Our Japan Rail Pass started from Beppu Kyushu traveling under the straights to Honshu where we stopped in Hiroshima, Nikko and Kamakura. Only foreigners can get the Japan Rail Pass and they must be purchased outside Japan.

Once in the country you must activate the pass at one of the designated stations, usually a few days before you board your first train. Once aboard that is the beginning of your week. At this time a one week rail pass costs Y28,300 (about $283) but it is also possible to get a two or three week pass.

We have made reservations to ensure a seat so our ticket indicates our destination, carriage number and seat. If we have a problem we just flash the ticket to any train personal, they open a tiny book of schedules and we end up on a platform right on the spot where our carriage will arrive.

The trains are on time, stop only briefly and connections just a matter of  watching for the right platform. They are written in Japanese konji but also in English.  Once aboard the two languages are used on a lighted digital monitor as well as a voice in both languages for announcing stations. The Japanese rail systems are among the best in the world, fast, frequent, clean and comfortable!   

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We start off on the Sonic16, out of Beppu switch to a Rail Star Shinkansen (bullet train with speeds up to 300km/hr) a fast train but not as fast as the latest and fastest Nozomi which our rail pass does not cover. Once on the Shinkensen, Hiroshima is only a 52 min. ride while the Nozomi makes it in 45 min. and for only 200 yen ($1.50) more if not on a rail pass.



Hiroshima is a beautiful town with rivers and tree lined streets, outdoor cafes and a fun tram system, easy to get around.

It is remembered forever as the worlds first atomic bomb target dropped on Aug.6,1945. We visited the A-Bomb Dome, a building left standing as a reminder of the tragedy as the bomb exploded almost right over the top of it. Also the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, Children's Memorial and walked the centopath to the Flame of Peace which will only be extinguished once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed



The next day we visited Miyajima an island near Hiroshima known for the 'floating' Torii Gate (Shinto shrine gate).

Back in the 6th century, commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and had to approach the Itsukushima-jinja Shrine by boat entering through the gate out in the bay.


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We climbed to the top of Mt. Misen (530m) and there discovered the Reika-do Eternal Fire in a giant pot said to have been started 1200 years ago by Kobo Daishi the Buddhist pilgrim. This same fire was used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Memorial Park.


We had a traveling day on the trains leaving Hiroshima and changing trains in Osaka remembering that dreaded day he pushed our bikes up that steep mountain road on our way from Nara. Riding in the comfortable fast train, watching the scenery whiz by ,we felt fortunate we had experienced such an adventure.  Now here on the train, Osaka was just a flash in time. We went right into Tokyo and changed trains bound for Utzonomia where we transferred to an even smaller local line still on our rail pass, bound for Nikko.  



Nikko is another sacred site situated among towering cedar trees about 2 hours north of Tokyo which originated as a hermitage that was a famous training center for Buddhist monks.

 It's temples and shines are some of the most magnificent, being a display of wealth from later years, when many of the temples were taken over by conquering Japanese leaders. Some of the shrines were rebuilt using 130,000 artisans taking 2 years with no budget. It is an awe inspiring place of glimmering gold leaf images, huge temple doors, intricate Kairo or carvings on galleries next to elaborate gates.


                            The most famous relief carvings are those of the monkey HEAR NO EVIL    SPEAK ON EVIL SEE NO EVIL



Our last day  was spent.....you guessed it.....soaking in the 'rotemburo' or outdoor spa bath of Yashio-no-yu Onsen in the forest above Nikko. Walking out of the last onsen we would have on this trip, the sun rays streaking through the rising mist onto a huge granite sphere fountain in the center of the bath, I felt magical sense of well-being and peace.



We have come full circle having arrived in Tokyo and now ready to return there for our last and final week in Japan. Or are we???




For Steve , who has spent a good bit of his life on boats and at sea, it is "frightening".  For me it is returning to a city where I lived and worked over 20 years ago.  I sit back and let the memories fly by.  Steve is busy studying the map he has downloaded  off the internet of the exact position for our accommodation, this time totally in control for our arrival.



We soon find our way, following color coded well marked subway signs in both English and konji.  We have no trouble whatsoever.....as long as we stay underground in the maze of TUNNELS! Once outside in the sunshine we are totally lost!! 


Also we booked in advance for a Ryokan in the area of Ikebukuro, purposely, because it is on the JR train line and Yamanote subway line. Getting around this huge city can be costly so we have positioned ourselves close to convenient transport and have purchased a Pass Net debit card to use on the subways. 

Our Ryokan is not far.  When we arrive we are standing on a corner looking around totally baffled. (Here we go again!) Just like so many times before looking for campgrounds.  Where could it be?  Steve ducks into a foyer to recheck our position on the computer. Amazingly, he shouts.."this is it, we are here!" (Well what do you know, we have finally found it on our own)



Still one day left on our JR Rail Pass, we are off to Kamakura to see the Daibutsu or Great Buddha similar to the one in Nara. Only this huge bronze statue, 850 tons and 11.4m tall, is not housed in a huge wooden hall but sits out in the open as it's home was washed away by a tsunami in 1495. It is not possible to do the nostril of this Buddha but Steve does the next best and goes right inside and up a stairway to it's head!!! NIRVANA!


Now Let's Enjoy Tokyo