Imaginary Travel // Japan - Kansai 01
Hello and Welcome to my first Imaginary Travel Post.
Wait. Imaginary? Yes.
It's kind of unreal how often I'm planning trips to all the places I'd like to travel. It's definitely my number one hobby. Currently, we can't travel as often as I'd like [which let's face it - is ALL THE TIME] but that doesn't stop me from dreaming, scheming, planning and scouring Skyscanner and the likes for cheap tickets.
So, what's the point? I do this anyways and when the day comes that we can travel more, I will have SO much knowledge and insight into the places we want to go. My obsessive learning // planning also leads to discovering places I never knew I wanted to visit - because of that, places like Perth, Australia, Tasmania and Japan have moved to high positions on my travel bucket list.
I figured I'd share my trip planning here so that I have a place to keep them [my bookmark manager page is thankful] and so that maybe they'll spark some wanderlust in you and you'll discover places you never knew you wanted to explore as well.
Bon Voyage! [Sort of...]
Japan // Kansai Region Part 01
First of all, of course I want to go to Tokyo [how cool would it be to go for the 2020 Olympics?!] but I'm skipping it for now and focusing in on the center of Japan in the Kansai region starting with Kobe, Osaka and one seriously out of the way day-trip.
I would want to travel South to North towards the end of March // beginning of April because that is Cherry Blossom season and they bloom starting in the South making their way North. In order to soak in as much Cherry Blossom viewing as possible - that's the direction I'd go.
First up, that one really out of the way day trip...
Hiroshima [Okunoshima Island]
So, there's a lot to do here - but based off of one of my Rabbit Trail Posts, this Part 01 of Japan is going to be highly animal themed. So, I'll be skipping over the many wonderful aspects of Hiroshima - for now - and skipping straight to Okunoshima Island or Rabbit Island. Yeah.
Because the island is, well - an island - it's easiest to access from Hiroshima and then take a bus or train to the JR Tadanoumi Station and catch a 12 minute ferry from there. You can stay overnight, but I'd want to just make it a day trip.
The island itself has a pretty dark history - think poisonous gas plant in WWII. But nowadays it's covered with bunnies and has become a tourist attraction. You can play with the bunnies, tour the gas museums and batteries, and hike along the beach that offers incredible views of the ocean.
Some people think it's still too dangerous to go, due to the fact that kilotons of poisonous gas were made there from 1929 - 1945, BUT there's a chance you could wind up like this guy - so -worth it.
I've looked in to the best ways to get from place to place, based off of your budget and time you could either drive from Hiroshima on your way to Osaka and stop in Kobe along the way or fly from Hiroshima to Osaka and visit Kobe from there as it is only 21 miles away ~ 30 minutes away.
Personally, I would love to do the [roughly] 4 hour drive from Hiroshima to Kobe in order to see the landscape and get out occasionally for pictures. I just can't imagine what you'd see along the way. Plus the $517 one-way ticket I found [after only searching for a minute...] is crazy pants. So, let's drive shall we?
Shin-Kobe Ropeway, Nunobiki Falls & Mount MAYA
There can't be a better way to take in the city and the views than taking a ride on the Shin-Kobe Ropeway! I'd start at the bottom and hike the trail to the Nunobiki Falls, followed by the Miharashi Observatory. Continuing up the trail, I'd hit the Nunobiki Herb Garden and continue up to Mount Maya.
Once at the top, I'd head back down to the Observation deck for great views of Kobe and ride the Ropeway down to the bottom station.
MOUNT ROKKO & ARIMA ONSEN
Mount Rokko is the highest peak in the Rokko Mountains. Not only does it provide spectacular views of Kobe but there's also a botanical garden, pasture of flowers and sheep, garden terrace, restaurants, etc.
There's also one of famous architect Tadao Ando's works - Chapel in Mount Rokko - a must see for me.
There's a bus loop that connects Mount Rokko and it's attractions with Arima Onsen - which is a hot spring TOWN. Hiking, taking in the views and then spending the rest of the day in hot springs? Yes, please.
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art & Meriken Park
Another Tadao Ando building and a must see for me. I'd spend a day at the museum, followed by walking the waterway and ending up in Meriken Park to see the Kobe Port Tower.
Nada Sake District & Kobe Beef
Kobe is also home to the best sake in the world, so you better believe I'd spend some time making my way around the sake breweries in the Nada District followed by mountains of Kobe Beef. YUM.
Sorakuen Garden & Ikuta Shrine
Last but not least I'd want to spend some time walking around the Sorakuen Garden followed by a visit to Ikuta Shrine - only 15 minutes away. After that, I think I'd start heading to Osaka.
