When my family members from Europe came to Japan few months ago we decided to make some easy but interesting trips by train around the Kansai area. As there are numerous historical and natural locations in the area this was an easy task to do. I chose three places that nicely represent Japan and I thought my family should see and experience.
Ise Shrine And Seaside
Ise is a place where one of the oldest shrine (Ise-jingu) in Japan can be found. I have never been here before and I was immediately impressed by the look of this magnificent area. There are many beautiful shrines in Kyoto but the Ise-jingu has its own unique look. The beauty lies in its simplicity. Wooden shrines surrounded by huge trees in the old forest. This place has truly spiritual atmosphere.
We have also crossed the wooden Ujibashi bridge and went through the old city shopping street. Both beautiful and enjoyable parts of walking trip around Ise. One thing that really surprised me was a lack of tourist signs in English, but I must admit that old wooden signs only in Japanese gave the whole area even more ancient and sacred feeling. I was truly taken by this place.
Ise seaside has a famous site of Wedded Rocks (Meoto Towa) which are two rocks in the bonded by a rope. The walk by the shore is very refreshing and enjoyable. The view of the Wedded Rocks is impressive. We could also enjoy the beach and cool our feet in the sea. We enjoyed our time here. I’m planning to visit Ise again because it left such a big impression on me.
It was clear to me that we should also see one of the most famous historical places in Japan. Himeji castle is very easy to reach from Kyoto city and can be visited during any season and in any kind of weather. It’s a perfect place for a trip.
When we arrived at Himeji I was surprised how close from the station the castle actually is. It took us less than 15 minutes to reach the big market outside the castle’s gate. It was also good to see how everyone in the market and and around the castle was able to communicate in English with foreign tourists. It is clear that local people in Himeji use English very often.
The exterior and interior of the castle is something that I would really recommend to everyone to experience in person. Inside the castle are enormous wooden pillars going through the whole structure and the woodwork and craftmanship is something to behold. There is a reason why this castle is a world heritage site.
Umeda Sky Building
As Japan has plenty to offer form the historical and modern perspective I decided to also go to Umeda. And the best place to show modern Japan to foreign tourist in Kansai is to take a tour at the Umeda Sky Building. Umeda is only 40 minutes away from the Katsura Hankyu station so it was easy for us to reach. Sky building is a 10 minutes walk through the Umeda area. Every member of the staff at the Sky Building was giving instructions and helping foreign tourists in English. The view at the top of the building is very impressive and tourist are able to see and realize the amazing proportions of Osaka city. I find these types of urban views spectacular. very impressive.
After the tour of Sky Building we went to a small local ‘izakaya’ in the are so my family could experience some soul food from Osaka. We had an enjoyable dinner surrounded by locals and tasting various Kansai dishes. Before heading back to Kyoto we enjoyed an urban night walk through the neon lights of Umeda.
Overall my family enjoyed their visit of Japan and I also enjoyed exploring various parts of Kansai with them.
Tom, SSE Katsura.