Seishun 18

Adventure 18 Day Five | Naoshima Now

Thursday

I woke up really early (apologies once again, hostel buddies) and caught the 7:37 train from Hiroshima, using my trusty Seishun 18 Kippu. I stopped at Hiro station and left my luggage there, running to catch the next local train to the ferry port.

Naoshima is an island so sleepily inaka you would never guess it plays host to such big name works and museums. The streets of the town around the edge of the island are quiet except for visitors and volunteer guides. The streets that cut across the island are empty and lined by trees and rice paddies.  I rented a bike for 500 yen to make my way across the island. It was a wonderful day biking through the streets and seeing the water – both exhilarating and calming.

My favourite place I visited was Minamidera, part of the Art House Project. People are allowed to enter in fifteen minutes intervals and I waited in line watching the group ahead of me leave the building looking dazed. When it was our group’s turn to enter the guide gave us some brief instructions, telling us that it is dark inside and we wouldn’t be able to see anything. We followed her voice, our hands running against the wall to our left. After entering the building we took a few turns until eventually we were in complete blackness. Eventually we were instructed to sit down on a bench and slide until we reached a wall.  The group had been giggly and talkative before at first but everyone fell silent as our eyes struggled to see. I’ve never experienced so much darkness, being able to see absolutely nothing. After about five minutes of searching my eyes started to pick up some light at the end of the room. My brain strained to process the shape and make it clear. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the light and I could see the vague presence of my hands. Not what they looked like, but that they were slightly different looking than the area around them. After a few minutes the guide asked us if we could see a light and everyone said YES practically yelling. Ok, you can stand up she said, and we all stood up excitedly and shuffled towards the light. I still couldn’t see well but I could see the forms of people around me, feel their movement and hear them talking excitedly to each other. It was a really unique sensory experience and unlike anything I’ve done before. After a few minutes I made my way out of the building, blinking in a daze just like the people before me.

I finished the day off at I ♥ Yu (you can see pictures here!) which combines three of my favourite things – puns, onsen, and art. The pun is that in Japanese, yu means hot water – a joke I wish I had coined. After biking and walking all day it felt wonderful to shower and sit in the hot water of the onsen. Bonus was the giant elephant statue above my head. I called it a day in the late afternoon, catching a ferry around 5:00 and making the trek from Tadanoumi to Hiro station, and eventually all the way to Himeji at 10:00.

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Adventure 18 Day Two | Bunny Mania

Monday

Left the hostel in the morning and headed to the station.

9:07 am – Depart from Hayashima -> 9:19 Arrive at Okayama station

9:31  – Depart from Okayama -> 11:09 Arrive Mihara station (Rush out of the station to put my luggage in a locker)

11:21 – Depart Mihara station -> 11:44 Arrive Tadanoumi

12:30 – Take the ferry from Tadanoumi port to Okunoshima

Proceed to live out bunny heaven.

Bunny island is a lot of fun and lived up to my expectations. Do be fair, my expectations were a little lower after experiencing the deer in Nara, which are like aggressive squirrels in larger form. The bunnies on the island looked really healthy and were very gentle when approaching and taking food. They were got a little aggressive with each other, dive-bombing and pushing each other out of the way, but overall pleasant interactions all-around. I walked around the island a bit, ate my lunch outside, and hid under a tree when it rained for a bit.

IMG_2822[1]IMG_2821[1]

Some tips for bunny island

  • There is nowhere on the island to buy rabbit food, but you can buy some at Tadanoumi port.
  • The best thing to bring, however, is fresh cabbage or lettuce. I got some bagged greens at the Family Mart near Tadanoumi station which was good, but I discovered there is a small grocery store a block away that has actual heads of fresh cabbage.
  • There is luggage storage at Tadanoumi port for 500 yen.
  • Get in line early for the ferry. I think everyone in line with me got on the ferry but since the ferry is not so frequent it’s best to be safe.

4:13 pm – Take the ferry back to Tadanoumi

5:15 – Depart Tadanoumi station -> 5:40 arrive Mihara

5:52 – Depart Mihara -> 7:09 pm arrive Hiroshima! (And walk to my hostel)

I checked in and met the owner, a really nice guy named Masa. I wanted to try Hiroshima okonomiyaki, which has lots of cabbage and noodles added. I asked him about okonomi-mura which is a big building full of okonomiyaki restaurants. He told me he had a better place and gave me a recommendation for Koshida (お好み焼き越田).  I made my way over there and waited in line for a bit before I got seated. The staff was great and the food was even better. I get why this style of okonomiyaki is popular, the noodles and cabbage give it a nicer texture and another layer of flavour.

How to use the Seishun 18 Kippu

I’m becoming increasingly aware of how little time left I have in Japan. And while I have done many of the things I want to there are still items on the list that have evaded me so far. Number one on the list was a visit to Hiroshima. While railway transport is very efficient and fast, the frugal me always avoided dishing out the funds it would require (about a $400.00 round trip) to get there. But fate seemed to be calling this March, because I had a lot of nenkyuu (days off) saved up and an urge to travel. So I decided to take the most cost-efficient but time-expensive method of transport there is – the Seishun 18 Kippu (青春18きっぷ)!

How it works (japan-guide.com)

  • 11,850 yen for five days of unlimited train use (the days do not have to be consecutive)
  • You can ride the trains (and leave the station) as much as you like but only local trains.
  • The ticket is valid during the school spring, winter, and fall breaks and valid almost everywhere in the country (one of the places it is not, ironically, is Toyama)seishun-ticket

You can buy the ticket at JR train stations. They’ll give you this ticket (above). Guard this with your life! It is the ticket you will use for your whole five days of travel. When you enter the station you have to show this to station worker at the gate and they will stamp it with the date and station (starting on the bottom right). After that you can exit and enter JR trains as much as you like, just show the ticket to the person working at the gate.

Fukui station

Fukui station

The pros

  • You save a lot of money. The two days it would take to go to Hiroshima and back to Toyama would cost 4,740 yen (at 2,370 per day of use) compared to the 40,000 yen on shinkansen / express trains.
  • It’s very flexible. No reservations or booked seats means you can change your schedule and leave the stations whenever you want.

The cons

  • TIME. It takes a lot of time to go anywhere, of course. Via the fastest trains it would take 5 hours from Toyama to Hiroshima vs the 12 hours on local trains.
  • No guaranteed seats. If you get in line early enough you can usually get a seat, but often at major stops there are a lot of people. It’s not a huge deal but after a day of walking around sitting down on the train is a huge relief.

 

The hyperdia app (free)

General recommendations

  • Great for if you are on a budget but you have flexible time.
  • If you are going to do a long-haul trip like I did, solo is best. Early hours, long waits, long train rides, and sometimes not sitting can make a person cranky. When you’re alone it’s fine but in a group there might be some hair-pulling.
  • Use hyperdia.com/en to plan your route. Make sure to deselect all the options except “Local Train” and “Japan Railway (JR)”. There is also a very useful app!
  • Take really early trains and get in line early to get seats.
  • Stop in different cities along your route! You can see a bit more of Japan and get a chance to stretch your legs.

I took the long solo trip up to Hiroshima using this ticket. As a person who fixates on schedules, prices, and also loves travel stories I’m putting together a bit of a travel log (for lack of a better title) –  I’m going to post a day-by-day description of my trip. I hope you enjoy it!