[Updated 25 Jan 2020]
Japan’s Kansai region
is probably one of the most visited areas for travellers. With important landmarks across major cities like Osaka and Kyoto, many travellers would include multiple cities in their itinerary. Yes, we know! The cost of travelling across cities
in Japan isn’t the cheapest ?
P.S. Before you plan your trip, check out Japan's cherry blossom forecast in 2020
But did you know that with the JR West Rail Pass
, you’re able to save on transport fares while still getting the best out of your trip? What’s more, there are many types of passes
available and you can choose what suits you best. In this itinerary, we’ve specially curated a 5D4N Muslim-friendly to explore Osaka’s surrounds (Kyoto, Okayama, Hiroshima, Himeji, and Nara) with the help of the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass
. And guess what? You’ll be saving a total of JPY 37,520
(worth SGD464 / MYR1,395 /I DR4.7M, as of Jan 2020)!
Day 1: Kansai Airport-Kyoto
Collect your JR West Rail Pass (30min)
- We recommend taking a red-eye flight from your hometown to Kansai Airport so that you’ll arrive early in Osaka, just in time to start your day!
- The first thing you’d want to get upon arriving is the JR West Rail Pass. Since you’ll be exploring the Kansai area and Hiroshima, we recommend getting the Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass as it’ll be cheaper than buying separate trips.
- The pass is great as it covers major cities in the Kansai area like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara, including Hiroshima and Okayama too ?
- That’s not all! You’ll also be able to enjoy other transportation benefits covered by the pass, such as unlimited rides on the Nozomi and Mizuho trains (fastest & frequent Shinkansen bullet trains), limited express and local trains, Miyajima Ferry, Hiroshima city hop-on hop-off bus, and more.
- Do note that you can’t ride on the Nozomi and Mizuho with the Nationwide JR Pass, and you would have to wait at least an hour to ride a Shinkansen train. The Nozomi and Mizuho come every 15-20 minutes so it’s more useful and convenient! (depends on the situation)
- P.S. You can also rent a bicycle for free with this pass at one of the participating bike stores near train stations.
- To get the JR West Rail Pass is easy; all you have to do is reserve your tickets online , proceed to the JR Ticket Office at Kansai Station and show them your confirmation email.
- Another way to get the pass is through a local travel agency, such as JTB or HIS.
- Do note that it’s cheaper to get your 5-day Kansai-Hiroshima Pass online (JPY 13,500) as compared to getting it at the ticket office itself (JPY 14,500). Make sure you have your booking confirmation ready!
- Note: Online reservations can be made 2-27 days in advance.
Travel to Kyoto (1h 15 min)
Credit: kanonn on Flickr
- #HHWT Tip: Some JR passes require you to show your pass to the staff to enter the station, but the good thing about the JR West Rail Pass is that you can tap your pass at the automatic gates and get into the station.
- Not arriving at Kansai Airport? No problem! You can also collect your JR West Rail Pass at these stations: Kyoto, Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Okayama and more!?
- Now, on to the first stop of your trip, Kyoto! The fastest way to get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto is by taking the limited express train (Haruka) . Train services run about 2 times per hour and the journey will only take you 1h 15 min!
- The best part is, the Haruka trains are covered by the Kansai-Hiroshima Pass too, so you won’t need to fork out any extra cost. But do note that if you’d like to reserve your seats on the train, you’d have to purchase a separate ticket.
- Not to mention that the Haruka trains are spacious and there’s also a designated luggage space so you won’t need to squeeze with your bags at your seat!
- But if you want a more hassle-free journey, you can drop your luggage at Kansai Airport and use the CROSTA delivery service. This way, your luggage will be safely delivered from the airport to Kyoto Station or your accommodation in Kyoto. Fees start from JPY 1,000 per item per day.
Walk through the torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine (2h)
- This service is helpful if your check-in time is late, and you don’t want to lug your baggage around. It’s also great if your first stop is far from your accommodation and you’re not able to keep your luggage at your hotel lobby before checking in.
- Alternatively, if your accommodation is in Osaka, we recommend using the TA-Q-BIN service at Kansai Airport.
- Known for its mesmerising scene of a torii gate tunnel, Fushimi Inari Shrine is perhaps one of Japan’s most iconic destinations.
- The oldest structures here may date back all the way to the 8th century but it’s amazing how they are well-preserved.
