Prior to entering Japan we had purchased a seven day Japan Rail pass which we thought would give us the best chance to see as much of Japan as possible. We activated the pass after Tokyo and then took our first bullet train to Osaka which would be our base for 3 nights. Japan Rail is fantastic and we could not praise it highly enough.
The following morning we made the short journey to Kyoto. Our first stop was the nearby bamboo forest which is just a short train ride outside of the city. The trail through the forest is rather special with huge shoots of bamboo mapping out your way through the forest. Whilst in Kyoto, we also went to see the many temples that the city has to offer, although we didn’t quite tick all 1600 off our list.
The next day we took a train to the old capital of Japan, Nara. The city is not only famous for its former capital status but also the ridiculous amount of deer that line the streets. Hundreds upon hundreds. Nara is the home of a number of ancient Japanese temples that you can take in whilst numerous deer try to stick their heads in your pockets to see if you have any deer cookies, which is the local deer delicacy. And yes we did see bambi to Nicole’s delight.
After a night exploring of exploring Osaka, we took the train to one of the best spots in Japan for an onsen, Kinosaki. An onsen is a cross between a natural hot spring and a huge public bath and taking a dip in one of them is a favourite Japanese past time. They are usually divided into male and female sections and you are also provided with a pair clogs to walk around in and something like this to wear in between each onsen. Also, I forgot to mention, you have to be naked to enter the onsen! So once you get used to all of the nakedness, the boiling temperature of the water (how do the Japanese manage!?) and rolling your ankle each time you wear the miniature clogs, it really is quite relaxing.
From Kinosaki we took a train south to Hiroshima. On August 6th 1945, just shortly after 8am, the first atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima and completely destroyed the city. The detonation of a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki brought about the surrender of Japan and the end of the World War Two. Hiroshima has now been completely rebuilt and the city is now seen as a beacon of peace. Whilst in Hiroshima we visited the peace museum and surrounding park, and also what is now known as the atomic dome, which was one of the only buildings not flattened by the force of the blast. The city provides you with a chance to reflect and whilst perhaps idealistic in nature, the world is surely a better place without nuclear weapons. We should never forget the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and make sure the devastation never happens again.
The following day we took the ferry to a nearby island, Miyojima. The island has a famous shrine that looks like it is floating on water and this is one of the top three views in Japan, as voted for by the Japanese. However, we were equally as impressed by the low-lying clouds that were rolling in off the nearby mountains.
So that was our whistle stop seven day tour of Honshu. Whilst Tokyo is a city that is constantly looking to the future, travelling outside of the capital allows you to see the beauty, but also the horror of Japan’s past.
You can see our Honshu highlights by watching our Youtube video below!