Last year when we were in Kyoto, Himeji was possible but not as nearby so I decided not to squeeze it into our itinerary. This time round, having our base at Okayama meant that Himeji was a mere 20 min train ride away. Another good place for a day trip out of Okayama is Kurashiki, in particular the historical Bikan canal district.
First up, Himeji Castle!
Getting there: Himeji can be reached from almost all major Japan cities such as Osaka, Tokyo and Kobe. So depending on where you are based, getting to the castle is relatively easy via the JR Shinkansen. Once at Himeji station, it’s a 15-20 minutes walk to the castle compound or take a 5 minute bus that drops you right at the entrance.
Did I mention how even the drain covers in Japan are so nice!
The special thing of this castle is that unlike most castles in Japan, it was not destroyed by any natural disaster or war. 2018 is also the 25th anniversary of Himeji being named a world heritage site.
Inside the castle compound, there is a Himeji city zoo so we brought Nat to see some animals. It’s 200¥ per adult while kids below 5 enter for free. While some of the enclosures are quite “cagey” with only one animal inside, it was still a very pleasant experience. Rarely does one get to visit a zoo in 20 degrees weather and see a castle in the background! Am so glad we have this memory of our first zoo visit with Nat.
In HJ’s words, the day trip to Himeji was “the longest and most fun day of our trip!”
Next up, Kurashiki!
An important point along Japan’s rice distribution route during the Edo Period, Kurashiki came under direct control of the shogunate and was named after its many storehouses (kura).
Getting there: One can reach Kurashiki from Okayama by local JR lines that costs approx. 320¥. From the train station, we took a bus ride that stops right outside one of the museums, the Ohara Museum and walked to the main canal district from there. Find out more ways to get to Kurashiki here.
The main attraction is the Bikan Historical Quarter, a central section of the former canal system. As it is now summer, the greenery was in its full glory as seen from the weeping willow trees that lined the canal. There was a slight drizzle that morning but the area was still very, very picturesque!
There’s also various museums and shops that line the canal which you can take a whole morning to see.
Am so glad I decided to spend four days in Okamaya so that we could make these two day trips!