A September 2003 trip
to Japan by Composthp
Quote: Japan is one of the few remaining Asian countries untouched by SARs. Only visitors from the SARs affected countries of Hong Kong, China and Taiwan are required to declare themselves in health declaration forms upon arrival to all airports in Japan. They are also required to produce a medical certification of their health status. However, there are calls by local prefecture government bodies for more stringent health screening for all visitors.
We explored Honshu, via the Shinkansen Sanyo-line over 9 days, beginning in Osaka, Kurashiki, Hiroshima, Iwakuni, Miyajima and finally Hakata, Fukuoka before zipping back to Osaka again.
We stayed in business hotels while in Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata. Ask for ryokan-styled rooms as they are cheaper and more spacious. We booked the hotels mainly here.
A very useful resource (besides the Lonely planet guidebook) is the Japan National Tourist Organisation. This website offers up-to-date information on everything that matters to travellers planning to visit Japan.
Shopping in Japan need not be limited to merely window-shopping. Look out for their 100 yen (US.85) and 1000 yen (US.50) shops that offer value for money goods from Hello Kitty stationery to common household items to fashionable streetwear and accessories.
Hakata's Kawabata (about 20 minutes walk from JR Hakata station, next to Canal city) remains my favorite place to shop. It is the oldest shopping arcade in Hakata and goods offered are of reasonable price (a pair of comfortable Ecco shoes that I have been eyeing on cost 3000 yen cheaper than in Hiroshima).
Besides a good pair of walking shoes, the keyword is "pack light" for ease of travelling across Japan. Trains and local transportation do not have much space allowances for huge pieces of luggage. Trolley bags are the norm in Japan (they are also less strenous for a bad back).
In the larger towns/cities of Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata, purchase the cost-saving 1 day pass that allows unlimited travel for the day on local subway/trams.
Alternatively, you can call the ryokan upon arrival and they will pick you in their cute little mini-van to the ryokan or catch a taxi which costs just 710 yen (US$5) if you cannot get a hold of them (most unlikely).
We booked online here.
For the price of 13,000 yen per person per night, we enjoyed a delicious home-cooked Japanese-styled dinner made from the freshest ingredients found locally (including miso soup with clams dug from the Itukushima Shrine at low tide!) as well as a hearty western breakfast of scrambled eggs, thick slices of toast, jam, butter, juice, yogurt, fresh fruits and more the next day.
Our room has a little balcony, ensuite bath and toilet and its very own koi pond. Maple trees gave us the privacy to enjoy our little piece of serenity. A welcome snack of momiji-manju (local specialty) and green tea greeted us upon check in. Service was very efficient, we hardly noticed when our futons were laid out and cleared the next day.
This is a ryokan for the romantic and for family. They have meals and rooms catered even for the budget conscious. The location is perfect for hikers who plan to trek Mt Misen or for purely relaxation purposes.
It was with much reluctance for us to say farewell the next day. We were whizzed back to the pier in no time at all, through the narrow paths and roads in their little mini-van. Just in time to catch the next ferry back to mainland Hiroshima for our next destination.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
We caught the next available cable-car to the Monkey park at the summit (departs every 15 minutes). There, we were greeted by red-faced monkeys huddled together for warmth. Visitors are encouraged to leave their bags in the provided lockers but camaras are allowed. However, feeding the animals are forbidden.
The view from the Monkey park observatory was suppose to include the entire island, even till Hiroshima in the mainland. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and the sweeping views of the island and beyond was obscured by fog.
We purchase a one-way ropeway ticket from the vending machine at the ropeway station. It costs 1000 yen one way or 1700 yen for a return trip.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
Momiji Tani Park
Miyajima-cho, Japan 739-0500
+81 (0)82 944 0316
Take note of the tide times recorded at the pier on both sides (Mainland and at Miyajima) for the breathtaking vista of the floating O-torii at high tide.
At low tide, you can walk out onto the beach right up to the O-torii itself. Locals equipped with water-proof rubber boots, pails, gloves and spades can be seen digging for local sweet clams industriously while tourists equipped with the latest photographic gadgets are busy snapping photos of the O-torii.
Hiroshima, Japan 739-0500
+81 (0)829 44 2020
Attraction | "Miyajima town"
Deer roam the streets freely and will gather round anyone with food. There are signs warning visitors against provoking them, particularly those with antlers. However, most animals are tame and harmless.
While strolling through town, we witnessed one kind-hearted soul who went to a booth near the Itsukushima Shrine to purchase food for the deer. She soon found herself surrounded by a small herd of deer and a flock of pigeons; waiting inpatiently for her to conclude her purchase. The deer followed her closely and even nudged at her for food. Needless to say, she freaked out and started running towards her group of friends while scattering food enroute. It was a hilarious sight, she, running with food trailing behind, followed closely by the deer and a flock of pigeons. This scene was again repeated later in the afternoon on another unsuspecting visitor. In short, if you must feed the local wildlife, be prepared to be stalked.
Souvenirs to bring home:
Miyajima town is well-known for Momiji Manju, a maple leaf-like shape of sweet cake filled with red/green bean paste. There are numerous shops making these sweet snack at practically every corner of the town. You can smell the fragrance of freshly baked Momiji Manju and hear the cling-clang of the hot iron moulds even before reaching the shops. A box of eight Momiji manju costs about 600 yen (US$7) and keeps up to one week.
Besides Momiji manju, Miyajima is well known for its huge oysters served with a squeeze of lemon (US$2/oyster) or cooked in assorted Japanese dishes available in most restaurants. The town is also famed for wooden rice scoops: the technique of making it was said to have originated from a Buddhist priest named Seishin during the Edo period. Look for the largest wooden rice scoop in the world sandwiched between rows of souvenir shops. These rice scoops make great souvenirs and are regarded as good luck tailsmans.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 28, 2003
Hiroshima, Japan 739-0500
+81 (0)829 44 2011 (