- The seemingly endless path of over 10,000 torii gates here will leave you in awe. Did you know that torii gates are seen as entrances to a sacred shrine??
- #HHWT Tip: There are a lot of tourists at the shrine and you might have to wait a while to get the perfect shot with no one around. But our tip is not to stop at the first torii gates you see! Walk further and you’ll find lesser tourists, so you can have your own mini photoshoot.
Lunch at Yoshiya Arashiyama (1h)
- If you’re up for a challenge, hike all the way up to the top of the shrine and you’ll be rewarded with a breath-taking view of Kyoto along the way!
- Admission fee: Free
- Opening hours: 24 hours (7am – 6pm if you want to get a lucky charm)
- Directions: From Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line to Inari Station and walk 5 minutes to Fushimi Inari Shrine
Stroll along Togetsu-Kyo Bridge (30 min)
Credit: Hideyuki Kamon on Flickr
- After all that travelling and walking, it’s finally time for lunch! Head over to Yoshiya Kyoto Arashiyama located near the Randen Arashiyama station.
- Yoshiya specializes in halal washoku (traditional Japanese dishes) including tofu hotpots, bento sets, and even a wagyu set! They also sell croquettes and fried chicken karaage for takeaway - perfect for a snack. ?
- We tried their Mahou Croquette and Deep Fried Chicken Set, which comes with a side of soft Oboro-tofu too. The croquette was crunchy on the outside and so soft (and piping hot!) on the inside, and the chicken was savoury without being too salty. The portion of rice looks pretty small, but with all of the small dishes and some hot cup of tea, I left the restaurant feeling very full and ready for the day ahead! ?
- #HHWT Tip: When you're in Kyoto, you should definitely try some halal authentic Japanese dishes! Click here for 12 amazing eateries to savour Japanese cuisine in the city.
- Halal status: Halal-certified menu available. Prayer room with ablution facilities on the premises - do approach the staff to use the room, and remember to bring your own prayer garments.
- Average price of main dishes: JPY2,500
- Opening hours: Open daily; 9AM - 5.30PM
- Address: 31, Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (右京区嵯峨天龍寺造路町31, Kyoto, Japan)
- Contact: +81 075-871-0456 (No reservation required except for private rooms or large groups)
- Directions: Take the JR San-In Line from Kyoto Station and alight at Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, walk about 10 minutes to Yoshiya.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (30 min)
- Take a light stroll along the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge (literally means moon crossing), which has been one of Arashiyama’s landmarks for over 400 years.
- Built over the beautiful Katsura River, the bridge is also a popular filming spot for many period films.
- The scenic river, mountains and bridge make for a picture-perfect backdrop. Trust us, the view is even more stunning in spring or autumn where the colours of the trees stand out the most!
- If you’d like, you can also take a rickshaw ride on the bridge.
Tenryuji Temple (1h)
- Your trip to Arashiyama won’t be complete without making a visit to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
- Walk through a row of neatly lined bamboo trees and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to another world. It’s simply a sight to behold!
- The Bamboo Grove is accessible 24/7 but the crowds can arrive as early as 9AM! If you’re looking to get a photo without being surrounded by tons of other visitors, try to arrive just after sunrise to squeeze in some memorable shots.
- By the time we arrived (slightly after 9AM) there were already some serious photographers setting up tripods for 'serious' shots, and around 9.30AM a crowd was beginning to form.
Ride the Sagano Romantic Train (1h)
- While you’re at the bamboo forest, why not make a stop at Tenryuji Temple? This World Heritage Site is known as one of Kyoto’s 5 great Zen Buddhism temples.
- The origins of the temple date back to the 14th century but most of its buildings were destroyed in fires and wars over the years, so most of what you see today is from the Meiji period.
- Besides its cultural significance, Tenryuji is also known for having one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and impressive mountain views ?
- Admission fee: JPY 500 (additional JPY 300 if you wish to see the gardens)
- Opening hours: Open daily; 8.30AM–5.30PM (until 5pm from late-Oct to late-Mar)
- Hop aboard one of the most scenic train rides you’ll ever take in your life – the Sagano Romantic Train.
- This sightseeing train takes you on an approximately 25-minute journey along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka.
- What’s charming about the trains is their old-fashioned design (complete with wooden benches!) which evoke a sense of nostalgia.
Travel back to Osaka (1h)
Credit: Mennie Paraiso on Facebook
- If you’re lucky enough to get on the fully open cabin, you’ll be able to soak in the especially magnificent view in autumn and spring.
