Hyogo Prefecture - Wonderful Himeji & Awaji

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October 21st 2008
Published: October 21st 2008
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Short Stay in Himeji and Awaji, Japan

This is my second trip to Japan after I landed in Kyushu Island in 2007. It is definitely a trip worth looking forward to considering the pleasant culture, people and food there.

Day 1 21 Oct

It took about six and half hours in the early morning to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kansai International airport, Osaka. Kansai is actually located on an island off Osaka. The temperature outside the airport terminal was 'cool' at 18C. I was immediately overwhelmed by Japanese wording and signs all around though most are with English translations. Officers were not we'll versed with English but could easily overcome by sign languages.

At 0845, I took the Kansai Airport Haruka Limited Express from Kansai to Shin-Osaka and boarded Shinkansen Hikari Super Express to Himeji Station which cost about 5500 yen. The trains are truly on time taking about 2 hours for the journey. However, one might need to spend some time asking around for the exact platform to head for. It was fast and quiet passing through suburbs where hardly any land was left vacant. Every inch is used for some form of agriculture farming.

The express rail at Shin-Osaka Station. Fast speed train I took from Shin-Osaka to Himeji
No lane is wasted. The train passed through Shin-kobe station, Nishi-Akashi station and arrived right on the dot at 1045 as scheduled at Himeji.

I put up at Nikko Hotel at Himeji, Prefecture which is just in front of the South Central Gate of JR Himeji station. The most pleasing part being the free internet provided through LAN cable in the room. Wow, when was the last time I was treated as such?.....um.......in S Korea perhaps.

A short walk from the hotel is the Sanyo Supermarket. Not that interesting for me as things are too expensive if you do convert it into Malaysia Ringgit. However, you will be fascinated with the latest trend and fashion found here. I tried to have a set lunch at a Japanese restaurant within the Sanyo complex and it cost around RM50…oh my….

Took a quick walk back to the hotel for checking in as the room was not ready when I arrived. The room is small but homely. I took a cab to Himeji Castle, the famous World Heritage Site in Japan where ‘The Last Samurai’ had some shots there. The castle is magnificent and I just can’t stop climbing all the way to its top (six stories to climb and it is not as easy as climbing normal staircases). It is quite timely as cherry blossom and autumn golden leaves will never be in my sight for this trip.

Tried Icho Tepanyakki Restaurant inside Nikko. How should I describe it....um...incredible dinner with grilled lobsters, grilled kobe beef,......list goes on with some plum wine. Retired with an achy body due to the climb this afternoon

Day 2 - 22 October 2008

To start a day with Japanese breakfast is a fresh experience. Porridge with special Japanese codiments, cold half-boiled egg, preserved fish cold cuts, miso soup....WOW!

A day of hectic conference at Egret Himeji until 5p.m. Papers and papers .....mostly related to preservation of culture and heritage with some disaster relief discussions.

Visited the Kawatomi Japanese Restaurant inside the Nikko Hotel. Nice range of Japanese food which differs from heavy Chinese cooking, overcooked most of the time, at home.

Retired early to get ready to move on to Awaji Island tomorrow.

Day 3 - 23 Oct 2008

Departed after breakfast by bus to Awaji Island. I was caught in cold drizzles which I fear most as it might cause headache later. Luckily the bus station is just outside the Nikko Himeji. The bus departed at 845am.

From the mainland, at aound 930am, the bus crossed the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge which is the longest suspension bridge (3911m) with the longest span in the world at 1990m. The bridge opened up Awaji Island to many visitors including the locals from the mainland. The bus made a brief stop at Westin Hotel before departing for Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park. The bus travels northward and went round the northern tip of the island before heading south along the westeern coast of the island. View of the Osaka Bay is magnificent. We arrived at the park at 1020 am.

Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park displays exhibition and information commemorating the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake at 5.46am on 17 January 1995. The park preserves and displays an active fault of 10kmm appeared in the earth during the earthquake. A house There is also an 'earthquake roomZ where you can experience an Mearthquake (7 is the highest on the Japanese earthquake scale). 6434 died. 500 Burned to dead. Mainly because of gas leakage.

I took a close
Himeji CityHimeji CityHimeji City

View taken from Himeji Castle's Main Tower
look at the Nojima Fault which was well preserved by the memorial park showing us the fault cross section and the land formation changes brought by the earthquake. We visited Toshima District which witnesses redevelopment project by the Governmnet to help the victims and to reconstruct the city.

