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.
This trip is in the Kyoto area and can take a variety of forms and each one is certainly worth the trip.
Take the JR to Kyoto and change for the train going to Kameoka.
Trip A – get off at Saga station, take the “Romantic Train”; tickets can be bought next to the station. This open air train will follow the river and lets you off a few JR stops upriver and you can return to Saga by non-romantic train. Class 1
Trip B – Get off at Kameoka, about three stops past Saga. After leaving the station turn left and after a short walk there are boats that go down the river. It takes about two hours to get to Arashiyama. Class 1
Trip C – Get off one stop past Saga (Hozukyo??). This station is on a bridge across the river. After leaving the station follow the river (right, uphill). Stay on this road and after you pass a red bridge there will be a turn off on a trail down to a stream. Take this trail and follow the stream – an interesting walk. After about an hour you come to what looks like a village (hotels). Make a sharp turn uphill on a road and eventually through a tunnel. After the tunnel just keep going down hill and you will reach Arashiyama. There are many ways to go. Try to stay right toward the river. Class 3
If you end up in Arashiyama, there is much to see and do; monkeys, row boats to rent, people watching, food and nearby temples, bike rentals at the Hankyu station and the Saga JR station. Return trip can be by the JR Saga station or by Hankyu Arashiyama station. The Hankyu station is across the river to the left. Change at Katsura to the Express train going to Umeda (Osaka), change at Juso or Umeda to the Limited Express back to Kobe.
Awaji is a very large island with many things to see. Once you get away from the coast road it is a rural place. One possible walk will take about two hours once you are on the island. Take the JR to Akashi. Walk toward the harbour away from park-castle towers. There are two feries to Awaji, one for cars and the other for people. The people ferry is on the first big street to the right as you leave the station. It is not a very big place. About a 25 minute ferry ride.
On Awaji, turn right on the road outside the ferry terminal; continue for a short distance and you will come to a shopping street on the left. Follow the shopping street until you come to a stream (encased in concrete). Turn left, following the stream uphill. You will pass a cemetery on the right and then after a little more walking there will be a small bridge on the right. Cross the bridge onto a paved path. Woods, rice fields, an old shrine. Easy walking but uphill. Eventually you will come to an open area of rice fields and roads. There is a temple on a rise to the right that doesn’t look like a temple. Take a left until you reach a T and turn right following the signs to “Awaji Accommodation”. Eventually you will see a sign to a spring; go that way. You will pass some ponds and maybe a cow or two, a swimming pool and not many people. There is a sign to “Eight Mat Rock” – don’t go that way, but go downhill and eventually you will come to another ferry. That ferry (much larger than the Akashi Ferry) will take you to Suma.
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.
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.
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.
Probably my favourite place (at least for now). A place the tourists haven’t found yet. A great place to bring a bottle of wine, a little cheese, and anything else. In winter be ready for snow. There isn’t much there, just the remains of a castle, extensive series of walls, and a wonderful view of the valleys below.
Take the JR to Himeji and change for the Bantan Line going to Todayama. Get off at Takeda (don’t take the express!). From the station you can see the castle walls on the hill across the tracks. There are some stores in the town straight ahead as you leave the station, if you want some food. There are two ways to get to the castle, the woods route and the road route. The woods route: across the tracks there is a shrine (long red steps) and a temple (white wall). Keep the shrine on your right and go along the white wall up the hill. This path will lead through a cedar grove and wind its way up to the castle. The road route: walk straight from the station, make the first right and walk through town. After about ten minutes make a right turn across the tracks and follow the road up the hill to the castle.
Editor’s note: I think George would be both disappointed and amused to know that the tourists have indeed finally discovered this place and it’s now referred to in guide books as the “Machu Picchu of Japan.” It’s heavily promoted by local tourism boards, and now features an extensive system of paths covered with some type of synthetic material and lined with ropes. Kind of a drag since you used to be able to roam freely and have a picnic on the grass. We went on a rainy day and it wasn’t too busy, but it sees a lot of visitors these days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.