Today is about travel, mostly, so I’m also going to share a series of tips and important “ah-hah” moments that we’ve gathered throughout our travels. Think of it as my way of covering about eight hours of train travel. So, here’s a list. Afterwards you’ll find the recollection of today’s travels. And pictures, of course.
1. The first tip I think everyone needs to know is that in Japan all of the trains stop running about 11pm, and in towns other than Tokyo it can be as early as 9pm. No buses, nothing except taxis. For this reason basically all businesses close between 8pm-10pm (except small mom and pop shops that may close at 6). Some bars are the exception, but be prepared to ride a taxi and pay 20% extra after hours.
2. Second, in Japan the money is in coin form until you get to 1000 yen (the equivalent right now of a little more than $10). This means you could find yourself with several handfuls of change worth a lot more than the U.S. equivalent. Bring a change purse, especially one of a size that you can stick it in your pocket.
3. The Japanese are very helpful and if you ask for directions they will all try to help you. However, if they don’t exactly know where it is, they will still try to help you. We have found that the safest people to ask are the hotel front desk and the JR information desk (in train stations). They will have maps.
4. This leads me to #4. Maps in Japan are really confusing because they don’t have a cardinal rule about which direction is up. Which means you might have a fun time figuring out the orientation of your map. And you can walk along a street and four maps depicting the area will all be rotated differently.
5. The JR rail pass is a magical thing you buy outside of Japan and exchange inside Japan in order to ride the JR rails/buses/ferries free for a set period of 7, 14 or 21 days. However, since you can’t ride the Nozomi (the fastest train), the JR pass is only worth the money if you travel like I do and hit several cities in only a few days. If you’re just going to Tokyo or between Tokyo and Kyoto for example, it isn’t going to pay for itself.
6. 7-11. It’s a tip all its own. They have delicious food items like onigiri, and they have the only ATMs that are 24-hours. Also if you have a bank that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or ATM fees, you can get your money exchanged from their ATMs for almost the exact exchange rate. That’s a lot better deal than any cash exchanger.
7. Hotel front desks will hold your luggage for you even if you arrive too early to check in. So you can travel like I do and see the city the same day you arrive, without lugging around a bunch of large bags. Most hotels are pretty stickler about not letting you check in until time.
8. Wifi is really hard to find and virtually never free. Even hotels will usually have LAN rather than wifi in the rooms, so if you need internet consider bringing a device with a LAN plugin. Otherwise, internet cafes are around and not too expensive (usually 350jpy/person/hour and include access to snacks/drinks) but you have to use their computers.
9. When booking hotels in several cities, make sure you read their reviews on a place like TripAdvisor. The reviews will usually describe where the hotel is and how to get there, which can help immensely if you don’t want to walk 67 blocks from the station.
10. Wear good walking shoes–you could be walking 10-12 miles a day!
Now, on to Hiroshima and beyond.
Aubri was very antsy this morning, so I had to distract her while Jamie finished getting ready. She perked up when I played “catch” with her for a while.
We hopped the local back to Okayama and an express line Mizuho to Hiroshima. That total travel time wasn’t bad–about an hour and 45 minutes. So we left right at 8 and arrived at 10 ish.
Also we took a picture of Totoro cakes.
We went to Hiroshima last time we were there, so we were only stopping in for lunch on our way to Miyajima. Last time we went to Okonomimura, which is kinda like the Raumen Stadium in that it houses the “best of the best.” We didn’t really want to walk that far, so we settled for a place by the station.
That was a mistake because they weren’t nearly as delicious. After going to the other place I was inspired to make my own–Jamie and I agree that it tastes better too. I’ll share that recipe some time.
Anyway, we snagged a charm of Hello Kitty on an Okonomiyaki and hit the 26-minute local train to Miyajima. After that it’s a five minute walk to the ferry (which is also free on a JR pass) to get to Miyajima where the Torii Gate in the Sea is. And we took a few pictures, of course:
Rabid killer snack attacking deer…
I want your snacks!
Proof we’re all three on this trip!
The floating temple has support beams that allow it to appear to be floating when the tide is higher.
And then of course we had to get some snacks–like sakura ice cream that had actual pieces of blossom and leaf in it. Delicious!
Then we saw some deer try to enact a heist of all the sweet treats:
And we saw the world’s largest rice paddle because they invented those here?
But finally it was time to move on, reverse course, go back on the ferry…the local train back to Hiroshima…a shinkansen to Shin-Osaka (full circle!)…another shinkansen to Kyoto. But they let Aubri drive.
And then I realized our hotel was actually a few stations down on a local line, so another 20 minute train ride to get to the hotel.
Yeah, it was a lot of train travel. So we settled in to a really swanky drinking/eating establishment next to the station. We got our own little room.
And the food was delicious.
Look at this kid’s meal! Shrimp fried rice, chicken skewers and french fries!
But Aubri was exhausted, so it was time to head for bed…
Tomorrow: Kyoto, Pt. 1!