It is not often the case, that I am two days in a row off from work. But if I am, I really want to use my time as good as possible. When I have just one day, it is not worth it to really travel. You might think, that I’ve already been to so many places here in Japan. That’s true. I think I already saw more, than most of the Japanese people I am working with. Nevertheless, there are many more places that I want to visit. It is for sure, that I will not be able to see them all. Not only because I don’t have time, but also because they are too far away from Kyoto. Nevertheless, I will give my best to use the time I have left to discover Japans further. Who knows if I will ever be back?
I woke up earlier than I planned. Therefore, I went to Kyoto station and took the train to Himeji already before 8am. First, I was convinced to take the Shinkansen straight to Himeji. That’s super quick, but also super expensive. Instead of paying around 6000 yen for a 45 minutes ride I decided to take the JR line for less than 3000 yen and 1,5 hours ride. Because I woke up early, I wasn’t in a rush anyway. Definitely a good option to save a little bit of money. The train ride was pretty chilled anyway. I didn’t need to change the train and just watched Netflix and listened to music.
When I arrived at Himeji, I made my way directly to Himeji Castle, known as the most beautiful castle in Japan. It is so easy to get around Himeji. Basically, everyone is just coming to see the castle, which you already see when arriving at the station. You can just walk 15 minutes straight and you are directly at the entrance. The weather was… I don’t know if I can say good or horrible. I was definitely happy that it didn’t rain yet, because the weather forecast said it is raining all over Japan the next 2 weeks. Therefore, I was super happy. But on the other side, it was freaking hot, so humid and sticky. That’s what everyone was talking about when speaking about the Japanese summer. You can’t breathe and you always feel sticky and tired. Not the kind of summer we know from Europe or somewhere at the beach. And even though it is so hot, the locals are wearing long clothes and most of the time carrying an umbrella.
I paid the entrance fee for the castle and entered. There weren’t too many tourists yet. Thanks god! For me personally, it was definitely the prettiest and most impressive castle I’ve seen in Japan. I mean I can just compare Himeji castle with the castles I saw in Osaka, Hikone and Hiroshima. But Himeji castel in definitely a different level. What makes it so special for me is definitely the size and the pure, white colour. It looks just from a different age. And it is! I heard that in comparison to most of the other castles in Japan, is Himeji castle the only one, which wasn’t affected from any earthquakes, atomic bombs or other natural disasters. It’s nowadays exactly like it was many years ago. Furthermore, the castle was a popular scene for many movies.
I really enjoyed it walking around and of course inside the beautiful, white castle. From the inside, you have a beautiful view over Himeji. At the end, I was lucky to discover the perfect view point. I took a break and got into a talk with two Japanese ladies.
Afterwards I headed to Koko-en garden, which is located directly next to the castle park. It is absolutely worth it to buy the combo-ticket for castle and garden. Koko-en garden is really beautiful, perhaps my favourite Japanese garden I have visited so far. But actually, I have visited so many gardens already, that I can’t even remember all of them. Nevertheless, it was absolutely beautiful and a must see when visiting Himeji.
I walked back through a shopping street to the station and bought the shinkansen ticket to Okayama. I could have taken the JR line again for a cheaper price. But in this case, it was worth it for me to take the more expensive version. It took me less than 20 minutes for a bit more than 3000 yen until I arrived at Okayama. With the JR line it would have taken again 1,5 hours, with one change and for over 2000 yen. No, thanks! From Okayama I took straight the train to Kurashiki, where I arrived around 1:30pm.
Kurashiki is popular for the old town with the canal area. I don’t think it is a must-see destination for tourists, but I really wanted to go there. From the station I headed directly to the Ohashi house. It used to live a wealthy person in the Ohashi house. Nowadays it is open to public and shows a traditional, Kurashiki style, Japanese house. I think I was the only person there at the moment, but it was nice to just walk inside, see all the little tatami rooms and the whole structure of a Japanese house. For me it wasn’t really something new, but I can recommend it to people who haven’t seen a traditional Japanese house yet.
It was just another few minutes’ walk until I reached the old town quarter. I was already fascinated from the first moment I saw all the shops and the canal area. Just beautiful and so much better than I thought it would be. I mean, I saw some pictures on the internet, but nothing captured the atmosphere of Kurashiki old town.
Now I knew where all the people are. But European or American tourist? Not really. It was definitely more a place where Japanese people would make a trip to. Therefore, I got again, more attention than I wanted to get. In the first minute two photographers asked me if they could take a picture of me. Just weird! I felt so uncomfortable. But well. I had a look in some of the cute little stores. There was a store just themed around cats. In the first floor they had also a cat coffee, which is so popular in Japan. It says, that Japanese don’t really have pets because they work so much, don’t have time and space in their home. That’s why there are so many “pet” coffee shops all over Japan.
But the other shops were super nice as well. The whole street smelled of sesame, because someone crashed the sesame to a paste to make sweets out of it. Amazing!
I walked then to go already to my guesthouse I booked for the night, but I couldn’t check in yet. They showed me the accommodation and I could leave my backpack there. It was already 3pm pm or so, but they told me to come back at 6:30 pm. It wasn’t a normal hostel or guesthouse you could find anywhere else in the world. It was 100-year-old, Japanese house. I just wanted to experience it once to sleep with a futon on a tatami floor. In daytime Yurin-an is a restaurant or coffee place, at night it transfers into a guest house. But what should I do until 6:30pm?
I decided to go back to a Family market to buy me some snacks to eat. I just chilled at a public place and ate Onigiri. Then I discovered the old town a bit more. Especially the boat ride tours on the canal are making this place adorable and special. Such a touristy thing to do, but kind of cute anyway.
Kurashiki has many museums to offer as well. As probably many of you know, I am not the biggest fan of museums. Therefore, I wasn’t sure if I should visit one. I googled and found that the Ohara Art museum is a must-see when in Kurashiki. Especially for Japanese people it is a must see, because the museum shows art and paintings from famous European artists like Claude Monet, Picasso or Giacometti. For us probably not as special as for them, but at the end I decided to go inside. Kind of reminded me of my art lessons in school. But I definitely liked it. It was a good alternation to the things I usually do here. Furthermore, I got to see Japanese art and a nice garden as well. But I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures.
Afterwards I just walked around the town and sat on a bench next to the canal and called my mum. There wasn’t something else I wanted to do here, and I just wanted to check in the guesthouse.
The concept of the whole guesthouse is kind of nice. Everyone met each other at 6:30. We sat around the table, filled out a form and paid for the stay. There were just Japanese boys and girls checking in, which made it a little difficult for me to talk with them. But they were super cute. The staff spoke very good English and translated everything for me. We all needed to introduce ourselves and everyone tried to translate it especially for me. So cute!
Afterwards I went into my room, made my bed ready and went for dinner. One staff member recommended me an Udon place, which I already saw at the internet. I went there and it was absolutely delicious. Udon are very popular for Kurashiki. At the end I paid for the bowl of noodles and an onigiri around 600 yen, which is less than 6€. I guess, Japan can be cheap if you know where to go to.
Back at the guesthouse was a presentation about Chocolate, but I just went to my room. It was all in Japanese anyway. Furthermore, I needed to search about the trains I planned to take tomorrow and I needed to go to bed early as well. It was a nice day though. Kurashiki is such a nice little town and I am definitely happy that I came.