My visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site - Himeji Castle.

Himeji is well known for its magnificent castle, namely Himeji Castle, and its widely considered to be Japan's most beautiful surviving feudal castle. It was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site as well as a national treasure of Japan.

A little information about Himeji, it is the second largest city of Hyogo Prefecture after Kobe, with half a million inhabitants. What makes it a popular destination for travelers is the distance from Osaka or Kyoto as a stopover on journeys along the Sanyo Shinkansen. As part of my Kansai trip, I plan for a stay in Himeji and follow by Kobe to ease my travel itinerary.

How to travel between Himeji and Osaka :-

By shinkansen

Osaka and Himeji are connected with each other by the JR Sanyo Shinkansen. Nozomi, Sakura and Hikari trains require about 30 minutes to reach Himeji Station from Shin-Osaka Station. The regular one way fare from Shin-Osaka to Himeji is 3220 yen for a non-reserved seat on any train, around 3740 yen for a reserved seat on Sakura or Hikari trains and around 3950 yen for a reserved seat on Nozomi trains. The Japan Rail Pass is valid on Sakura, Hikari and Kodama trains, but not on Nozomi trains.

By local JR trains

Direct JR special rapid trains (shin-kaisoku) take one hour and cost 1490 yen for the one way trip between Osaka (Osaka Station) and Himeji. There are departures roughly every 15 minutes. For visiting Himeji in a one day trip from Osaka using this train, the 1-Day JR West Rail Pass - Kansai Area for 2060 yen is a good deal.

By non-JR trains

Direct limited express trains from Hanshin Umeda Station to Sanyo-Himeji Station take 90 minutes and cost 1280 yen for the one way trip. Sanyo-Himeji Station is located near JR Himeji Station. While this route is slower than using JR, it is cheaper and can be used by holders of Surutto Kansai tickets.

Above fees and schedules are subject to change.

Travel around Himeji is easy, you wouldn't need any transportation from JR Himeji Station, the popular attractions such as Himeji Castle, Kokoen Garden, Otemae Street is within walking distance. However, if you are lazy to walk, there is a tourist bus that goes around the city.

I didn't manage to visit Mt. Shosha as it will takes some times to get there, you are advise to stay longer in Himeji if you're planning to visit Mt. Shosha.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle (姫路城, Himejijō), also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is widely considered Japan's most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved, complex castle grounds. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. Unlike many other Japanese castles, it was never destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and survives to this day as one of the country's twelve original castles.

I am not a castle person, but I made my way into the castle and it was truly amazing. You get to visit up to the top of the castle and have an overview of Himeji City!

Kokoen Garden

Kokoen (好古園, Kōkoen) is a relatively recently constructed Japanese style garden, which was opened in 1992 on the former site of of the feudal lord's west residence (Nishi-Oyashiki). It consists of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various styles of the Edo Period.

Among the gardens are the garden of the lord's residence which features a pond with a waterfall, a tea garden where visitors can enjoy green tea in a tea ceremony house, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden.

Kokoen Garden located just beside Himeji Castle, entrance fees is not expensive if you purchase it together with Himeji Castle entrance ticket.

I found one interesting garden on the hill to have an overview over Himeji Castle, although a little exercise is needed for this view but it truly worth it! Find your way to Otokoyamahachimangu temple, and you will see a long stair case up to the hill. 

Follow the stair case all the way up to the hill and you will see a garden on top of it, it was chilling up on the hill. I really enjoy my times here :)

Otemae Street

This shopping street is easily access from the Himeji Station, once you step out from the station you will first amaze by the look of Himeji Castle, and you will need to walk pass by Otemae Street to reach the castle.

My first day in Himeji was raining, hence I never really get to enjoy the day. I woke up early in the morning on the next day, and I get to see such breathtaking sunrise! :)

My experience of wearing Kimono in Kyoto!

I've been always wanting to try on a Kimono whenever I go to Bon Odori, the Japanese Ghost Festival and seeing those pretty girls and ladies walking with Kimono, but I haven't really got a chance to try it until my last trip to Kansai in January 2017!

The kimono is a Japanese traditional garment. The word "kimono", which actually means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"), has come to denote these full-length robes. As I know, the kimono is always used in important festival or formal moments which it represent a polite and a very formal clothing.

It's a "popular" thing to do in Kyoto as part of wearing kimono, nonetheless, I took this opportunity to finally get myself dressed in kimono :) It was such a great experience, and indeed, an expensive experience too!

Japan is the world well-known country with expensive living cost, so I've prepared myself very well for the fact of high expenses while travelling in Japan. I had tried on Chinese Traditional Clothe in Beijing, and I had tried on Korean Traditional Clothe "Hanbok" in Seoul, and now, I need to try on Japanese Traditional Clothe in Kyoto!

Where to rent a Kimono?

In Kyoto, you do not need to worry about finding no kimono for rent, simply head on to Gojo where you will get to visit the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple and you will find one kimono to rent.

How to wear a Kimono?
Wearing a kimono is difficult, they will definitely give you a help upon your renting. Ever wonder why the Japanese girls walking so politely in kimono? Go ahead and put on a kimono and you will find out why :) 

How much does it costs to rent a Kimono?
There are many types of kimono available, hence prices are vary depends on your selection. The cheapest would be the very basic one colour pieces kimono, and go on classic with flowers and design. The most expensive kimono will be the one with long sleeves, which I assumed it usually worn by a queen? LOL. 

