From Osaka, we took the Shinkansen train 1.5 hours west to Mihara and then the local train along the coast to Tadanoumi, a very small quaint coastal town by the Seto Inland Sea. We walked around the entire town in about an hour. It was nice to see what a small town by the coast was like and we used Tadanoumi as our base for several day trips. Tadanoumi Harbor On our first day trip, we took the ferry to Okuno-jima (or Ōkunoshima) island, also known as Rabbit Island. As soon as we got off the ferry, we were greeted by several enthusiastic bunnies, looking for treats. It took us about 2 hours to walk around the entire island and feed the many rabbits along the way. The dark side of this little bunny island is its history. From 1929 to 1945, the island was used as a location for producing poison gas for chemical warfare. Although Japan signed the Geneva treaty in 1925 banning chemical warfare, they used it in the Sino-Japanese war (1937 – 1945) killing according to some estimate 80,000 people. We visited the small museum and got a glimpse of the terror inflicted by chemical warfare. As we exited the museum, we saw a memorial and a sign declaring that all wars meaningless. Down the rabbit hole Sunset over Seto Inland Sea Snack time WWII bunker Tourist time The second day trip was to Mihara. It is mostly an industrial port town with a few temples, shrines and the remains of a castle that was built in 1582. At the end of the day we checked out the local AEON shopping mall. In the bakery section, we were surprised to see one of the attendees running out to greet us. It was after she removed the mask covering her face, that we recognized the daughter of the restaurant owner where we had dinner the night before in Tadanoumi. We very much enjoyed this random meeting. Walking through the food court, we decided to try the “Hiroshima” version of the Okonomiyaki. The big difference is that the Hiroshima version has either yakisoba or udon noodles and the Osaka version does not. Seto Inland SeaOn the way to Mihara on the train AeonSupermarket with surprises MiharaPart of the remaining castle wall PerfectionIf you have a $100 to spare you can get one. On the third day trip, we went to Takehara, a beautifully well-preserved historic district from the Edo period (1603-1868). The merchants during that time made their wealth with salt productions and since the late 19th century, they make great sake. We bought three different sakes to try out. We had a good time chatting with the ladies that sold it to us, and they recommended we should visit another small town called Ononimichi. Much later and after many different tastings, it turned out that our favorite sake is from Takehara. Takehara Takehara Takehara Takehara Takehara Takehara Takehara For our fourth day trip we wanted to go to some of the small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. However, after doing our research we discovered that we would need a couple of extra days since the ferries were infrequent. So instead we took the suggestion from the Sake ladies and went to Onomichi which is just one stop east of Mihara. We picked up a map from the tourist center and walked “The Old Temple Walk Course”. There were lots of up and down the hills and stairs. Along the path, we saw many temples, cemeteries, old houses, and small streets that cars couldn’t access. We had a fantastic view of the city from Senkoji Temple. We spent a great day in Onomichi and when we got home, we toasted to the good advice from the Sake ladies. Onomichi Old Temple Walk CourseIn Onimichi Onomichi Onomichi Hard at workIn Onomichi All needles upIn Onomichi Onomichi temple walk Our last full day in Tadanoumi, we hiked up Mt Kurotaki, 266 meters (872 feet) above sea level. An easy and relaxed hike up on a cloudy day which made for perfect temperatures. On Mt. Kurotaki Mt. Kurotaki path Tadanoumi The local shrine in Tadanoumi It took us two hours on a local train to reach Hiroshima from Tadanoumi and cost only 1,340 yen ($12.27). The Shinkansen is expensive, but we found local trains to be reasonably priced. Evening in Hiroshima We arrived in Hiroshima the day before Vanessa’s birthday. Since we didn’t want to spend her birthday in the city, we had planned to take a day trip out of the city. After an hour by streetcar, we reached the port where we took a 10-minute ferry ride to the island Miyajima. Its most iconic “floating" torii gate was still under construction and was completely covered up. We avoided the high-priced tourist traps and instead enjoyed a stroll throughout the island. We watched the domesticated deer chase school kids, strolled through the delicately manicured temple gardens, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and sunset. For dinner we went back to Hiroshima and celebrated in style with a Japanese Kobe beef BBQ. Vanessa also had her first beef sushi. Delicious! Floating Torii GateMiyajima Miyajima When you can't see the tree for the branchYes, that's one branch! Miyajima Up the mountainMiyajima Miyajima Miyajima Clip-clop with the latest fashion accessories Kobe beef In total we spent four days in Hiroshima. We visited the Shukkeien Garden, the Peace Memorial Park, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Memorial Hall, and of course, the museum. Together with the chemical warfare museum in Ōkunoshima we were saturated of this sad chapter of human nature. The Atomic Bomb DomeHiroshima Hiroshima Hiroshima Children's Peace Monument Hiroshima Cenotaph for the A-bomb VictimsHiroshima Shukkeien GardenHiroshima Shukkeien GardenHiroshima Shukkeien GardenHiroshima From Hiroshima, we went to Himeji to see the castle. But what we had planned as a one day stop on our way back to Osaka became two days. The typhoon Hagibis was approaching Japan and we decided to play it safe and book an extra night at the hotel. It was a good decision, shortly after we saw on news that all local trains and the shinkansen were cancelled for the next day. In the end we were lucky. Hagibis delivered mostly rain and some strong winds in the region where we were. The greater Tokyo region did not fare as well. As Hagibis was making its landfall, a 5.7 earthquake hit the region at the same time. The damages were awful. Himeji Castle Himeji Castle is one of the best-preserved castles of its time period, construction dates to the 14th century. Today, it is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. We were able to climb up all seven stories and see the original pillars inside the castle. Throughout the grounds, there are 27 towers, 21 gates and 11 wells.
Himeji Castle Himeji Castle Himeji Castle Himeji Castle During the many train rides, we noticed how the train crew would always bow as they would enter or exit a wagon. A friend told us, it shows respect, but it also says that “I am sorry for having interrupted you”. When we looked it up, there are many reasons why the Japanese bow. Here are just a few reasons to bow: to show respect, to express gratitude, to say goodbye, and to offer an apology. The length and depth of a bow is important and will vary based on who you are bowing to. Our friend Nigel, a long-term resident, jokingly told us: “You know you have been living a long time in Japan when you start bowing while speaking on the telephone.” Tell me your secretThe flapping of butterfly wings The day after the typhoon passed, all trains were back to normal schedules and we safely made our way back to Osaka. More on that in the next blog post.
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