a temple that is a little bit different and not really a tourist place. You may see pilgrims in traditional clothing making the trip from temple to temple. There are also very good views of the city of Himeji and the hills to the north. This can be a very quiet place and people go there to pray. Take the JR to Himeji (or Sanyo). At Himeji station cross the street (straight ahead) to the bus terminal. Take the #6 or #8 bus to Mt. Sosha (the buses are marked in romaji). I think the #11 goes there too as I took one back from there. These are city buses and the ride may be crowded and bumpy, but it is only about 20 minutes. When you get to Mt. Sosha (the last stop) there is a rope way up the mountain. At the top, there is a pleasant uphill walk through cedar trees. There are horse-drawn carts that can take you up but that is not really necessary. There are a number of buildings associated with the temple, and most have a brief explanation in English. There is also a shop where you can get something to eat.
Another one of my favourite places. This would require an overnight stay but it is certainly worth the trip. This is an old town famous for wood products, ranging from all kinds of furniture to wonderful clear lacquer ware. (All prices.) It is a great place to walk. There is a section of old shops, sake houses, wood working shops. You can take a very pleasant walk along the two small rivers that flow through the town. You can pick up a very good map in English at the tourist information centre at the train station and there are all kinds of hotels available. One reason for staying overnight is the morning market (starting at 6.00 am). There are two of them, one along the river and the other in a temple nearby. Mostly food is sold, with lots of free samples. You can spend a couple of hours nibbling your way down the street. Interesting mountain vegetables and other local products are on sale. There are signs in English directing you to the various points of interest, but do some wandering up the hills. Remember when going into the shops to look not just at the products on sale but also at the building itself which can be very interesting.
In the opposite direction to the old houses and morning market, about a 20 minute walk from the train station is Hida village. This is a collection of old farm houses, most moved to escape dam projects. There is a bus that goes there, but it runs infrequently. The walk there isn’t very pleasant but worth it. There are many houses to see and you can spend a good deal of time there. Explanations are in English. You may be able to get a view of the Japan Alps although most of the time these distant peaks have cloud cover.
The train ride is a long one, but the scenery along the way is beautiful as you head through the mountains along a river. From Osaka change to the Toyama line. Be sure to take the limited express; the local train takes forever. Also, be sure to check your schedules because I think there is only one train north and one south each day that is at a good time. It is possible to get there through Nagoya but that is somewhat out of the way.
Not far from Kobe. You can walk over Rokko Mountain, if you want to go that way. This is a hot spring town but, if you are not into baths it is still a good walking place especially in winter when you will probably have snow. There are a number of ways to get to Arima. Bus from Kobe, or take the Kobe subway to Tanigami and change there for the Kobe Dentetsu Line for Arima-onsen. You may have to change at Arimaguchi. Or you can take the rope way across Rokko and down the other side.
This town is an interesting mixture of a few not spectacular but interesting sights. It is a castle town but not much remains of the castle but a nice park. There are good street signs and good flat walking. There is a very pretty walk along the sea a little way out of town.
Take the JR to Himeji and change to the line going to Ako. You might have to change at Aioi. From the Ako station walk straight ahead to the castle. From the castle go left and you will see an amusement park in the distance to the right. Ahead there is a lighthouse on a hill. Walk towards the lighthouse, any way will do. Once you get near the lighthouse you can go up or down. Down will take you to a very nice walk along the sea.
This can be done in a long day, but an overnight stay may be better. Ise is one of the oldest and most sacred Shinto shrines and Toba is noted for pearls. Take the JR to Osaka and change to the Loop Line. On the Loop Line get off at Tsuruhashi and change to the Kintetsu Line going to Toba. Take the Limited express. There is an additional charge depending on which train you take. Nice ride through mountains and countryside.
At Toba station there is an island a short walk away. On this island there is a museum about pearls and pearl diving exhibitions, interesting, but it may get really crowded. There are boat tours available and some good walking up in the hills.
On the way to Toba you will pass Ise. There are many maps and directions to the shrines from the station. The main shrine is one of the oldest in Japan.
This place is a little different, a little out of the way and worth the trip. It is noted for lacquer ware which comes in all shapes and sizes. It is really a fishing town and has a great morning market with all sorts of crawling things for sale. If you go to Kanazawa, you might want to keep on going up the Noto Peninsula to Wajima. There is a beach and an interesting walk along the rocky shore. Good views of the Japan Sea and Wajima Harbour from the hills.
From Kanazawa take the JR or the Moto line to Wajima (the last stop). You may have to change depending on the train you take.
One possible trip is to return by way of Takayama; spend a night in Kanazawa, another in Wajima and a third in Takayama.
A castle town on the Japan Sea and next to a large lake. A short way out of town by bus is a river gorge with interesting rock formations and very interesting statues carved into the rocks. A long trip but worth it.
From Okayama take the San-in Line to Matsue (about 3 hours). There is plenty of accommodation available.
If you are in Matsue you might as well go to Izumo which is the next station to the west. About an hour by train. In Izumo there is a very ancient shrine which is very large and simple. A short bus ride away is a lighthouse with some wonderful views of the Japan Sea.
This is a must, if you have the time and the money. A couple of days in this area is certainly worth the expense in time and money. There is a beautiful shrine in Nikko which unlike Ise and Izumo is extremely decorative. Interesting walks along the river to the “abyss”.
Take the Shinkansen to Tokyo and change at Ueno station to the JR Nikko line to Nikko. Or from Tokyo station take the Yamoto Line to Ueno and then the subway to Asakusa station and there change for the Tobu-Nikko Line for Nikko. You may have to change at Shimo-Imaichi. The limited express is a wonderful train but the views are not very exciting. Figure three and a half hours to Tokyo and two more to Nikko.
This is a good quiet spot just north of Kyoto. A little walking and a good day trip. Two very nice (if small) temples in the country-side.
Take the JR to Kyoto. The fast express is the best. In front of the train station there are many buses. Take the one going to Ohara which can be found furthest away from the train station (bus #17 or #18) platform #1. This is all marked. You can buy a ticket before (there is a ticket window) or on the bus (¥ 520). It takes about an hour on the bus with many stops in the city. Get off at the last stop. Here you can walk to the right or left. Eventually, do both. To the left, follow a stream uphill, not difficult, pass some shops, some rice fields, some more shops. Shortly after a pottery shop there will be a stairway on your right to the temple.
If you cross the street at the bus stop simply go uphill through the usual shop to the larger of the two temples. Both places are very pleasant. The walking is easy and both can be visited in a day.