Accessories and hairdo have different charges, so be sure to ask clearly before you choose on anything!

And why in Kyoto?

I found myself a very good reason of why wearing a kimono in Kyoto City, because Kyoto is famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses, isn't it the best place to carry out the specialty of kimono?

And I really love walking along Kamo River! Especially with the exceptional sunset, the greatest moment to capture the beauty of yourself with kimono!

Wakayama Guest House Shido, The Gateway to Koyasan!

I suppose Koyasan, or Mount Koya is a less known place in Kansai Area as this sacred mountain is located in Wakayama Prefecture, and require a little time on travelling from Osaka. During my visit to Koyasan, I had two nights stay at Wakayama Guest House Shido in the town name 'Koyaguchi'.

Wakayama Guest House Shido is conveniently located near to JR Koyaguchi Station, just about 200 meters walk and the location makes it the perfect gateway to Mount Koya.

JR Koyaguchi Station is within the JR Wakayama Line that links Nara Prefecture to Wakayama Prefecture, the station is a very traditional and old station so it doesn't has any staff. If you are a JR Pass Holder there shouldn't be any problem, but if you were using ICOCA card like me, there is no machine to touch out. However, you don't need to worry about that, when you travel to another station with a counter information, you just need to tell them where is your embarkation station and give them your ICOCA card.

If you were planning to visit Mount Koya, I would strongly suggest you to go for at least 2 days 1 night trip rather than just day trip. Traveling from Osaka to Koyasan takes more than 2 hours, but from Guest House Shido it only took me about 1 hour, and the train journey along the way up to Mount Koya Cable Car is truly amazing!

Wakayama Guest House Shido is a historical building with traditional Japanese decoration, and the host, Kazu and his parents were very nice and friendly :) We had a great experience staying here.

The guest house has 2 rooms both with double bed, if you are traveling in a family, you can combine both rooms as the partition in the middle is movable. It is really spacious even just one room! I don't have the picture for bathroom and toilet, but I can assure that they kept it clean :)

They even prepared the famous Wakayama Orange for their guests, you could have tea and coffee for free as well. I like the way they welcome their guests :)

At Guest House Shido, there are some interesting traditional activities such as Zen experience, Art Experience and Samurai Experience. I had the art experience :) And my writing was printed on a T-Shirt too!

Even though Koyaguchi is a very small town and it was very quiet and calm at night, but I truly fall in love with the natural surrounding! The greatest escape from busy cities like Osaka or Kyoto.

Across Koyaguchi Station, you will find this Shinto Shrine, it has got marvelous view over Koyaguchi Town!

Just across the Kinokawa River over the Kudoyama Bridge, is Kudoyama Town, also known as Sanada Kudoyama whereby Sanada means Samurai. So why is Kudoyama of particular interest? Because it is the town where Yukimura Sanada, the most famous member of the Sanada clan and his father, Masayuki were exiled.

For more information about Wakayama Guest House Shido, visit their website at http://www.guesthouseshido.com/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/guesthouseshido/

A Pleasant Stay in Wakayama Guest House RICO!

I believe Wakayama is a less known place for tourists as many of my friends have never heard of it, and they ask about it when I first travel there last month. Wakayama is indeed, a very interesting prefecture to be discover!

I had a very pleasant visit to Wakayama as I found a really good accommodation in Wakayama City! My trip to Wakayama City wouldn't be so complete and perfect if it wasn't a great stay :)

Wakayama Guest House RICO is newly open guest house in Wakayama City by Takashi and Mary, the location, the place and the people, this new born accommodation just makes the city becoming greater. Especially with the exceptional friendly and overwhelming hosts!

The location of guest house RICO is near to JR Wakayama Station, with a fair walk of 1.2km or 15mins. Most importantly, it has an elevator to go up to the guest house which located on the 5th Floor!

Reception area is my favourite. I like how they design it with a simple wooden interior yet classic. If you observe truthfully, you will find every detail was decorated with utmost care, that's how much Takashi and Mary put in their effort.

They have ONE mixed dorm, ONE male dorm, TWO female dorm, and TWO double room. Another good thing about it is that each and every dorm will have their own bathroom and toilet, only wash stand is in common area.

Free coffee and tea is available too! And there is a rooftop common area that was open 24 hour.

Breakfast can be book when you check in, with a charge of 500 yen/day. 

I was staying in the female dormitory, its unbelievable clean in the room, bathroom and toilet. Even so, they still do a cleaning each and every day.

Located just south of Osaka, Wakayama offers a total different atmosphere compare to its northern neighbor. It has an idyllic countryside views and a much more laid-back lifestyle with more than enough places to see to keep you busy for at least a few days.

Wakayam City is the Wakayama Prefecture Capital city, is in a very convenient location for sightseeing. The city itself has a few interesting places to visit, such as Wakayama Castle, Momijidani Teien (Garden), Kimii-dera (Temple) and many more.

Historical and cultural significance aside, Wakayama also attracts tourists due to its beaches and hot springs, the best of which can be found in Shirahama.

I strongly recommend Guest House RICO if you ever plan to visit Wakayama City :)

Check out their Website http://www.guesthouserico.com/rooms/rooms/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/guesthouseRICO/ for more information and latest updates!