Another trip into the hills above Kobe. You can link this up with the trip from Ashigawa. Take the Hankyu and get off at Mikage and walk uphill as far as the road will take you. To the right will be a stream coming from the mountains. Follow that on a road past a crematorium. Shortly after the crematorium there is a trail leading up the mountain. There are many branches but if you continue going uphill you will come to a tea house (food & drink). From the top, if you go right you will meet up with the trail down to Ashiya. If you cross the road and go downhill (the other side of the mountain) you will come to Arima. From there you can take the Kobe Dentetsu Line changing at Shinkaichi for Sannomiya. There are other ways to return from Arima. If you go left you will come to Mt Rokko and the rope way. A good day’s walk whichever way you go.
Near the school, good for sakura. Good views of the Inland Sea. About a 20 minute walk from Suma JR station, you will come to the beginning of the rope way. The rope way is in three stages with small parks at each stage. If you want to walk up: walk towards Shioya along the main road till you reach a stream and an overhead conveyor belt for earth moving. Just past the stream is a trail leading up steps to the top of the mountain. When you reach the top you can go left to the rope way, or right towards Kobe. The trail to the right will follow the ridge until it comes to a long set of steps leading down to a highway. At the bottom, turn right and you will come to Suma. A good afternoon walk.
If all the temples and shrines in Kyoto are too much for you, here is a smaller version up in the mountains south of Osaka. There are good mountain views both on the train and once you get there.
Take the JR to Umeda (or your favourite alternative!). From there take the Midosuji line to Namba. Change to the Nankai-Koya line to the last stop. At the ticket machine for the Nankai-Koya line there is a button for the Koya-san which gives you a ticket for both the train and the cable car up the mountain. The trip from Kobe is about 2 hours.
Once you get to the last stop the cable care is right there at the end of the platform. At the top there are buses, but the walk is a good one. You can go right or left. If you go right, the walk is along a “highway” with some good views of the valley below. A fairly long walk until you reach the gate to the “town”. I am not sure where the buses go. Once you get to the centre there are many temples to visit. Probably the most interesting place is the ancient cemetery with gigantic cedar trees; a very interesting place.
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.
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.
This is a long trip with a little bit of walking and little or no train changing. Hikone is a castle town on Lake Biwa, there is a beach on the lake, mountains with a shrine and Zen temple above the town and a castle in the middle of the town. There is a lot to see in a small area.
Take the JR towards Kyoto. There is a train that goes to Maibara which is the stop after Hikone. If you don’t catch that one you will probably have to change in Kyoto, but stay on the same line (Tokaido main line). From the station if you walk straight ahead you will come to the castle. From the castle you can make your way to the beach or in the other direction to the mountains. It may be difficult to find a way to cross the railroad tracks – there are not many crossings. There is a good climb up the hills to the shrine and temple with great views of the city and castle below, and Lake Biwa.
This is a walk in the hills above Kobe. Not all that difficult but all uphill until you turn around. Your destination is the Foreigner’s Cemetery on the top of the mountain.
From Motomachi JR west exit walk uphill (towards the mountains). Any street will do. When you reach the last east-west street turn left until you come to a small park with a baseball field on the right a very short distance. Take a right there and you will come to a large girls’ school then you know you are on the right road. Just continue up following a stream on the left. After a series of stairs you will come to a road. If you take the road to the right, you can pick up a trail that ends up behind the Shin Kobe station; a good return route (long). To continue up the mountain, cross the road. There is a pond there and the trail goes to the left of the pond. About halfway up you will come to a temple; the path goes to the left. There are some places to stop along the way. At the top you will come to another road, this one traveled. In fact, there is a bus that comes back to Kobe but it doesn’t run everyday. Cross the road and there is a small lake with boats to rent, a coffee shop and a small beach. Beyond the beach you pick up the road again and to the right is the Foreigner’s Cemetery, which is the interesting thing to see. The Cemetery is locked but if you are a foreigner you can get in or you can get a view of the grounds from a walkway to the left of the gate.
While at Hiroshima you should see Miyajima. It is about 20 minutes from Hiroshima station and then a very short ride to the island. This is a beautiful shrine built right on the water. Beyond the shrine and small town is a mountain that is difficult to climb but worth it. There are temples along the way. It would be about a two hour walk with many steps. But you can take the rope way down and there is a tea house at the bottom of the way. Of course, you could also take the rope way up. There is plenty of information about Miyajima available. Lots of monkeys and deer.
This is a nice somewhat tourist-free island that is a good overnight stop. You can take the ferry from Kobe directly and there is a place to stay right by the ferry terminal on Shodo-shima. Bike rental is available right there. Another way to get to a different part of the island is to take the JR to Himeji. At the bus terminal across the street from the station take the bus to Himeji port. At Himeji port there is a ferry to Shodo-shima which takes about an hour and a half. There is a bus service on the island but on weekends it is not too frequent but you can get anywhere.
