As well as the national JR passes, there are regional JR passes that are often very good value if you are visiting a particular area. This itinerary using the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass is great for visitors arriving at Kansai airport who want to see something beyond Kyoto and Osaka.
This itinerary takes you through cities and smaller towns, to see historic and cultural sights, gardens, and scenery. At the beginning and end of the trip, you have the opportunity to stay in Osaka and Kyoto for a few days, sightseeing and shopping.
Day 1 Osaka to Okayama
Take a morning shinkansen to Okayama (50 minutes). This leaves you the rest of the day to visit Korakuen, one of Japan’s three great landscape gardens. Close by are the Okayama Prefectural Museum, which has exhibits of local sword-making and Bizen pottery, and Okayama Castle, a modern reproduction of the original.
Stay in Okayama.
Day 2 Day trip to Kurashiki
Kurashiki is only 15 minutes by train from Okayama. It’s well-known for its historic Bikan district, where traditional merchant houses line the canals. Today these are shops and restaurants. The Ohara Museum of Art is also very worth visiting and contains both European and Japanese art in the galleries located throughout the Bikan area.
If you find you don’t spend the whole day in Kurashiki, head back to Okayama and then take the train to Kibitsu, where it’s a 10 minute walk to Kibitsu shrine, a national treasure.
Other possible day trip options are:
Naoshima, the art island – take a train to Uno and ferry from there. This will be quite a full day with the travel there and back.
Kibi Plain – take a train to either Bizen Ichinomiya or Soja stations, where there are bicycle rental shops. There is a cycling route across the plain, passing fields and shrines, great if you like an active holiday.
Stay in Okayama.
Day 3 Okayama to Hiroshima
Take a morning shinkansen to Hiroshima (40 minutes). This gives you the rest of the day to look around Hiroshima, including the Peace Museum, A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park and Shukkeien garden. The Meipurupu sightseeing bus goes around the main sights and your JR Pass is valid on this.
In the evening you might like to try okonomiyaki, the dish Hiroshima is famous for.
Stay in Hiroshima, or if you’d like to stay in a ryokan, consider going to Miyajima and staying there.
Day 4 Day trip to Miyajima
The train and ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima are included in your pass. Miyajima not only has the famous Itsukushima shrine with its floating tori gate, but there are also several other historic shrines and temples. Walking trails and a cable car go up Mt Misen, from where you can get a great view over the Seto Inland Sea.
Stay a second night in Hiroshima (or Miyajima).
Day 5 Hiroshima to Kyoto via Himeji
Take the shinkansen to Himeji (1 hour) where you can visit Himeji castle. This is an original castle which is the largest in Japan. The garden next door to the castle is also worth seeing and there is a combined entry ticket.
Following this, head to Kyoto which is 90 minutes away via direct Limited Express train. The Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass is not valid on the shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, although you could change at Shin-Osaka for a local train if you wished to use the shinkansen.
The important details
A JR West Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass covers travel from the Kyoto/Osaka area through to just beyond Hiroshima. The fares for the itinerary above add up to over 24,000 yen, so this pass is a real saving for visitors wanting to see the well-known sights in this region. You can buy the pass through a designated sales agent overseas (cost 13,700 yen) or via JR West’s online reservation website (cost 14,500 yen). Note that while the website price is higher, sales agents often add a delivery charge.
Is this itinerary not quite you? Take a look at other itinerary ideas.
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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.