Himeji Castle / Trip to Naoshima Island

Tuesday 24/10

Wake up at 9am. The toilets and the showers of the hotel are actually very clean (like everything in Japan actually). This type of hostels (actually much cheaper than the usual ones we go to) is actually fine; we don’t need more (especially when we only stay one night of course).

I go and pick up the car. None of our 5 (!) credit cards are working. I pay cash but the problem is that I cannot even get cash from ATM’s (and where we go today, for 3 nights, is a remote island where we have to pay the hotel cash and where there’s, as per the hotel, no ATM). Good news: I got an upgrade, a Nissan X-Trail.

I go and pick up the family near the hotel. The car is the perfect fit for us with the luggage. It’s great to be in a car, together. It’s so much easier than public transportation (especially to go to our destination of today: Naoshima island). We are much more flexible. Kids are happy: they can remove their shoes (they kept them less than 15’’ in the car), listen to their music…

It’s difficult to drive on the left of the road, with the steering wheel on the right of the car. Moreover the gps is in Japanese…

We are a bit confused between the blue and the green roads. It takes us more than 2 hours to reach Himeji, our first stop of the day. Even on the rapid ways, the speed limit is 60 km/h. And there are only 2 lanes, with a lot of trucks. No wonder why the train has so much success in this country…

We arrive in Himeji at 2pm. We go and eat noodles in a typical restaurant, where the chef comes and explains me ‘how to do’. Nice lunch.

We visit the impressive castle, Himeji-jo, very recently renovated. It’s Japan’s most magnificent castle (and also a Unesco World Heritage Site). It’s nicknamed ‘White Egret Castle’ for its lustrous white plaster exterior and majestic form on a hill rising from the plain. It’s indeed beautiful. There are many tourists, including groups of French. After the visit (we could go inside, to the top), we go to the nearby Koko-en gardens. It’s a nice reconstruction of the former samurai quarters. Nine Edo period-style homes boast gardens with various combinations of waterfall, ponds, intricately pruned trees, bamboo… The atmosphere is very nice (it’s sunset time), very zen.

We continue the road to Uno Port. We take the highway. We arrive around 7:30pm. We miss the ferry that we had targeted (6:45pm) but there is still one, at 8:30pm. We go and buy burgers and bagels (with cream cheese and smoked salmon), which we eat in the car while waiting for the ferry.

We put the car in the ferry. The trip lasts only 20’.

The island is small. It takes us only 20’ to reach our hotel (Tsutsujiso), on the south coast of the island. We could book caravans or even yurts but I booked a bungalow. I didn’t know that we would again end up sleeping together in the same room, on the floor! But nobody complains. And we have our own (2) bathrooms with good showers. What else do we need? I have the (good) feeling that we are now more easily satisfied with what we have (as long as it’s clean of course). And this is also valid for the food and for the clothes. It’s rather positive. We can see that the most important factor (apart from the health of course) is the “mood” of all the family members. It’s the main challenge: to have all the members in the same good / relax / cool mood at the same time.

There is a splendid hotel on this island: the Benesse House, in which the renowned museum is located (I will write more about the island tomorrow). It’s not only a very luxurious hotel but the most amazing feature is that, as a guest, you can visit the museum outside the official opening hours, even in your pjs if you want… But it was already fully booked when I checked months ago and moreover it was very expensive.

Isabelle reads Ewilan to the kids. She then reads till midnight while I read the new Lonely Planet on Japan.



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