Hiroshima to Himeji via Daisen, Honshu

Tuesday 4th June 2024
Today we had an amazing but unfortunately a little disappointing day.
We left the hotel early as we had a big drive, a climb and another big drive planned.

Firstly we enjoyed a beautiful drive through the lush, green countryside. We drove through farmland with rice paddies, forests of pine trees, through long tunnels onto bridges which spanned long distances, back into more tunnels. It was a pleasant although expensive toll drive. About 4000Y. We were again amazed at the lack of traffic on the roads. The weather wasn’t as forecast, it was supposed to be a beautiful, cloudless, sunny day. It started with a little cloud which increased until it was raining. It was only 216km but it took us 3 hrs to drive at the Daisen National Park.

The day was bleak and our full sunny day now only had a window of sun at 2-4pm. What to do. The planned hike was a 7km return hike up 900m elevation to the top of Mt Daisen. We went to the visitors Centre and checked some maps and mucked around for an hour deciding whether to hike or not as it was still raining a little. At this stage the peak was in the clouds. With the 2 hour Window of sunshine, I suggested we climb for an hour and see how it was going, at worst we got a little wet and had done exercise. So off we went.
The trail started on some steps that went straight up, so the climbing had begun. Up, up and up. To start with we were on the first, each lookout we came to was bleaker than the last. We passed the 2st, 2nd and 3rd station, up 100m, 200m and then we were up 300m. We just kept going up those little steps, one by one. As we continued for the first hour we had by then climbed about 600m in elevation, the steps were still believing and the view had been little more than fog, lots of trees and a couple of flowers. The potential for a beautiful view was there, is only the clouds would lift. As expected we decided to continue to the top, we had only had a short time of rain which was only a sprinkle. I didn’t even get out my umbrella.

The next section the steps became rocks, the trees became shrubs and the ascent a bit steeper. We only had 300m elevation to go. We chatted with some climbers from Osaka, Hiroshima, Otamaya, the local area of Daisen and Kansai, Osaka. It was fun trying to communicate, and helped break the climb. As we reached the top we walked along the Ridge across a rickety, patched boardwalk, it was very worn and looked a little unstable and rickety in a lot of spots. We looked like we were walking up to heaven. A destination in the clouds that you could not see. We finally made it to the top, passed a closed shop and unfortunately there was nothing to see except the clouds. Oh well, another Mt Marion lookout, New Zealand feat. A great climb with zero views.

The trip back down was a lot quicker. We walked briskly down the ramps. It was a bit slow going down the trickier, steeper section and David started getting a sore back, we think from standing all day in the Peace Museum yesterday. His back got considerably worse and was quite painful the rest of the way down, although not as bad on the smaller steps. Just before about the 6th ??? station, the two hour window of sunshine shed its light on us for about 30 seconds. Long enough for a momentary glimpse at the view we could have enjoyed for most of the day. Oh well., maybe next time. The little steps seemed to go on forever, but it was easy going and we ran down most of them. We arrived back at the car in just under 1hr 20mins compared to the 2 hours it took to go up to the top. It was amazing that the whole hike except for maybe two stations was little coppers log steps.

So we arrived at the bottom at about 4.20pm and were on our way quickly as we still had a 2-3 hour drive depending where we put our heads down for the night. It was a choice of driving to Himeji (2 hrs) or Nara (3hrs), we decided on Himeji as the castle there was apparently the best in Japan. So that being decided upon, I quickly booked a cheap hotel. Unbeknown to me at the time, as I just checked the rating, not the comments, I had booked a “Love Hotel”. We had avoided these throughout the trip. My naivety, I just thought they were like honeymooners hotels  but they were entirely different. In short, trhey were hotels that could be booked by the hour, two hours, 5 hours or 24 hours. These days as the Love Hotels aren’t as popular anymore, thankfully they are now also being used for tourism as well. Although, we did have a couple of condoms on the bedside table and we didn’t check to see if the TV had X-rated material. The big spa bath was a great asset for David as by the time we got to the hotel, his back had seized and he struggled to get out of the car and walk. The room/s (bedroom, king size bed, large bathroom with spa, entry hall and toilet) were bigger than we had experienced in any other hotel our entire trip.

We had anotrher fail tonight, I chose a Ramen Restaurant for our last dinner, silly me didn’t think about parking. We spent the next hour driving round in squares trying to work out where to park or whether we should just get a quick reheat dinner from a  convenience store. After parking at a Lawson, David read up about parking and we decided to give this a go. We found a small parking lot and were standing at the machine translating and trying to work out how to do it, when a kindly Japanese man stopped to assist. This done, we were on our way. The reason there was no parking at the restaurant was that it was in the long mall. Annoyingly, the restaurant I had chosen was closing, so we then needed to find another one. More walking for David, which didn’t make me too popular. And as we all know, I don’t cope when he is not happy. That said and done, we found a restaurant and enjoyed our last meal of ramen. Nothing has beaten the one at Wakayama with sesame and garlic, but it was nice all the same. They are always quick and easy. It was a mammoth day.

Love hotels (ラブホテル, also known as boutique or fashion hotels) are hotels that offer double rooms for short periods of time. Typically you can rent a room for a minimum of one to three hours during the day, called a “rest”, or for the whole night, called a “stay”, which usually starts after 10 pm. As the name suggests, the main purpose of love hotels is to provide couples with a room to spend some undisturbed time together.

The rooms are equipped according to their purpose with large double beds, a television offering erotic programs, a nice bathroom, etc. Some love hotels are themed and may come properly equipped or with items such as costumes available to rent or buy.

Love hotels are found all over Japan, and they can usually be recognized because of their extravagant looks and/or their signs advertising “rest” and “stay” rates. In large cities there are love hotel districts, such as Tokyo’s Love Hotel Hill in Shibuya, where many different hotels can be found together. In smaller cities they are often found near major roads on the city outskirts.

An overnight stay costs around 8,000 to 14,000 yen, while a rest during the day costs around 4,000 to 8,000 yen. On weekends, the prices can be much higher. The reception at a love hotel is very anonymous. The guests usually choose a room on a board by pressing a button and then pay at a little window where the receptionist behind cannot be seen.