Akashi


The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known in Japan as the Pearl Bridge, has a record main span of 1,991 meters and a total length of 4 kilometers. It is the worlds longest suspension bridge. The bridge links the main island of Honshu with the southern island of Shikoku via the island of Awaji, crossing the Akashi straits.

Himeji


Himeji is most famous for its Castle, also called Shirasagijo (White Heron Castle) due to its white outer walls. Himeji Castle was originally built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori as a fortification against local shoguns. When emperor Nobunaga Oda took control of the Harima district in 1577, he placed Hideyoshi in control of the castle and Lord Ikeda Terumasa fortified Himeji for eight years, starting 1601.

Mount Shosha


The temple mountain of Mount Shosha can be reached via the scenic ropeway. Founded in 966 by Priest Shoku, Engyoji was once a major training center for priests of the Tendai sect. This was a filming location for the Hollywood movie "The last Samurai".

Kobe


Kobe (Japanese: 神戸市; kōbe-shi) is located on the island of Honshu. Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture. It was one of the first cities to open for trade with the West. Kobe is Japans second largest port, the sixth largest port in the world and the gateway for 12% of Japan's exports. Kobe lies directly on the Nojima fault. Kobe is also known as the city of pearls for its oyster pearl processing.

Arima Onsen


Arima Onsen is a hot spring town, still located within the city limits of Kobe, but on the opposite side of Mount Rokko from the city center. With a history of over one thousand years, it is one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts, dating back to the 8th century.

Osaka


Construction of Osaka Castle started in 1583 under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He was a former general who reunited Japan. A few years after Hideyoshi's death in 1615, Tokugawa troops destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage. Tokugawa Ieyasu was appointed Shogun and Tokugawa shoguns continued to rule Japan for a remarkable 250 years of peace, the Edo period.

Nara


In 710, the Imperial court builds a new capital at Nara, modeled upon Chang-an in China. Though emperors are Shinto chiefs, they patronize Buddhism in the belief that its teachings create a peaceful society and protect the state. The biggest temple is Todajii, the largest wooden structure in the world. Founded by bishop Roben, its home of the great Vairocana Buddha, cast in bronze, with a body height of fifteen meters.

Shinkansen


The famous bullet train system is punctual to the minute. Running at a top speed of 300 km/h, Nozomi is the fasted, followed by Hikari and Kodama. Markers on the platform tell were to wait so boarding goes fast. The train personel is as always very polite and bows to the passengers. Shinkansen tracks go right through residential neighborhoods.

Electronics and Technology


This is electronics heaven. People are glued to their cellphones, which are very cool with high-resolution color screens they can play music, movies, games and of course they are internet connected. Sending messages is good fingertraining. I found mini dishwashers, kintetsu and: heated toilets with many interesting buttons.

Delicious Meals


With a amazing variety of dishes, seafood seems to dominate. I liked it all: famous Kobe beef, Fugu, crabs, lobster, shrimp and mushrooms. Not so much on my favorite list was seaweeds. The unsorted list of my favorites: Miso soup, fried shrimp, Calpis softdrinks, Calbee snacks and, on the very top: Keiko's breakfast!

Traditions


Kimono's look so charming and beautiful. They are a eye-catcher. I was also surprised how many temples can be found. Even in downtown areas there are small shrines. There are two major religions in Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism. It is said that 80% of the Japanese are Shinto, and 80% are Buddhists. This means that many worship in both religions.