The next morning, we visited the aquarium that was just down the road from our hotel. Inside was an array of fish, otters, penguins and other marine life.

Then we visited some of the shops along the way to the ferry to purchase some figures and souvenirs for the family.

After a brief tour of Miyajima, we were ready to head for our last overnight stop before returning to Tokyo. To reach our hotel, we were now facing the most complex part of our trip.


From the island, we had to take the ferry back to the mainland, walk across town, catch the local train to Hiroshima and reclaim our stuff from the locker. Everything was safe and sound, even the flagstaffs stuffed behind the lockers. We re-packed our belongings and managed to fit it all into our two backpacks and one small bag (except for the flagstaffs, of course). After a quick stop at the Hiroshima station's McDonalds, we caught a local shinkansen  (pictured) to Shin-kurashiki. Then continued from there via a local train to our final destination for the day, Kurashiki.

A quick note about the shinkansen. They come in 8, 12 and 16 car combinations. It's real important to know the length of your train so you can be waiting in the right spot for your particular car. We were standing at the sign for car 3 (see mouse over) only to see the entire train race completely past us. It turned out that car 3 sign was for a 16 car train and our train was actually only 8 cars. We raced down the platform loaded with backpacks and bags and managed to jump onto the end car just as the train was preparing to leave. As it happened, that car was almost empty, so we just sat there instead of struggling down the narrow aisles of several cars to get to our reserved seats. It turned out to be a car with permitted smoking, but we figured we could hold out for the hour it would take this part of the trip.

Keep in mind that we spoke only a few Japanese words, and most of the Japanese we ran into spoke little English. We got by with much pointing and our precious phrase book. Everyone was very considerate and eager to help us an any way they could. One gentleman passenger pored over his thick train schedule directory  for at least five minutes in order to assure us that we were taking the right train.

Here, we're looking out over Kurashiki from the train station. Our hotel was about 1 and a half kilometers, (1 mile) from here.  Considering our tight budget, we decided to hike there.

We finally arrived at the Kurashiki Plaza Hotel about 25 minutes later, hot and sweaty and very ready to check in.

For this last part of the trip, my main concern was that we get a no frills, simple, low cost hotel. The travel agency came through big time. ^_^

No shuttle, no ofuro, we're left to carry our own bags, but that was OK. After five and a half hours from Miyajima Island to Kurashiki, all we wanted to do was check in and rest up for a bit.

No tatami or tokonoma, but still a pleasant room. Heh, note the flagstaffs in the mailing tube and the sword I purchased for Josh in Kyoto in the bottom-right corner of the photo. We still had them.

I can't emphasize enough how important a good phrase book can be. We arrived hot, and the room was no better. We opened the window, but it didn't help much. I could find no temperature control anywhere. Down at the desk, they knew no English whatsoever, so leafing through my phrase book, I finally found the kanji for air conditioning. I pointed to it and said the word for hot. That was enough for the manager to understand what I wanted and then to sketch me a diagram showing that the control was a little dial between the two beds.


It was now time to find out what was special about this town. Armed with a map from the information desk at the train station, we headed into town. No walking this time, budget or no, we decided to take a taxi. Our first stop was the downtown shopping mall. A long stretch of tiled streets were apparently roofed and turned into covered shopping. Oddly, bicycles and even motorcycles cruised down these same halls along with pedestrians.

Apparently, Kurashiki specializes in a type of pottery called Sakazu-ware. The sign is inviting you to come in, buy some and you will cherish it always.


After walking throughout the covered mall for awhile, we saw a stone flagged path exiting the mall and leading off into the distance.

As we followed the path, we came upon the torii gate (shown in the mouse over photo), which leads the way to the shrine. 

As we climbed up the stone walkway, we came across this little graveyard off to the side of the path.


After ten minutes of following the path up and up various steps and stairs, we came to the Achi Shrine, in the center of the Tsurugatayama Park.

Notice the shimenawa rope and zigzag paper shime. This marks the boundary between the sacred and the mundane. Its purpose is to forbid the passage of evil spirits.

Throughout Japan, at every Shinto shrine, there is a spring of fresh water with long handled tin cups for purification before approaching.

In preparation for entering the shrine, you should follow these instructions. First, use the cup to scoop up a bit of water. Then use the water in the cup to rinse off each of your hands. Let the water drip onto the ground, not back into the spring. Finally, pour a small sample of water into your palm and then sip from your hand to cleanse your mouth. If you're following the pictorial instructions of the little girl in the photograph, remember this is Japan and read it right to left <smile>. Since it was once again lightly raining, we headed back for our hotel.

Our good fortune continued. We have been in Japan for a week now and I was having a serious withdrawal for one of my favorite foods. Lo and behold, directly across from our hotel was the Volks Restaurant which specializes in, yes, beef steak dinners.

I was in heaven!

I ordered their 250 gram special, medium rare please. Jennifer ordered rice and salad. It was quite nice inside and felt just like I was back home. It blew our budget, but we had scrimped enough for one day. ^_^