- #HHWT Tip: If you’re heading here during the peak season, we recommend booking your tickets early to ensure that you’ll have a seat on the train!
- Admission fee: JPY 620 one-way
- Opening hours: First train departs 9.01am, last train departs 4.01pm from Torokko Saga Station. Closed in winter from 30 Dec to end-Feb
Check in to your accommodation (30 min)
- After a fulfilling day in Kyoto, it’s time to head back to Osaka and rest for the night!
- The fastest way to get to Osaka from Kyoto is by using the JR lines and the best part is, your JR West Rail Pass can be used on all local and express trains.
- Do note that the JR West Rail Pass cannot be used on the shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto stations.
- You can use the local trains (special rapid service) which takes 30 minutes and you don’t have to switch trains. Although the shinkansen takes 25 minutes, you’d have to change trains once. So, we’d still recommend using the local train between Osaka and Kyoto!
- Plus, local trains (special rapid service) operate every 15 minutes.
- P.S. Want to do some shopping back in Osaka? Make sure you find these 13 items from the local drugstores!
Credit: Hotel Granvia Osaka on Facebook
- It’s finally time to check in to your accommodation after a long day out!
- For an accessible location and a comfortable stay, we recommend staying at Hotel Granvia Osaka.
- Room rates are priced from about JPY 14,000 (depending on seasons)
Dinner at Ukihashi Hotel Granvia Osaka (1-2h)
Credit: Hotel Granvia Osaka
- The hotel is located right on top of Osaka Station, so it’s really convenient to get around especially if you’re using the JR West Rail Pass as many JR lines pass through the station.
- But if you prefer something more affordable but still within walking distance to Osaka Station, we recommend staying at Hotel Vischio Osaka by Granvia (room rates from about JPY 9,000 per night, depending on seasons).
- Opened in June 2018, this hotel is not only affordable but they also serve halal breakfast! But do note that as halal breakfast is only limited to 20 per day, you’ll need to request at least 10 days in advance on their website.
- Here are other affordable hotels near Osaka station: Osaka Guesthouse Hive, Drop Inn, Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda, Hotel Mystays Premier Dojima
Normal price of transportation in Day 1: JPY 4,170
- If you’re staying at Hotel Granvia Osaka, here’s some great news – the hotel provides Muslim-friendly lunch and dinner options for Muslim travellers!
- This is your chance to try halal kaiseki (traditional Japanese course meal). Ukihashi’s course meal is priced at JPY 8,350 and includes sashimi, clear broth, a broiled and simmered dish, rice and more.
- You can also opt for a serving of grilled halal beef and chicken.
- If you’re at Ukihashi for lunch, you can have their Bento Box (JPY 3,500) instead!
- Halal status: Halal meat available, alcohol served in the establishment
- Note: Reserve your meal on their website at least 4 days in advance
Day 2: Okayama
Be awed by Osaka’s “water clock” (30 min)
- It’s day 2 and you’re heading to the city of Okayama But before making your way there, we recommend visiting the sights at Osaka Station itself.
- If you exit the Osaka Station via its south gate, you’ll notice a pretty interesting water fountain clock.
Shop at Ekidonki and Eki Marche Osaka (30 min)
- Believe it or not, this clock doesn’t use any dials or hands to show the time! Instead, with a technology called ‘space printer’, every line of water shot out of a nozzle is controlled by a computer.
- Did you know that it was named one of the world’s 12 most beautiful clocks by CNN Travel??
- Not only does the clock show the time, but it also displays seasonal flowers and other decorations. Pretty cool, right?
- Opened by famous Japanese chain Don Quijote, Ekidonki at Osaka Station sells a variety of items for your shopping spree!
- The best part is, everything here is tax-free and the items are really affordable. Here’s where you can shop for some unique gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones back home while waiting for your train to Okayama.
Hop aboard the Hello Kitty Shinkansen (1h)
- P.S. You can also do your prayers at Osaka Station! There is a multi-faith prayer room located near the water fountain clock at the South Gate Plaza. Prayer mats are provided but do remember to bring your own prayer garments.
- The prayer room is carpeted, with ablution facilities also available so it’ll be a comfortable space to perform your prayers.
- The best part is, with the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Pass, you’ll get unlimited rides (non-reserved seating) on the Hello Kitty trains without having to fork out any extra fees.
