Transportation Tip: JR Rail Pass

Train is the best way to travel around Japan. The infrastructure is clean, fast and comprehensive. English signs are everywhere: at the stations; in the trains.

If you are in Japan for at least a week and visiting several cities, the JR Rail Pass will likely be an advantage. I pay for the Pass in Australia, collect it in Japan from a listed train station.

japan rail pass

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Japan has everything I look for in travel: nature, culture, food, facilities and people. It is very safe. Signs are in English. Transportation is easy. People are considerate. Food is delicious.

My highlights begin at Hiroshima. The city that witnessed the world's first atomic bombing on 6 August, 1945. Today, the Peace Memorial Park is a relevant reminder. An inspiration for nuclear disarmament in the world. There are several monuments including the famous A-Bomb Dome; one of few buildings that stood after the bomb exploded 600 metres above the city.

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

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The Takayama Spring Festival or 'Sanno Matsuri' is a traditional festival held every year on the 14 and 15 April. It is famous for its floats or 'yatai'. Preserved since the festival beginnings over 300 years ago.

Three yatai near the centre of town provide a 50-minute marionette performance, once in the morning then again in the afternoon.

Yatai during the Sanno Matsuri festival in Takayama

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Ainokura is a remote mountain village of twenty 'gassho-zukuri' houses, most of which are 100 to 200 years old. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the village is my highlight in Japan.

After boarding the bus from Shirakawago, I arrive at the stop. The friendly driver pointing me in the village direction. A short walk later, my first sight of Ainokura.

Late afternoon at Ainokura village

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The mountain village in Shirakawago is both an inhabited village and tourist attraction. Famous for its traditional 'gassho-zukuri' houses, it is listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Traditional gassho-zukuri houses at Shirakawago

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Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's original castles. Listed as a National Treasure, it is worth my stay. A striking black rather than the usual white, it is situated within a moat on all four sides. The only path to the Castle is by bridge. Then a lovely walk to the entrance.

Entrance to Matsumoto Castle from the garden

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Kanazawa is a picturesque city that exudes culture without the crowds. It has three chaya districts. Chaya being a tea house where the geisha performs. While I didn't see an actual geisha, I imagine one at the former tea house turned museum, Ochaya Shima. Located at the biggest chaya district, Higashi.

Ochaya Shima at the Higashi Chaya District, Kanazawa

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Kyoto is a city with over a thousand temples and shrines. The difference according to the dictionary, is that temples are buildings devoted to worship; shrines are places regarded as holy. My definition from general observations in Kyoto, is that temples cost money while shrines are free.

Of the sites I visited, my favourite was the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

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