Osaka is the third largest city in Japan with a population of 2.67 million people. It is also the name of one of Japan's prefectures. When I first started looking into Japan, this was a tad confusing for me because there is Hiroshima, Hiroshima - Osaka, Osaka - Nara, Nara - Kyoto, Kyoto etc. So, when you find something you want to do in Osaka, that doesn't necessarily mean the city but could be the prefecture instead.
I would plan on hunkering down in Osaka for a while - there's just SO much to do and see here. For me, I don't care about shopping, so my focus would be around food, art, landscape // views and culture, plus just fun things to do.
In 1903, five million people moved to this neighborhood in FIVE MONTHS. Not the city - this neighborhood. Just let that sit for a minute. It's bright, colorful, loud and crowded. I'd spend as much as two entire days wandering through this neighborhood - eating the food, taking pictures, climbing to the top of Tsutenkaku Tower [a new open-air deck was just put in in 2015] and relaxing at the Spa World.
Dotonbori, Namba & Hozenji Yokocho
Dotonbori and Namba are two more ridiculously crowded and bustling places. So many lights. So much food. Whereas Hozenji Yokocho is an area of winding streets and hole-in-the-wall bars near the Hozenji Temple. I'd love to spend a couple of days exploring these sections of Osaka with all of their cafes and amazing street food.
Orange Street, The Original Cat Cafe & Alice on Wednesday
Ok. I said I'm not much for shopping, but sometimes I still like to look. Orange Street is apparently the place to be for 'cafe loves & hipster shoppers' - yeah I'm on board with that. Also, cats. To spend an hour sipping a matcha tea latte while petting adorable cats - of course. AND there is a shop entirely themed on Alice in Wonderland with a tiny door as the entrance - basically my Heaven.
There's also an owl cafe, reptile cafe & dog cafe in Osaka - if you're interested.
Sumiyoshi Taisha, Shitennoji Temple & Osaka Castle
Japan offers so many beautiful shrines, castles and gardens - it's hard to pick which ones you want to go see and explore. When in Osaka, these are the historical attractions that would be on my list - just GORGEOUS!
Umeda Sky Building, Tempozan Ferris Wheel & The Aquarium
Time to capture some views and do some fun & whimsical things. The Umeda Sky Building offers one of the bet views of the city - especially at sunset. I'm a sucker for a Giant Ferris Wheel, so this would be on my list, and if there was time - I'd go to the massive aquarium as well.
Minoo Park & Minoh Falls
I love hiking and I love waterfalls, so spending a long afternoon in Minoo Park would be a must. Just breathtaking.
- I'd also try and spot as much beautiful architecture as possible. Here's a peak at some of the top designs in Osaka. That grotto-like bar would have to make the list.
- Spend an afternoon hiking in the Harima Alps to look out over the Osaka Bay.
- Catch a kabuki theater show as well as a bunraku [traditional Japanese puppet theater] show.
- Catch a sumo match, if not in Kobe or Osaka - then elsewhere in the Kansai region.
Wow. I originally thought I could fit the Kansai region into one blog post - wrong - I've only just scratched the surface! As you can see, Osaka is teeming with great food, culture and things to do. I don't know how you'd fit it into one week [typical American vacation length] - ideally I would want to spend an entire month in the Kansai region - if not longer!
Part 02 of the Kansai Region will be covering Nara & Kyoto - stay tuned!
So, what did you think? Anyone else out there obsessively plan trips to the places they want to go? No? Just me? Ok.
Whenever I do this, I very rarely go further than simply finding out what I'd like to do. If and when I actually go on these trips, I'll dive deeper into making generalized day itineraries with some planned travel time and slow // buffer time to take things in and enjoy them at a relaxed pace based off of what's close by to what. It might seem like a lot of random effort, but I really enjoy it. If I weren't a designer I'd be a travel blogger - or both, who knows, it could happen one day.
Until then, I'll just be scouring the interwebs and podcast universe for more awesome things to do, places to go, people to meet, food to eat, cute animals to take pictures with, sights to see, mountains to climb, waterfalls to chase, etc. and share them with you. :)
Love & Blessings,
P.S. Curious to know what I actually do for a living? Check out my design services here!
P.P.S Never been to the Start Here page? Now's your chance!
Reference Resources & Sources
- Kobe - Japan Guide
- Tadoa Ando's Chapel in Mount Rokko
- Maxamize Your Day in Kobe
- One Day in Kobe
- Osaka - Japan Guide
- 12 Reasons Why Osaka Should Be Your First Stop in Japan
- 20 Reasons to Love Osaka
- 6 Things To Do in Osaka
- 2 Days Osaka Itinerary
- Fashion & Trends on Osaka's Orange Street
- Hiking in Japan : 15 Awe-Inspiring Trails
- 25 Japan Experiences to Add to Your Bucket List