- Make sure you head over to car 1 to check out the special Hello Kitty decorations. You can even take photos with a Hello Kitty statue or buy limited edition Hello Kitty souvenirs!
- But that’s not all! In the same cabin, you’ll also find a huge statue of Hello Kitty dressed in a train master uniform. Strike a pose with it as it’s too cute to resist ?
- Head over to Car 2 for the Kawaii Room where the seats, windows and floors are adorned with Hello Kitty decorations. These adorable designs are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
Indulge in shabu-shabu for lunch
- After you’re done snapping lots of photos with Hello Kitty, head over to Car No. 1 where you can get exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise and memorabilia, including a model of the shinkansen.
- Do note you’ll need to catch the timing of the Hello Kitty trains as they only operate once every day. They will arrive at 11.13am (Kodama 730) at Osaka Station and depart for Okayama at 11.29am (Kodama 741). The journey takes around 1 hour and you’ll arrive in Okayama at 12.32pm.
- The Hello Kitty train doesn’t operate on some days too so make sure you check the train calendar before taking the train!
- Bet you never thought you could find halal sukiyaki and shabu-shabu in Okayama!
- Megu (ひとり鍋 恵) is just a 10-minute walk from Korakuen and they serve halal meat, including halal Kobe Beef (upon request).
- The restaurant received the halal slaughter certificate from the Islamic Center of Japan and their halal meat is sourced from JBS, a halal slaughterhouse in Australia.
- Their Muslim-friendly menu only consists of sukiyaki (sweet soy sauce broth) or shabu-shabu set and it costs just JPY1200 for lunch. As with many Japanese restaurants, prices for dinner are more expensive (starting from JPY2500).
- Ms Otsuki recommended us to take the sukiyaki as it has more flavour compared to shabu-shabu, and boy was she right!
- We simmered the mushrooms, tofu and vegetables into the sukiyaki broth first and waited for it to boil, before dipping the beef slices in to cook for about 30 seconds. The longer we left the beef in, the more flavour it soaked up!
- After the beef was cooked, we dipped it in a raw egg - the egg enhanced the flavours of the beef and sukiyaki.
Stroll through Kourakuen Garden
- You can request to do your prayers here too, but rooms are subject to availability. Alternatively, you can pray in your own room after you’re done with your meal. Do bring your own prayer mat and garments!
- Halal status: Halal-certified meat available. Do note that pork is sold in the establishment but we’ve checked that the kitchenware and utensils for halal meat are clearly labelled and halal meat is strictly stored separately from non-halal meat. Do note that alcohol is served to other customers in the restaurant but the eating area is separated. We advise you to dine at your own discretion.
- Opening hours: Wed-Mon; 11AM-2PM, 5.30PM-10PM (closed on Tue)
- Address: Tenjin Cho Building, 1F, 2-1 Tenjin cho, Kita ku, Okayama City
- After filling your tummy, take a breather at Kourakuen Garden, which has been ranked as one of the three greatest gardens of Japan.
- The garden was built in 1700 and it’s impressive how it’s retained its original appearance from the Edo Period till today!
- Stroll through its spacious lawns, ponds and streams which will definitely make you feel at ease.
- Unlike many other gardens in Japan, Korakuen is very spacious. This was where the lords (daimyo) would come to take a refreshing breather in the summer heat.
- Can you believe that the layout of the garden looks almost the same as when it was first built more than 300 years ago?
Explore Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (2-3h)
Credit: Bryan on Flickr
- Did you know that there are tea plantations and rice fields in Korakuen too? The garden also has a souvenir shop where you can buy all sorts of tea from their very own plantation!
- If you have more time to spare, the Okayama Castle located across the river from Kourakuen is also worth a visit!
- Admission fee: JPY 400 (adult), JPY 140 (senior citizen above 65 years old), admission for children is temporarily free for now
- Opening hours: Open daily; 7.30AM-6PM (20 Mar-Sep), 8AM-5PM (October-Mar 19)
Credit: pierreemilebarreteau on Flickr
- Next, it’s time for a visit to the traditional streets of Kurashiki where you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the set of a historical movie.
- The area is known for its white wall traditional houses called kominka and willow trees along the Kurashiki River, which makes for a picturesque backdrop ?
- Wander through the alleys of Kurashiki and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of 17th century Japan.
- We recommend exploring Kurashiki’s historic streets in a kimono or yukata for a more immersive cultural experience!
