7 Days Illuminations Travel with Japan Rail Pass (December 2007)

In December 2007, we travelled to Japan for 7 days using the Japan Rail Pass.  At the end of each year, all the major cities of Japan light up with their own illumination events. The main purpose of this visit was to check out the various illuminations going on.

> Read more: Japan’s largest illumination events

Day 1: Narita Airport – Tokyo

We arrived at Narita Airport and changed our exchange order for the Japan Rail Pass at the exchange office in the airport station.  We took the Narita Express (N’EX) to Tokyo.

After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we went around with our usual shopping and eating.

Day 2: Tokyo – Takayama

In the morning, we started the long train ride to Takayama, taking shinkansen Hikari to Nagoya (we could not use the faster shinkansen Nozomi with the rail pass) and transferring to the Ltd.Exp. (Wide View) Hida for Takayama.  The entire ride took slightly more than 4 hours.

The first place we visited was the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, which was a 90-minute bus ride from Takayama.

As the bus approached the ropeway station, we started to see snow along the way.

The ropeway station was at the last stop of the bus ride.

So up the snowy mountain we went! I love the snowy scenery so much! (We Singaporeans are easily amused by snow.)

There was a stall selling Hida beef skewer and we bought one.  It was very yummy!

We descended and returned to Takayama and checked in to our hotel, Rickshaw Inn.  For dinner, we walked around the area and found a nice restaurant serving Hida beef.  I love Hida beef!!

Day 3: Takayama – Nagoya – Kyoto

In the morning, we did some sightseeing aroud Takayama, visiting Takayama Morning Market, the old town and Hida Folk Village.

It was a cold drizzling day, so we decided to find an onsen to soak in.  We took a bus to Hida Takayama Onsen.

Feeling warm and happy, we left Takayama, taking the Ltd.Exp. (Wide View) Hida to Nagoya.  We hopped off at Nagoya station to visit the illumination at Nagoya Station.

After visiting the illumination, we took the shinkansen to Kyoto.  At Kyoto, we went the illumination event, Kyoto Hanatouro before spending the night at Kyoto.

Day 4: Kyoto – Kobe – Osaka

In the morning, we took a stroll around the area near Kyoto station.

We visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine near Kyoto station.  The climb up was very steep and tiring, but the scenery at the end of it was beautiful.

We also spent some time exploring Kyoto station.  The architecture was kind of futuristic, a large contrast from the city which is filled with historic shrines.

We found a shop with the most yummy looking fruit tarts and couldn’t resist going in to try some.

We left Kyoto, taking the train to Kobe and did some sightseeing around Kobe.

Other then Kobe beef, Kobe is also well known for its sake.  There are a number of sake brewery in Kobe, and we visited Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum which looked the most interesting.

We visited Kobe Meriken Park, where Kobe Port Tower and an Earthquake Memorial was located.

We tried to visit Kobe Chinatown, but it was crazzzzyyyyy crowded!!

We went to the observation deck at Kobe City Hall, and once again had to fight the crowd to get to the windows!

And the reason for the crowd was because of the Kobe Luminarie event (which was also the main reason we were here, and probably the reason why it was so crowded at Chinatown and City Hall).

> Read more on Kobe Luminarie

After we were sort of pushed through with throng of crowd at the Kobe Luminarie event, we found a restaurant serving Kobe beef for dinner.

After dinner, we took the train to Osaka where we would stay for the night.  We visited the Osaka Hikari-Renaissance, which paled in comparison to the Kobe Luminarie.

Day 5: Osaka – Himeji – Miyajima – Hiroshima – Osaka

In the morning, we visited the Umeda Sky Building for its Floating Garden Observatory.

It was super cold and windy at the top, so we didn’t stay for long.

Next, we took the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Himeji to visit the Himeji Castle.

Our next destination was Miyajima.  We took the Shinkansen from Himeji to Hiroshima, transferred to JR Sanyo Line for Miyajimaguchi and took the ferry to Miyajima.  (The ferry ride is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass.)

Miyajima is one of my favourite places in Japan.  It is one of the Japan 3 sights (日本三景) and was full of free roaming deers.  I was super happy to see the floating tori gate! The last time I was here, it was low tide and the tori gate wasn’t ‘floating’.

We strolled around the island, which would have been a lot more beautiful if it was autumn.  In winter, it was kind of bare.

Since there was no autumn leaves to view, we spent more time shopping at the very touristy shops on the island.

The island’s specialty was oysters.

We tried raw oysters, grilled oysters and oyster ramen, all were very yummy! I just LOVE fresh oysters!!

We returned to Hiroshima and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

For dinner, we had okonomiyaki at Okonomimura (Okonomiyaki Village).

After dinner, we walked around to see the illumination at Hiroshima Dreamination.

We then took the shinkansen back to Osaka to stay for the night at the same hotel we stayed in the previous night.  Doing so saved us the trouble of bringing our luggage around.

Day 6:  Osaka – Tokyo

In the morning, we took the shinkansen back to Tokyo and went around to do our usual shopping and eating.  At night, we went for the illumination at Tokyo Dome.

Day 7: Tokyo – Narita Airport

After some last-minute shopping and eating, we took the N’EX back to Narita Airport, completing our 7-days tour with the Japan Rail Pass.

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