Friday, February 2, 2018

My 7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

Since I am spending 6 days in Tokyo, another 5 in Kyoto and 3 days in Osaka (using an Osaka Amazing Pass), it doesn’t make sense for me to activate my Japan Rail Pass any earlier. Hence, I only activated my Japan Rail Pass 2 weeks into my round Japan Trip and it worked exactly like this:
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass


Getting to Hiroshima: 
91-minute journey (one-way) from Shin-Osaka station to Hiroshima station via the Shinkansen
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       Hiroshima is somewhere I’d love to step foot on. Reasons? Other than it being the site of the WW2 atomic bombing, I’ve lived in “ Hiroshima” (a Russian hostel for the past 4 years).
      The good thing about Hiroshima is that they have a lot of volunteer guides waiting at the Shinkansen gate to give everyone a big welcome. Just look for someone in a red vest that says “Hiroshima”. We hopped on to a JR sight-seeing loop bus (free with a JR Pass) to tour the city. It’s a hop-on-hop off bus that access to all the main attractions so I’d say that visiting sights is never more convenient .
       The visit to the lone-standing A-bomb-dome was a emotionally difficult experience. There are still elderly survivors (some in their 80s) walking around the premise, getting as much people as possible to sign a petition to stop nuclear weapon once and for all! There were also elderly sharing their personal gruesome experience in the Peace Memorial Park, I just can’t imagine how painful it is for them to keep telling stories about the past, keep remembering the terrible scenes. But it is all for a good course, for that, I really respect them. Before you go, stop by the Hiroshima Castle if you’ve never been to a Japan Castle. Entrance is free!
       Last but not least, fill your stomach with delicious Okonomiya cooked right in front of you!
Hiroshima Itinerary

Getting to Miyajima: 
21-minute journey via the Cityliner train to Miyajimaguchi, and then a 10 minute JR Ferry to the island.
Spent the night in:  Sakura Ryokan
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       A side trip to Miyajima Island is a must while traveling in Hiroshima. Not only that the ferry to Miyajima is fully covered by your JR Pass, it is home to one of the iconic landmark of Japan: the floating torii gate. The gate can be seen above the water during sunset and visitors can walk to it at sunrise during low tide. And oh don’t get me started on that herd of wild deer! If you’ve missed Nara on your way down, don’t sweat it, you’ve had a similar experience here. The only difference is that the deer here are wilder and they can steal food out of your backpack.
       Those who are obsessed with fresh oyster will definitely LOVE this place. In Miyajima, you can enjoy both its vibrant yet traditional island life and lush greenery at the other side of the island.
Miyajima Itinerary


       We continued exploring the Island of Miyajima in the morning and after checking out, we set out for one of the cutest land on earth, the Rabbit Island, Okunoshima. 

Getting to Okunoshima:
130-minute journey to Tadounomi port via the Sanyo and Kure line and then we used a private ferry across the sea. Kure line is one of those hidden gems on Japan railway tracks. You can enjoy mesmerizing view of the coast while on it!
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       We were a little bumped due to the rainy weather. Most rabbits were hiding in the shades but fortunately, some of them rush up to us when they heard food! There were just a hand full of tourists on the island that they and we were on our own most of the time… that also means undivided attention from the bunnies!
       I know it sounds kinda rush, but if you are not planing to spend a lot of money on the island itself, there were no point staying too long. We hopped on a train to Kumamoto, a long way south. The good thing is, Shinkansen exists.
Okunoshima Itinerary

Getting to Kumamoto: 
164- minute journey to Kumamoto on Shinkansen via Mihara and Hiroshima.
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

Spend the night in:  NEST Kumamoto
I had this little blissful moment when I saw that the water from the tap actually comes from Mount. Aso!


We stopped using the pass for a day because we would love to see the legendary Takachiho Gorge.

Getting to Takachiho: 
Hop on a local bus to Takachiho. The return bus fare is slightly cheaper.
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       In Takachiho Gorge, we rented a boat to catch a closer look at the famous horse-tail waterfall. It was chilly by the water, so be careful not to get too close to the waterfall! Also, we got an opportunity to try the Flowing noodles — Nagashi Soumen!
       Do you know the noodle dish made famous by a Kibune Restaurant in Kyoto is actually created in Takachiho? Thin noodles were plunged into ice cold running water along the bamboo track, as we chased and caught them with our chopstick. Also try the raw-horse sashimi if you are adventurous enough!  
       If you would love to watch a Kagura show in Takachiho shrine, you’ll have to spend the night at Takachiho. The last bus will depart to Kumamoto at 5 while the show starts at 8.
Takachiho Itinerary