Make your own sushi (2.5-3h)
Credit: Okayama Health Tourism
- If you’d like, you can also hop on a traditional sightseeing boat (JPY 500) and just lounge along the river, watching the day go by.
- Directions: Take the JR Sanyo Line from Okayama Station and alight at JR Kurashiki Station. From there, walk about 12 minutes to Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter.
Soak in the atmosphere at Dotonbori (2-3h)
- If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at making sushi, here’s your chance! Head over to Ki Do Ai Raku for an authentic sushi-making experience.
- The best part is, the chef has almost 50 years of experience making sushi, so you know you’re in good hands.
- The sushi-making class is priced from JPY 3,000 depending on the type of ingredients you choose.
- You’ll also get the chance to make different types of sushi from nigiri to rolled sushi. Each meal comes with a set of tempura and soup too!
- Halal status: Seafood options available, no alcohol used in the making of sushi
- Opening hours: 11am – 2.30pm (Lunch), 5.30pm – 9.30pm (Tue – Sat), 5pm – 9.30pm (Sun/PH)
- Note: Do reserve a slot in advance as the class is really popular! (Contact No: +81 86-254-4455, Japanese only)
Normal price of transportation in Day 2: JPY 11,650
- Take the shinkansen from Okayama back to Osaka and head to Dotonbori, Osaka’s main entertainment district.
- Here’s where you’ll find bright neon signs and among them, the famous Glico man, which has been the landmark of Dotonbori since 1935!
- Soak in the lively atmosphere of this bustling district or have your fill of street food. We recommend some Muslim-friendly treats like grilled crab or lobsters ?
- Don’t forget to stock up on souvenirs or Japanese snacks to bring back for your loved ones!
Day 3: Hiroshima
Travel to Hiroshima (1h 20min)
- It’s day 3 and it’s time to explore another city in Japan’s western region, Hiroshima!
- Most people would know Hiroshima as the city that was largely destroyed by the atomic bomb in World War II, but it has been rebuilt into a modern city today.
Learn more about Japanese culture at Itsukushima Shrine (2-3h)
Note: As of Jan 2020, the Itsukushima Shrine is currently under renovation, which includes repainting and repairing damaged areas due to natural erosion. While the renovation is scheduled to be completed in June 2020, do check the website for updates if you’re visiting!
- With the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Pass, your journey from Osaka to Hiroshima will take only 80 minutes as you can hop aboard the fastest shinkansen, the Nozomi.
- Do note that if you have the nationwide JR Rail Pass, it doesn’t give you access on the Nozomi.
- Known as the jewel of Miyajima, Itsukushima literally means “island of worship”. Built more than 1400 years ago, the shrine is now a World Heritage Site.
- Itsukushima was built offshore as the whole shrine is regarded as a God or Kami in Shinto so this meant that when the tides rise, it won’t be damaged.
- More than just an iconic symbol of Miyajima, worshippers have been coming to Itsukushima for ages to pray for the safety of the Seto Inland Sea.
- Since the Edo period, the shrine has become the site of pilgrimage for people living in West Japan. Observing the locals immersed in prayer is a truly fascinating sight.
View the graceful deers at Miyajima (30min – 1h)
- The O-Torii gate is undoubtedly the star of Itsukushima and it’s amazing that it’s been rebuilt and reconstructed many times since the 8th century. It’s also never been damaged by storms or typhoons.
- We managed to catch the O-Torii gate during high tide and the sight of it floating on water was really magical ? When it’s low tide, you can experience a different view by walking up to the gate! Do check the tide timings here.
- Note: The O-Torii gate was supposed to be under renovation since June 2019 but when we were there, there wasn’t any scaffolding.
- Admission fee: JPY300
- Opening hours: Open daily; 6.30AM-5.30PM
Getting to Miyajima Island (10min)
- Not many people know this but other than the famous shrine, Miyajima is also home to an endangered species of Sika deers, which are native to Japan.
- The Sika deers have long been considered a sacred animal and were once worshipped as messengers of God.
- You’ll most probably be able to catch a glimpse of these deer as they roam around freely in Miyajima. They are wild animals but are known to be friendly!
- Though the deers in Miyajima are really friendly, there are signs telling visitors not to pet or feed them so it’s best to adhere to the instructions.
Lunch at Zicon (1-2h)
- Getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima Station is easy. Take the JR San-yo Line and alighted at Miyajimaguchi Station (28 min) before transferring to the JR-WEST Miyajima Ferry to Miyajima Island (10 min). Check out the ferry schedule here.