The Officials of Awaji City Council continued the day tour to Izanagi Shrine. In the myth of the creation of the Japanese Islands, this shrine is depicted as the hiding place of the god Izanagi, and is therefore known as the oldest in Japan. Historically,it has been respected and called Ikkusan . We were considered very lucky as we bumped right into a ritual performed by the priest for a women seeking for help. It is an eye opener. At the shrine there are two 900 year old camphor trees called 'husband and wife camphor', which have been designated as a natural prefectural monument.

By the time I returned to Westin Awaji, it was around 5 p.m. It was soon getting dark! The hotel gave me a wonderful impression. The room has big, wide window offering superb ocean view and allow the gentle sea breeze to waft in from the balcony. All guest rooms are large enough for three guests. Westin Awaji Island is a hotel in the garden.

I took a stroll along the connecting corridor towards the building housing many restaurants and shops and had a dinner at Hai Hua Chinese Restaurant. The food was good. The restaurant has 2 chairs with England Crest hung behind it and upon enquiry..know what? The chair was used by David Beckham and Owens duirng their stay here during the 2002 World Cup! Wow! What a way to promote the restaurant!

Awaji Yumebutai includes a conservatory, hotel, restaurant, shops, and an international Conference hall integrated and designed by world famous archiect Tadao Ando. All the facilities are arranged in the area where earth was gouged out and used to fill a huge landfill site to construct Kansai International Airport. I vowed to explore the whole area...but...wait...conference is the priority!

Day 4 - 24th Oct 2008

The conference continues at Awaji Yumebutai International COnference Centre starting at 10 a.m. The main focus of the day are disaster relief and restoration.

I took a walk in the Green House adjoining the Hotel building during the brief lunch break. It
Have you seen persimmons before?Have you seen persimmons before?Have you seen persimmons before?

Persimmon tree bearing fruits all over. I saw the tree for the first time.
is Japan’s largest greenhouse and boasts an area of 6,700 m2. The original shape whereby a pair of glass rectangles cross each other at angles is a distinguishing feature of the greenhouse. With coexistence of man and nature as a theme, beginning with the flower show space that changes exhibition several times a year and the garden space that proposes living with flowers and greenery, a large number of rare plants from around the world is on display.

The conference came to a close with a farewell reception hosted by the Mayor of Awaji City. A whole range of local delicacies from Awaji Island and of course free flow of Asahi Beer. I love awaji beef in particular though it will definitely stress my weighing machine at home.

Retired earlier tonight after a hard day's work.

Day 5 - 25th Oct 2005

It is good to take a day off after the conference to take a look around the conference venue which I hardly had a chance to go for. I took a stroll to the observation terrace adjoing the Westin Hotel. It is an approximately 20,400 m2 space that consists of Hyakudanen, Shell Garden

Nice juicy persimmon on sales at road side
and the rooftop observation terrace. You will be amazed at the shell water plaza where more than a million scallop shells were embedded in the bottom of the pool. The plan was partly changed after the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake hit in 1995. The concept after that was reset as "a symbol of rebirth." An additional plan, Hyakudanen - a large square-grid-terrace of flower gardens, "the 100 Step Garden," serves to calm the souls of those who lost their lives in the disaster.

The next stop is the Akashi Kaikyo Park right opposite the Green House. I need to pay 400Yen to enter and the ticket is valid for a day irrespective of the number of times you enter and exit. You can enjoy a colorful variety of flowers and grass all year round in the great outdoors. There are 190 types and 260,000 bases. The flowers beautifully change the expression of the park each season for your enjoyment. What can I say? It was just magnificent experience.

Took a brief lunch (Brunch) at the Japanese Restaurant. You will be amazed at the size of the bowl of mee. Take a good look at my pictures. Took a

This is what Sibu has years ago. Now?
short stroll along the beachfront.

The dinner was The Teppanyaki Corner inside the Coccolare Fun Dining Restaurant. As the locals came for weekend break, I can only managed to book the 2030 slot! Its alright with a late dinner as long as you sleep later. Will head for Kansai early morning by can and Airport Limousine.

Day 7 - 26th Oct 2008

To be continued.....

Additional photos below
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