September 26th, 2011


Trip to Japan

It's time for our big vacation for this year. And of course, Japan is our favourite destination. We wanted to see more of western Honshu and perhaps a bit of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea. We've contacted our usual travel agent, and we've hammered out a schedule!

We'll fly out on October 18th from Schiphol, arriving at Kansai International Airport on the 19th. We'll be staying in Osaka that night, in the same Ryokan where we stayed for a week in the spring of 2010. It's conveniently situated close to Tennoji station, with a regular train service from and to the airport. We'll ship off our big luggage to Kyoto and then take the train to Mt. Koya.

Mt. Koya is the place where the first temple of the dominant Buddhist sect in Japan was built. It's an important pilgrimage starting point, but it also has lots of temples and prestigious graveyards. In fact, the Lonely Planet guide for Japan lists a night stroll through the graveyards at Mt. Koya as one of the ten must-do things in Japan. We'll be sleeping in a temple there (vegetarian temple meals included), and we'll be getting up at 06:30 to hear the monks sing the sutras. And with any luck, we'll be able to enjoy the autumn foliage there too! We'll be staying there for two nights.

Then we'll take the train to Kyoto. Originally, the travel agent wanted to put us up in Yuhara, but after finding ticks in the tatami there in 2008 and the owner choosing to not understand what we were saying when we complained about it, we're not too keen on returning there (though I hear it's since been renovated). Instead, we're staying in the Kyoto Karasuma Hotel, which is situated in the city centre, mere steps away from a subway station and bus stops for all the major attractions.
We're arriving the 22nd of October there, and that's the day of the Jidai Matsuri. We're trying to arrange to be there in time for the parade!
We'll be staying in Kyoto for four days. One of the things we're going to do is a ride with a steam-train into one of the mountains that surround Kyoto and then take a boat back to the Arashiyama area -- apparently lots of autumn foliage along that river too!

Then we'll go to Shodoshima. Our travel agent didn't have any experience with that island, but it seemed like a good place for us. Relatively small, with enough to see and do -- like Shikoku, Shodoshima has their own 88 temple route. We're staying for thee days in a simple minshuku there, and we intend to hire bicycles to get around.

Then we'll take the ferry to Okayama, which has one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. We stay one night there.

Then it's off to Hiroshima. We're staying there for three nights. One day we're going to Okunoshima, an island where chemical weapons were produced in WW2. When they stopped doing that, they abandoned the island, leaving the factories to crumble. They also freed all the rabbits used for testing, so there are lots of bunnies! Another day we're going to visit Miyajima (with the famous floating torii), supposedly very beautiful.

Then it's back to Osaka, where we stay for another two nights in the ryokan there. We're flying back on November 4th.
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