- There are two ferries heading to Miyajima from the port so make sure you turn right for the JR ferry. The ferry makes a turn so you’ll get a view of the floating torii gates.
- The ferry ride takes only 10 minutes and ferries leave about 2-4 times per hour. Do check out the timetable here.
- The best part? The whole journey is covered by our JR-WEST Pass!
- Head back to downtown Hiroshima for lunch at Zicon, an eatery which serves Muslim-friendly Japanese course meals.
- This is the only place where you can savour halal Hiroshima cuisine like deep-fried oysters and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Their course sets are priced from JPY 5,000, where you’ll also be treated to yummy wagyu steak, sushi and more ?
Hop aboard the Hiroshima sightseeing bus
- If you’d like something more affordable, try their bento sets instead! They are priced from JPY 2,700 and consists of rice, beef and duck meat and more, so you’ll definitely get a hearty meal.
- Do note that you’d need to reserve your halal meal in advance. Call +81 82-258-2229 or email [email protected]. Bento sets need to be reserved at least 2 days in advance while course meals are to be reserved at least 5 days in advance.
- Halal status: Halal meat available, alcohol served in the establishment
- Opening hours: Open daily; 11.30AM–2PM, 6PM–11PM
Relive history at the Atomic Bomb Dome (1-2h)
- After a hearty lunch at Zicon, take a ride on the Meipurupu, Hiroshima’s “hop-on hop-off” sightseeing bus.
- This is the best way to cover Hiroshima’s important sights, especially if you only have one day in the city. What’s more, with the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Pass, you can get on the bus for free!
- There are 3 routes - orange, green and lemon – and they all start from Hiroshima Station, which makes it really convenient for travellers!
Get a bird’s eye view of Hiroshima (1-2h)
- If there’s one place that’s not to be missed while in Hiroshima, it’s the Atomic Bomb Dome.
- The dome was close to where the atomic bomb was dropped, but it managed to avoid complete destruction and its remains are still intact today.
- More than just an important piece of history, the dome is also a reminder of the brutality of war ?
- Other than the Atomic Bomb Dome, a walk around the Peace Memorial Park is also worth your time as you’d be able to see the structures erected in memory of the atomic bomb victims.
- Directions: To get to the dome and Peace Memorial Park, take any of the 3 sightseeing routes from Hiroshima Station.
Have scrumptious ramen at Ayam-Ya (1h)
- It’s time to visit one of Hiroshima’s top spots, the Orizuru Tower, and catch a bird’s eye view of Hiroshima!
- Located just beside the Atomic Bomb Dome, the 50-metre tower is one of the few tall buildings around the Peace Memorial Park.
- Head over to the Observation Deck on the top floor for a panoramic view of the city. What’s great about the deck is how open it is, with little obstruction to the view ?
- It’s definitely great to just sit and chill at the deck while you spot the Atomic Bomb Dome from above, or ground zero of where the bomb was dropped.
Normal price of transportation in Day 3: JPY 20,550
- Take the Nozomi shinkansen back to Osaka and you’ll reach just in time for dinner.
- After a whole day of sightseeing, dig into yummy and flavourful ramen at Ayam-Ya Nanba.
- With branches in Kyoto and Tokyo, this popular halal ramen chain uses chicken-based broth for their ramen and the taste definitely hits the spot!
- Try their signature Soy Sauce ramen (JPY 780) which is served with chicken slices and egg. Trust us, you’ll be slurping every bit of their delicious broth. Their spicy ramen (JPY 850) is also a hit with Muslim travellers!
- Halal status: Halal-certified
- Opening hours: Wed-Mon; 11.30AM–2.30PM, 6PM–10PM (closed on Tue; last order at 9.30PM)
Day 4: Himeji-Kinosaki Onsen
Travel to Himeji (30 min)
Immerse yourself in Japanese history at Himeji Castle (2.5-3h)
- Start out your day by travelling to Himeji in Hyogo prefecture. Take the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station which will bring you directly to Himeji.
- The journey will take only 30 minutes.
- One of the highlights of Himeji is the Himeji Castle. This sprawling castle still retains its 17th-century architecture and has a total of 83 buildings!
- Himeji Castle was also one of the first few Japanese landmarks to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites back in 1993.
- Did you know that Himeji Castle is considered to be one of Japan’s most spectacular castles due to its unparalleled beauty and its well-preserved complex?
