Visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima should be on everyone’s itinerary. Hiroshima has one of the saddest reminders of what humans can do to each other during war. Miyajima is the reminder of beautiful things humans can create. Both can be done in one day if you are on a tight schedule. We arrived at Hiroshima station in the morning and went straight to Miyajima. You need to take a local train to Miyajima-Guchi station and then follow the signs to the ferry to Miyajima Island. The JR Hiroshima Kansai Pass is valid on both the train and the ferry. Getting their is really a no-brainer if you understand the Japanese train system.
If you think all deer are innocent beautiful creatures like Bambi, a visit in Nara will make you reconsider. I recommend Nara to all my friends. It should be a must-see item on everyone’s bucketlist. Not only do you get to see beautiful shrines and temples amid lush nature, you also get to interact with deer and by interact I mean try to feed one, get surrounded by many, get bitten on your behind and try to get away from them while they follow you begging for more deer-cookies and bowing their heads Japanese style. What a fun day!
Nara is one of my favorite destinations. We went there twice and I wouldn’t mind a third visit. The town is pretty small and it is easy to walk to the park from the station. You can get a city map at the information counter which shows you the best walking route. Most of the attractions are located in the park and surrounded by crowds of tourist and deer. The tourists start to disappear when you get deeper into the park since most come to visit the Todaiji Temple (東大寺, Tōdaiji, “Great Eastern Temple”), the deer on the other hand are everywhere. And I love it!
Himeji Castle (姫路城 Himeji-jō) is a hilltop Japanese castle located in the city of Himeji. It is also known as “White Heron Castle” because of its white exterior. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. Furthermore, it was never destroyed by war or fire and is one of Japan’s twelve original castles. If these reasons are not enough for you to put Himeji on your Japan Bucketlist, I hope my beautiful photos will convince you. Going to Himeji was a right decision this time. It is stunningly beautiful and I couldn’t get enough of it. I hope to be able to see all the other original castles in the future.
In an unfortunate turn of the events we went to Kōbe during a typhoon. Sh*t happens. I didn’t mind the rain, but the wind was so strong, it was not safe to be running outside. Be sure to check the weather forecasts when you go to Japan. It might be dangerous to run around during strong typhoons and you will spend your vacation in your hotel room, if you don’t plan accordingly. Lucky for us the typhoon passed Kōbe in late afternoon.
Turns out Kōbe has a great underground shopping area aka Santika underground shopping mall, which is a freaking maze with different floor levels. You can spend the whole day there without going outside. It seems all locals had the same idea. The shopping mall was crowded with all kinds of people enjoying their free time. We spend half a day walking around and even landed in an Otaku shopping area at some point. Yes, Maid Cafes are a real thing in Japan. No, we didn’t go to one. Managed to scare a maid while walking by though.
Arashiyama is a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto. It is easy to reach from the Kyoto station with the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line), which goes to the Saga-Arashiyama station. If you are visiting Kyoto, you should take a day to go there. There are a lot of must-see places, including the famous Bamboo Forest, Togetsukyo Bridge and Monkey Park Iwatayama (my personal highlight). There are also beautiful temples like Tenryuji Temple or Daikakuji Temple.
Sounds crazy, right? But if you have very limited time and want to see as much as you can it is possible to visit Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kōbe, Himeji and Hiroshima/Miyajima in just 5 days! While you might need 5 days just for Kyoto alone, if you are visiting for a second time or want to see as much of the region as possible, you might try my crazy itinerary.
If you are thinking on visiting some other places rather than Seoul, Gyeongju (경주시) might be a good choice. The city offers many historical sites from the Silla Dynasty such as Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa temple, the Royal Tomb Complex, the Cheomseongdae, which is one of the oldest astronomical observatories in East Asia and the Anapji royal pond garden. I have been to all of these sites before and they are all interesting, but if you have limited time, I recommend visiting these three: Anapji, Seokguram and Bulguksa. I wish I had photos of all of these attractions, but the first time I was there I had a really old camera and the photos are not presentable. This time we picked the day with the worst weather and it was raining cat’s and dog’s by the time we were finished with Seokguram and on our way to the Tombs. All sights are in the open and it was not worth getting soaked in the rain.