When sketching out this five day trip of western Japan I thought I’d spend a day in Hiroshima to recover from the epic 16 hour local train trip from Tokyo. Having been to Hiroshima countless times though, there was nowhere I really wanted to go other than the pizza vending machine, so I decided that I should move on and explore pastures new.
10 hours was all I actually spent at my in-laws apartment but it felt sufficient enough. The views to wake up to were as glorious as usual but ones that I’d enjoyed many times in the past (and no doubt will do in the future) and didn’t need to experience for any more time on this trip. Time to explore other areas whilst I was alone.
At Hiroshima Station I sampled a very nice ¥290 lemon crème marche (half cream puff and half custard cone) at Quatre Feuille patisserie.
Thanks to the Rambling Northerner blog I knew there was a highway bus to Matsue in Shimane prefecture for an unbelievably cheap ¥500! Sadly this is only available for foreign tourists showing their passports. I tried to get the one coin deal by saying my passport was back in my hotel and pretending that I didn’t mind parting with the full ¥3,900. No sympathy at all as it failed miserably which was what I expected. It did kind of annoy me that they just assume every foreigner is a visitor to the country and I wonder how the locals actually feel about having to pay eight times the price of someone who is here for a short time.
Of course a city like Matsue wants to make itself more appealing for international visitors who would probably not visit it without such a deal but the disparity in prices for tourists and residents is ridiculous to say the least! Similarly, the JR Rail Pass has been around for a long, long time now. It gives international visitors unlimited transport on the vast majority of Shinkansen (bullet train) services and JR local trains for a set price. However, those people who live here, pay taxes and use the service more have to pay a much higher price. In other countries like India and Vietnam I have encountered the opposite whereby the visitors price is much higher than what the locals pay. Basically, I’ve never been able to take advantage of such a scheme and that is maybe what irks me the most!! Rant over!
It was a three hour bus ride from Hiroshima Station and as I boarded the driver wrote 24b on my ticket. I went and sat in that seat at the back but then he came and said it was 24d despite clearly writing 24b. I guess it’s not just Japanese kids who mix up their b’s and d’s! The thing was the bus was, apart from 2-3 other passengers, deserted! This is Japan though, rules are rules and there’s very little room for manoeuvre within them!
It’s not so normal to talk about going to the toilet but when I went down to the back of the bus and opened the door I was quite surprised. I was expecting the usual tight, uncomfortable experience but this one was the most spacious one I’ve seen on any mode of transport!
Some of the scenery along the way was beautiful and I was wondering what I’d let myself in for as we passed through snowy landscapes as I was really not equipped for such conditions.
On my arrival at 1:30 pm I had planned to actually take a bus to the castle but it didn’t come as expected so I decided to just walk there and I’m glad I did so. I found ¥50 on the way too. Result!! The scenery was wonderful helped by the sight of the Mount Fuji-like white-capped peak of Mount Daisen. There were more good views of it once I reached the castle grounds.
The first place I saw within the castle grounds was the splendid Kounkaku (Koun Palace) which was built in 1903 and acted as a State Guest House for the arrival of someone important in the early 20th century if I can be so vague!
Experience has taught me to not bother going in any more castles but it’s always nice to see them from the outside. I was impressed by the appearance and surroundings of this particular castle which is the second largest, 3rd tallest, and the fifth oldest of the 12 remaining originals in Japan.
The guy in the pictures below was presumably only on hand to be included in visitor’s photographs. I took just one of him at first but he insisted I be in one with him.
Beyond the castle to the north was Jozan inari jinja shrine which turned out to be something of a highlight for me in this city. A couple of pictures are shown below but click here to see the full post.
As I was walking to the bus stop after that I came across these interesting light bulb drinks on sale at a kiosk. For all I know these are probably on sale back in Tokyo but I had certainly never seen them before so couldn’t resist buying one. My first two choices had already sold out so I settled for some orange juice and ice! There is a button on the bottom which you push and it makes the bulb light up and flash which is pretty cool.
From there I took a bus south of the station to Yaegaki-jinja Shrine which is also an interesting and fairly unique place. Click here to read about that.
After searching online for things to eat in Matsue, nothing too appealing or uniquely different came up so I found a place in the station and settled for a warigo soba set meal (¥1000) which also included chicken soy rice, Shinji Lake freshwater clam miso soup and some other stuff. A reasonable deal I felt and all nice enough but I can rarely taste too much difference between all these soba noodle dishes around the country!
Afterwards I still had some room so I went to the convenience store and picked up this interesting looking karaage-man thing (below) among other things and took the party-for-one back to my hotel room.
My hotel (Hotel Knut) was just a minute from the station and when I returned there I was quite surprised to see that it was relatively busy downstairs in the cafe bar part. I had to plan out the next day though which meant an early start and another busy day.
When I woke the following morning I realised I’d never looked out the window the day before. I guess this comes from years of staying in such cheap places and never having any kind of view. I was therefore quite surprised to actually have a view of the city but sadly the weather was very wet and grey as I checked out, went round the corner and took a bus to Sakaiminato which proved to be an interesting journey.
Click here to read ‘Taking Japan’s Most Terrifying Bridge En-Route To Supernatural Monster City’