There is a very reasonable and beautiful inn in Ikeda. Monkeys and interesting rock formations in the mountains in the centre of the island. Just about anywhere you go there are good views and just very pleasant hiking, biking or even bus riding. Read the sentimental Japanese novel “Twenty-Four Eyes” before you go.
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.
There is no reason to go to Nii, unless you want a nice walk in mountains and countryside. There is also a very pretty lake up in the mountains. Not a tourist attraction.
Take the JR to Himeji and change to the Bantan Line. Nii is an express stop. From the train station turn right and cross the tracks when you can. That is probably the main road. Once you cross the tracks you will come to a river; cross that as well. Then walk uphill. There is a main road going that way but next to it is a country road going the same way. After about 30 minutes you will come to a park-like area and a dam. You can walk around the lake above the dam.
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.
While you are at Nikko keep on going. A short bus ride up a very winding road is the town of Chuzenjiko Onsen. A real Japanese tourist spot in season. If you go there out of season it is empty, so stay away from Japanese holidays. This is a really beautiful spot for nature lovers. Lakes, riverse, waterfalls, lots of trails in the woods. Most hotels will have hot spring baths.
From Nikko, take a bus going to Chuzenji or to Yumoto Spa. Get off at Chuzenjiko Onsen. Right there will be Kegon Falls and a rope way to a good view of the mountains and lake. The falls are wonderful. From the bus stop you can go right or left around the lake. If you go left you will pass hotels and restaurants and eventually come to a shrine. Keep following the shore of the lake and pass summer houses of various countries. If you go to the right you will pass hotels and restaurants but once out of town you can walk forever. Pick up the “Salamander Trail” (I actually saw one!). This will take you right along the shore of the lake until you come to a ferry boat landing. From there follow the highway and on the right you will come to another waterfall. Follow the river upstream along a very delightful trail. You will come to an area that opens up into a mountain meadow. Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Flowers everywhere, in season. Eventually there will be another waterfall with some shops at the base. Walk up the right side of the waterfall and you will come to another lake. Stay to the right and you will come to Yumoto, just a collection of hot spring hotels. Look for the temple and you will find a swamp with hot springs. This is a long walk but very easy going. Give yourself about five hours, including many stops to eat and take photos. Then take the bus back to Chuzenji or Nikko.
If you want to get away from it all, this is it. Not far, but certainly out of the way. This trip is to Shikoku. Take the Shinkansen to Okayama and change to the train going to Awa-Ikeda, described elsewhere. At Awa-Ikeda station take a bus to Iya Onsen. The bus stop is across the street right next to a big map. (¥ 1000). You will be on the bus for about an hour. It will stop at Iya Onsen which consists of a hotel (expensive) and a rope way down to the river and onsen proper. Even if you are not a lover of hot springs this is worth the trip. At the bottom there are the baths, outside right next to the river in a deep gorge. The water is not super hot and very silky, a great place to sit. There are places to walk, bridges to cross and places to have a picnic.
From the onsen you can continue on by bus (they are not too frequent) or you can walk. After a very pleasant walk (all slightly downhill) of about 3 hours you will come to Kazurabashi which is a bridge made of vines. No big thing, and there is a nice concrete one next to it. There are some inns and this is a good place to spend the night.The next morning you can reverse the trip or continue on to Oboke. To get to Oboke, take a bus (be careful – there are only three a day and the first leaves at 7.30 am). Don’t worry about getting up on time because there is a very loud air raid warning at 6.00 am. The bus will take you up into the mountains and back down again; about an hour. At Oboke there is a boat ride to Koboke and back which is worth it. At Oboke you can get a train back to Awa-Ikeda. They run about every 2 hours.
This is good for some serious hiking or beach sitting. Or spend two days and do both. It is very easy to get to. Take the JR to Omi-Miako. There is one train a day that leaves from Sannomiya and goes directly there about 9.30 am. That’s the quickest way. If you miss that, change at Kyoto for the train to Omi-Miako. At Omi-Miako the beach is one way the mountains are the other. The beach is very long and you can pick your spot depending on the amount of company you want. For the mountains just walk through the rice fields (there is a road) to a very busy highway. At the highway turn left and you will come to a river (there may not be any water). At the river turn right and walk uphill.
This can be a long walk and there is a bus that runs about every hour. It is about an hour’s walk with only one turn; when you come to a house with some vending machines, turn right. This will bring you to a ski-lift. The ski-lift takes you to a rope way, which takes you to the end of the the rope way. There you will find all kinds of trails leading in many different directions. This is not easy walking but it is deep woods, cold streams, a few monkeys and places to camp. At the top of the rope way there is a limited restaurant to the right. There is no map at the top, but trails are well marked in kanji. It would be best to have some kind of map before you start walking. There are probably other ways down but the rope way, ski-lift, and bus is probably the simplest and most relaxing. You can walk for as long as you like on top.