After visiting Tokyo and Kyoto we went to several smaller places: Himeji, Kojima, and Naoshima. We immediately noticed that, while directions in public transport areas were still mostly both in Japanese and English, people outside of the big cities hardly spoke any English. In Tokyo and Kyoto, things like ordering food had been very straightforward but were now suddenly quite complicated tasks. Luckily the people were very kind and patient and we always got delicious meals.
Himeji is famous for its castle. The white castle was built in 1333 and is one of the first Japanese monuments to be added to the UNESCO world heritage list. Walking around the site and inside he castle I found myself wondering what it must have been like to live in this place. When researching the castle a bit more I came across the intriguing story about Princess Sen
who lived in the castle from around 1615 to 1626, after she escaped Osaka castle during its siege. She lost both her husband and son while she lived in the castle, and her tragic yet romantic life have made her one of the most popular Japanese characters.
Kojima is a small village in the south of the Okayama prefecture. It might not seem too interesting for the average visitor but it is heaven on earth for Denim lovers. When you arrive at the train station you see denim advertisements all around you and there are even jeans attached to the ceiling. In the village itself, Jeans street is the place to be. Here you'll find the workplaces and shops of major Japanese denim brands such as Momotaro Jeans and Pure blue japan. Unfortunately, we arrived quite late in the day so a lot of shops had already closed. But we saw that during the day you can even get denim ice cream.
I really enjoyed the art island Naoshima. The small island is home to several contemporary art museums. We visited the Chichu art museum which is built in the earth and has pieces on display from James Turrell, Walter De Maria, and Claude Monet. I'm not a huge fan of modern art, but visiting Chichu was a very special experience as you really get immersed into the art. Scattered over the island there are works of art as well, like the yellow pumpkin made buy the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. If you don't have a car, you can rent a bike to get around the island, but it is very hilly and the bikes are tiny and without gears so if you have time, walking might be more comfortable.
It was quite relaxing to get out of the cities and very interesting to see what Japan is like in the quieter areas. The country really has so much to offer and even small places are easy to reach by train. We continued our journey to Hiroshima, which I will write about in my next post!
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