- #HHWT Tip: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes when exploring Himeji Castle as the area is huge and there are plenty of stairs and steep slopes!
Savour crispy tempura at Kamifuku (1h)
- Here’s an interesting fact - Himeji is also known as White Heron Castle as the structure of its Main Keep resembles a white heron in flight!
- Admission fee: JPY 1,000
- Opening hours: Open daily; 9AM–5PM (until 6PM from late Apr to Aug; last admission is 1 hour before closing)
Travel to Kinosaki Onsen (1h 43 min)
- After all that walking at Himeji Castle, you must be really famished! Fill your tummy with Kamifuku’s delicious tempura.
- The best part is, the eatery is really accessible; it’s only a 3-minute walk away from Himeji station ?
- Their halal menu offers 3 different sets – vegetable tempura, tempura or tempura with sashimi (from JPY 1,140). The tempura is really light and crispy, and you’ll be left thoroughly satisfied.
- Halal status: Halal menu available, disposable utensils available upon request
- Opening hours: Open daily; 11AM–2.30PM, 5PM–10PM
- #HHWT Tip: Need to do your prayers? Head over to SHINKI Bus Building next to Kamifuku. Prayer mats and garments are available.
Check in to a ryokan (30 min)
Credit: Nishimuraya Honkan on Facebook
- Make your way up north to Kinosaki Onsen, known as one of the best onsen towns in Japan.
- From Himeji Station, take the limited express “Hamakaze” which will bring you directly to Kinosakionsen Station.
- The journey takes less than 2 hours.
Enjoy a relaxing hot spring foot bath or private onsen (1-2h)
Credit: William Cho on Flickr
- Yes, the final night of your trip will be spent in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)!
- As a public onsen will require you to take off all your clothing, we recommend booking a room with a private onsen so you can still enjoy the onsen experience while still keeping your modesty.
- Some of the ryokans offering private onsens are Tajimaya, Kinosaki Onsen Kojinmari, Nishimuraya Honkan, Ryokan Sensui and Tsubakino Ryokan.
Credit: Nishimuraya Kinosaki Onsen on Flickr
- It’ll be a waste to come to Kinosaki Onsen and not soak in their hot springs. Did you know that the hot springs here are believed to have healing powers??
- Most travellers to Kinosaki would take a bath in one of their 7 public onsens but as all onsens require you to take off all your clothing, we recommend trying out a public footbath instead!
Soak in Kinosaki’s traditional atmosphere in a yukata (1h)
Credit: Nishimuraya Kinosaki Onsen on Flickr
- There are 5 footbaths in Kinosaki – outside Satono-Yu (near Kinosakionsen Station), next to Kinosaki Literature and Art Museum, outside Yanagi-Yu, next to Ichino-Yu and near Kinosaki Ropeway.
- If your ryokan has a private onsen, you can also indulge in an enjoyable bath from the comforts of your own room.
- #HHWT Tip: Do note that if you’re heading to a footbath, you’ll have to bring your own towel or take one from your ryokan!
Have a sumptuous meal at Kaichuen, Okesho Sengyo (1h)
Credit: Okesho Sengyo
- Your ryokan experience won’t be complete without trying on the yukata. It is a tradition to wear the yukata during your stay at Kinosaki Onsen so you’ll see other travellers doing the same.
- This is definitely one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture ?
- Every room in a ryokan comes equipped with yukata for its guests and they usually have their own distinct pattern.
- After you’re all dressed in a yukata, take a stroll along Kinosaki’s traditional streets and soak in the atmosphere of this charming town, with its willow trees, river and old-fashioned buildings.
Normal price of transportation in Day 4: JPY 6,560
- Craving for fresh seafood? Okesho Sengyo is a fresh fish market and restaurant rolled in one, with Kaichuen on the second floor. You can choose the seafood you like, and the restaurant will prepare it for you.
- Halal status : While the market and restaurant serves seafood, do note that alcohol is used in the soy sauce. We advise you to dine at your own discretion.
- Opening hours: Open daily; 9AM–5PM
Day 5: Nara
Travel to Nara (3h 45min)
Credit: Kzaral on Flickr
Store your luggage at Nara Station (15 min)
Explore Nara on wheels (15 min)
Credit: Nara Visitor Center & Inn on Facebook
- If you’re worried about lugging your bags around on your last day, use the luggage storage services at Nara Station instead.
