My Japan Rail Pass proved its value again when I chose to move from Nara to Okayama. I actually only wanted to spend the night in Okayama to break up the journey to the Inland Sea island Naoshima, but ended up exploring the city as well. Okayama is home to the Korakuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Don’t laugh, this is an official title! I don’t know which the other two gardens are, but if you want to find out I’m sure the answer is only one Google away. I can only attest that yet, the garden is gorgeous. Next to the garden lies the Okayama castle, which is also quite a sight.
From Okayama I took the train once more, to Uno (yes, really). From there I took the ferry to Naoshima, a small island which has somehow turned into one big art project. I was having flashbacks to Tasmania’s MONA as I rode my e-bike around the sunny, beautiful island and visited the Benesse Art House and its surrounding artwork. I felt that the island’s beauty somehow outshines the art, and that the whole project did not turn out quite as cool as MONA. But then I did the art house project in Honmura… Basically the art house project is six installations placed in old houses around the fishing town of Honmura. The one which I thought was pretty awesome was one where we were led into a dark barn, told to touch the wall and follow it, and eventually sit down on a bench. We sat there and stared in front of us for what felt like ages, and after about ten minutes our eyes got used to the dark and could discern a faint source of light in the barn. It was then possible to move around and explore the space surrounding us. Maybe it sounds a bit banal, but it was really cool to do.
From one island to the next. Ferry, bullet train and another ferry, and I was on Miyajima. This World Heritage island is famous for its floating shrine and temple (they’re not really floating, of course, it just looks that way when it’s high tide) and for its historic temples. Daishoin is the biggest temple complex and has some very impressive features. I was mostly impressed/entertained by the Buddha statuettes in red knitted hats.
Somehow, Miyajima is also home to the world’s biggest wooden ladle.
Then it was time for Hiroshima. I visited the A-bomb dome, the Peace Park and its monuments, and the Peace Museum. Sad, sad stories.
Anecdote: due to an accident with the local trains, I had to take the hiroden to Hiroshima instead. It was completely packed and the air conditioning was not sufficient for so many people. One very kind Japanese lady saw me sweating and handed me her spare hand fan. Thank you!