       For anyone not interested in Takachiho, Mount Aso can be an excellent alternative. Aso is an active volcano, so bear in mind that you should never ice-cold off the trail. It is possible to visit the crater and watch it boiling up some disasters (I do not know a nicer way to put it, teach me!).  
Spend the night in:  NEST Kumamoto


Getting to Beppu: 
191-minute journey on the Shinkansen and Limited Express train to Beppu. The seats on the limited express train is rotatable!
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       Beppu is an interesting place that deserves more attention. There were 9 natural hot-springs colloquially known as the “Hells" and everyone of them are one of a kind. My favorite was Chinoike-Jigoku hot spring which resembles a lake of blood. Eerie, I know!
       While you are there, definitely try the eggs boiled in those hot spring. They always have this basket full of eggs immersed in the Sea-Hell so it eventually became an iconic sight in Beppu. Free foot bath are everywhere so definitely try those. If you forgot to bring a towel with you, buy one! It can be a cool souvenir too since there are cool wordings printed on the towels!
Beppu itinerary

Getting to Hakata:
132 minute journey on the Yufuin no Mori
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       Although there is also other listed express trains, riding in Yufuin no Mori is an one of a kind experience. The name of this train reflects relaxation, as Yufuin is one of the most reputable onsen in the whole country. The train is build to resemble a "path in the forrest" and it fit the theme by having various shades of green and wood color in the interior. It even has a ceiling-to-floor window for you to marvel at the scenery, that is why Yufuin no Mori is categorized as a sightseeing train!
Yufuin no Mori
Yufuin No Mori Train | Source 
Spent The Night In: Airbnb (Here is a $35 USD Free Credit )


       We spent most of the time exploring Canal City and Hakata City shopping mall. For dinner, it is good to head out to the River and Nakasu Island where you can find many yatai (The famous night street stalls). Those stalls are open until late night so come enjoy a bowl of Hakata specialty Ramen as well as some yakitori (chicken skewers).
       When we were there, Hakata was buzzing with Christmas market everywhere! So we took our time browsing from one stall to another, enjoying their light illumination and guess what, have more ramen!
Hakata Itinerary

Getting on the Sunrise Seto: 
To board the sunrise set, one must first take a Shinkansen to Himeji.
Spent the Night in: The Train
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass
sunrise seto


       One of the many reasons we are on a Sunrise Seto is to save on accommodation. The Sunrise Seto train is one of the only overnight trains left in the whole of Japan, with Tokyo as its last stop. A lot of similar trains unfortunately stopped their services in 2015... As soon as we got off the train, we headed straight to the platform to Kawagoe, a city famous for eel, purple sweet potato, and a love shrine.
Kawagoe Itinerary

Getting to Kawagoe: 
Kawagoe is easily reached on the Saikyo line. For those who are going from Tokyo, it is wiser to invest on a Day Pass that gives you access to the sightseeing loop bus in Kawagoe!
Spent the Night In:  Fine Garden Kuwana
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass


Getting to Nagano: 
Hokuriku bullet train from Tokyo Station (Tokyo) takes 1 hour 20 minutes. However, since I am going from Kawagoe, I took another route:
7 Days Itinerary with a Japan Rail Pass

       Surrounded by soaring high mountains and highlands, Nagano is not short of beautiful sceneries. Reasons to visit Nagano can be summarized into 5 words: Skies, Forest, Times, Hot Spring and Food. In two days time, I am going to experience all 5. Challenging, but possible.
       In Nagano, we stayed in Shibu Onsen which rumors had it, inspired the setting of "Spirited Away", the blockbuster Anime movie. We were lucky enough to witness snow monkeys bathing in Onsen as well as ascend to the Sora Terrace at Ryuoo Ski Park. Zenkoji Temple is an unmissable sight if you are visiting Nagano City as well.
Spent the Night In: Nozaru Onsen Hostel

Read more: 2 days in Nagano 
Nagano Itinerary

Some words for the readers

       Kyushu doesn’t usually make the cut for travelers traveling with a JR Pass but this time I would like to go out of my way to explore some new sights of Japan.
       If it is your first time to the country, this Basic best-of-highlights itinerary will serve you better…. but whatever you ended up doing with your 7-day pass, I am sure that it will be a memorable journey.
All the best!    

The Cost I Cut with this Pass

48280¥ - 29110¥ = 19170¥  ($177 USD)!!!

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This post is made possible by Klook
As always, it is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience


Elaine said...

Thanks for sharing...very informative. Was thinking of Osaka to Hiroshima too.

Akhir said...

Very informative information on this article. Specially Thanks to you
for doing this job and sharing with us.