Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Japan Tour (3-11 May 2017), Day 4 : Escape from Imabari!!!!

Himeji Castle
Imabari Castle
Imabari Castle from the rear
Statue of Todo Takatora on horseback
Most castles have huge rocks placed at the front portion of the castle as shown here at Imabari Castle. It is meant to attract attention and to show the authority of the Lord.
View of the garden below, Imabari Castle
The town has encroached right to the doorsteps of the castle, Imabari
The castle moat vs modern streets, Imabari
Doorway built without nails, Imabari castle
Imabari Castle, rear doorway
View from Onomichi's train platform
View from Onomichi's train platform
View from Onomichi's train platform
Onomichi train station
Out of Himeji train station
Even the sewer covers are a work of art!
Just keep riding straight.... will get to Himeji Castle
You can walk the castle grounds for free, Himeji
James Bond was here!

We were supposed to roll out at 9 am but early in the morning, a text popped up on Claudine's handphone. A visit to Imabari's Castle awaits!!! Negotiating for more time, Claudine and VT rushed through their morning routines, then rode to Lawson for breakfast. 

Great place to grab a quick bite since most eateries are not opened so early
Note the thoughtful toothpicks to clean up after your chicken nuggets. Some stores will throw in wet wipes as well!
View from Lawson. Note the giant propeller, indicating Imabari as a port town

It is without any doubt, Lawson brews the best coffee amongst all convenience stores in Japan!!! If you are a coffee person and it is too early for cafe hours, then this chain of stores is your life saver!

Meeting up with Bernie and Suzie at the hotel's entrance, we soon discovered Imabari castle was a mere 700 m away! The short route to the castle passes the harbour, decked with fishing boats and yachts.

The rear gateway to Imabari Castle

It started to drizzle when we arrived at the castle. Taking refuge at the back gates, Bernie led us brazenly through the interior gardens of the castle! Before 9 am, workers have started cleaning up and preparing for the day.

Leaving the castle in intermittent rain, Bernie led us to the bus depot mistakenly assuming it to be the station. However, the staff were helpful and gave us a bus schedule for our return trip to Onomichi. We were all horrified we had missed the morning bus and the next one leaves at almost 2 pm.

We were all confused on what to do next. Bernie wanted to check out from the hotel while VT thought keeping the room until we board the afternoon bus will be more comfortable.

Meanwhile Claudine was convinced there should be more buses leaving for Onomichi. Referring to Google, a few schedules popped up. Talking to the hotel's receptionist, she found out the bus station was just 200 m behind the hotel.

Taking matters into her own hands, she left for the bus station. A helpful bus driver came down from his bus to show her the schedules for Onomichi. However, with language barriers, she could only figure they need to transit somewhere, BUT WHERE???

Back at the hotel, Bernie was gearing up to leave for the train station. However, Claudine needed a little more time to sort out the bus schedule. The couples decided to split!!!

Innoshima Bridge Station is a highway stop
Bus drivers in smart uniform
The bus stop by the highway
R&R at Innoshima Bridge Station
View from bus stop
View from bus stop

Speaking slowly with the hotel's receptionist, Claudine finally got a clear explanation. A regular bus leaves for Fukuyama. Take that bus and disembark at Innoshima Bridge Station. Then, take the next bus for Onomichi!

Texting Bernie, he too had found the same service at the train station. As he had bought tickets for the service, he insisted that Claudine and VT meet him there. Agreeing to do so, they made their way there only to discover the couple had boarded an earlier service. This very bus had left from the bus station just behind their hotel before proceeding to the train station to pick other passengers!!!

All was well as everyone agreed to meet up at Onomichi train station. Bernie and Suzie who were 1 hour ahead, had time to check out the Giant bike shop at Onomichi besides dining by the patio with a seaview. As for Claudine and VT who were held back by an hour, they too had time to browse the other Giant bike shop located at Imabari's train station. However, they had to make do with a takeaway lunch for the bus trip.

Our JR tickets includes services on bullet trains but with no pre-booked seats, it is subject to availability
The new N700-Advanced (N700A) Shinkansen, the latest model of the Tokaido Shinkansen with top speeds of 270kph
Pre-book your seats for a guaranteed place
...otherwise, standing is just fine!
Some trains comes with smoking compartments
You can request a travel chit from the station master

Finally regrouped as a team at Onomichi train station, we had to wait a further 40 minutes for our trains to Himeji. Boarding the old train for Fukuyama, we transferred to a bullet train at Okayama station before arriving at our destination.

As soon as we stepped out of Himeji station, Himeji Castle can be viewed directly from the front. Built in the 14th century, it was accorded a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. Even fictional character, James Bond once visited the castle in the movie You Only Live Twice!

They even have a small zoo within its compound, Himeji Castle
We explored the castle ground but not the interiors. With only an hour and half to closing time, we doubt we will get to see much. Leaving the "ninja training" ground, we rode out of the city to our night's accommodation at Chisun Inn.

Chisun Inn located next to a wide river, far away from downtown Himeji
This new hotel comes with a coin operated laundry service and a reception that does not deal with cash. The receptionist checks you in but all money or credit card transactions are done through a pay machine. Bathrobes or pyjamas are available for free at every level near the lifts. 

 It is value for money but located far out of the town. However, anyone craving for a McDonald's French fries, the 24 hour outlet is just a stone's throw away!

*Imabari to Onomichi bus fare is 4500 Yen for 2 pax. Change of bus is required at Innoshima Bridge station so you will be handed 2 sets of tickets for the service.

Photo Credits :
1. Suzie
2. Bernie

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