A destination I really advice is a beautiful rural village, the only small inhabited area I saw so far in Japan, called Banshu Ako. This lovely village is located just one hour away from Himeji, which is a much more popular tourist destination for its beautiful castle.
- How to Reach
To reach Himeji, if you are staying in Osaka or Kyoto, you just need to take a normal train, I do not advice you to get on a Shinkansen because they are very expensive unless you have a Japan Rail Pass. Japan Rail Pass allows you to get on every train without buying any tickets. In the case you do not have it, you can just buy tickets from the ticket office just before boarding the train. NOTE there are different kinds of trains: Futsu – a local train, the slowest one that stops in every station, Kaisoku – rapid, Express and Limited Express, one of the fastest.
Himeji – 姫路市
Himeji earned importance after the Sekihagara Battle, which played a very important role in Japanese history and brought Tokugawa Ieyasu to the power, when a castle was built here. Himeji Castle (姫路城) is part of UNESCO World Heritage and one of the three Japanese castles that passed through the centuries untouched, despite the hurricanes, earthquakes and Second World War bombs. From JR Station to the castle it does not take very much, you can actually just walk so you make sure not to miss the nice shopping street.
When we went to Himeji, it was japanese National Holidays so there was a queue of like 3 hours and we gave up visiting the castle…..for this reason I advice you all to go on a normal day and grasp the opportunity to visit inside because I heard that it is really worth it. Well, since we could not get inside, we just wandered in the huge, endless, crazily big park under the castle where we found, as I like surnaming it, a little Fushimi Inari and witnessed a real japanese marriage in a temple.
Actually we found ourselves attending it, because we were visiting that temple and suddenly the couple with all the guests came xD Since there was nothing more to do there, we decided on the spot to go to Onsen because I really wanted to try it! I wanted to get into Japanese culture more, furthermore anime episodes where the characters go to Onsen to relax are very popular in anime series therefore I was really curious to see one with my own eyes :3
Banshu Ako – 播州赤
We grasped the opportunity to go to this nice rural village as we were in Himeji, which is just like one hour away from Banshu Ako. To reach the Onsen, we had to get on a bus which is just out of the Train Station, and within 15 minutes we had arrived at the Onsen Inn. To be honest I do not remember the amount of money we paid but it was not much for a such beautiful place and then the staff was so kind. They give you everything: combs, sandals, bathrobe…anything you could ask for!
- Behaviour in Onsen
- The Onsen is divided into two parts: the section for men and the section for women. A man cannot never enter the woman part or vice versa.
- Yeah, the signs are, of course, written in Japanese so here the translations: 男 Otoko which means Man, 女 Onna which means Woman.
- Before accessing the pool area, you must get totally naked, with just a small blanket that you keep on your lower parts (but you can just avoid doing it).
- You can choose a locker where you can put all your belongings. You lock it with a key that, later, you can use as bracelet and bring with you in Onsen.
- Wash yourself in a specific shower before entering the pool area. In japanese tradition this means purifying yourself.
- And don’t worry or be afraid of asking, if you do not know well what you should do, Japanese are really kind and eager to help you. All of this was explained to me by a Japanese woman :,)
The landscape from the pools was crazily breathtaking! I really enjoyed it, so much that could make me fall almost asleep *^* Banshu Ako is located just in front of the Shikoku Island allowing you to have a beautiful glimpse of the Inland Sea. Unfortunately, I could not spend much time there because we had to come back before it got too late but the experience was really authentic, I really would like to go to Onsen again 😉
Just near the Onsen building, there was a beautiful Shinto Shrine overlooking the Inland Sea. The atmosphere there was amazing: nobody was around and it reminded me of those isolated Shrines you always see in the anime. There I did my first omikuji, which guessed everything about me xD
- How to Reach
- Train: It is not so hard to reach Banshu Ako, just get on a train in Himeji and make sure the train will stop in Banshu Ako because there are some kinds of trains, like the Limited Express Train, that tend to skip small towns like this so maybe a Futsu Train would be perfect.
- Bus: Once you are in Banshu Ako, just out of the Train Station, there is the Bus Station. From there you can get on a bus and reach the sea within 10 minutes.