- There are key lockers located on the 1st and 2nd floors of JR Nara Station, and they are priced from JPY 300. Each payment will last you an entire day, so you don’t have to worry!
- For those of you with bigger bags, head over to the JR Nara Station Tourist Information Centre which has a baggage storage room. The fee here is JPY 600 per item. Operating hours: 9am – 7pm
- Look for the information centre outside the east exit of the station building!
Interact with deer at Nara Park (1h)
- For your last day in Nara, instead of walking, why not try something different and cycle instead? ?
- Renting a bicycle is easy with the Rent-A-Cycle service (Ekirin Kun) at JR Nara Station.
- The best part is, the bicycle rental is free with your JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Pass!
- Do note that the number of bicycles is limited and it’s on a first-come-first-serve basis.
- Other than Nara, you can also rent a bicycle for free at participating outlets in other cities covered by the JR West Rail Pass like Osaka, Kyoto and Okayama.
- Spotting deer is the main highlight of any traveller to Nara.
- There are hundreds of free-roaming deer at Nara Park and they are seen as the city’s symbol ☺️
- Unlike in Miyajima, you can feed the deer at Nara Park. All you have to do is purchase some deer crackers and you’re all set!
- What’s interesting is that the deer here will bow like the Japanese people, but getting them to bow requires a certain “skill” ?
Marvel at Todaiji Temple (1h)
- First, you have to hold the cracker over the deer’s head and they will bow once, then put the cracker behind your back for a second bow. Put the cracker over their heads one more time for the final bow before finally feeding them.
- Note: Although the deer are quite tame, they can get aggressive if they know that you have food or are about to feed them, so do be careful!
Have lunch at Jinniyah (1h)
Credit: Jinniyah Naramachi on Facebook
- If you have time to spare, pay a visit to Todaiji Temple, located within Nara Park.
- Todaiji is a significant Buddhist temple in Japan and it was once one of the Seven Great Temples.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site is also known for housing the world’s largest and oldest gilded bronze Buddha.
- It’s eye-opening to marvel at this great structure and understand the Buddhists’ devotion, even if our beliefs are different ?
- Admission fee: JPY 600
- Opening hours: 7.30am – 5.30pm (Apr – Oct), 8am – 5pm (Nov – Mar)
Shopping at Naramachi (1-2h)
Credit: Erwan L'HER on Flickr
- One of the well-known places serving halal food is Halal Ramen Naramachi Jinniyah, located in the old town district of Naramachi.
- Have your fill of their scrumptious ramen (from JPY 850), teriyaki chicken rice bowls or grilled chicken (from JPY 500)!
- Not only does this eatery serve delicious food, but it also has a tatami seating area so you can experience the traditional Japanese way of dining.
- Do note that you’d need to make a reservation 2 days in advance and that a purchase of JPY 1,000 or more is needed per person. Email [email protected] to make your reservation.
- Halal status: Halal meat available, prayer facilities in the establishment
- Opening hours: Fri-Tue; 11.30AM-6PM (closed on Wed & Thu)
Travel to Kansai Airport (1h 20 min)
- Enjoy some last minute shopping at Naramachi before you make your way to Kansai Airport.
- Naramachi was once a merchant district of Nara but it’s now filled with shops, restaurants and boutiques.
- Lose yourself in the narrow and winding streets of Naramachi and you might also find some Nara handicrafts and unique souvenirs!
Normal price of transportation in Day 5: JPY 8,090
Total Cost Breakdown with Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass
- You can also perform your prayers at the airport at any of the airport’s 3 prayer rooms: T1 3F beside Korean Air Lounge, International Departure Gate Area North Wing and South Wing Gate.
- The prayer rooms are gender-segregated with a wudhu area. Plus, there are prayer mats and garments too!
Total price of transportation without JR West Rail Pass
: JPY 51,020
Cost of JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass
: JPY 13,500
Total amount saved: JPY 37,520!
Bet you didn’t know there were so many interesting sights, culture and halal food in Japan’s Kansai area and beyond! With the JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Pass
, not only will you be able to travel easily around Osaka and Kyoto, but you’d also get to explore Okayama and Hiroshima
. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a lot of savings with the JR West Rail Pass
. So, if you’ve never thought of exploring this part of Japan, we hope our guide has inspired you to do so. Time to plan your trip and get off the beaten path!
This article is correct as of Jan 2020, and details are subjected to change.
This article is brought to you by the West Japan Railway Company.