4 prefectures, 1 day: A day trip in West Japan for foodies
Assuming you have planned to pop by Osaka Prefecture (大阪府) for your much anticipated trip to Japan, you have probably chosen Osaka as a stop for its exciting food and shopping culture reflected in those Instagram photos that leaves us all mesmerized. Be it going on a luxurious shopping spree in Umeda, scouting for quirky accessories in America Mura, having a blast in Universal Studios, and—of course—the savouring of takoyaki and gyoza along the canal of Dotonbori, Osaka is an exciting prefecture in Kansai that simply cannot be fully experienced in just a single day.
With some careful planning, the main attractions of Osaka can be easily covered within the typical 4–5 days, leaving at least that one free day before the flight back home or that next train ride to another part of Japan. Considering that you have also diligently calculated the associated traveling expenses and have found it more worthwhile to purchase a JR Pass—if you happen to be free on the last day of the Rail Pass, you might very well be wondering how you can maximize the Rail Pass to the fullest to end off the trip on a high note.
Shin-Osaka Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
That being said, how does visiting four prefectures in a single day sound? A day trip coupled with plenty of sightseeing, food and strolls, this exciting itinerary promises an adrenaline surge and a satisfied belly for our most enthusiastic friends out there who are literally, yearning for that “one last adventure”.
11AM: Okayama Prefecture (Okayama)
JR Okayama Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
From Shin-Osaka Station, Okayama Prefecture (岡山県 Okayama-ken) can be reached within an hour via the shinkansen. Kickstart the long day with a fulfilling brunch! My personal recommendation would be Ajitsukasa Nomura’s “Demi-glace Katsu Don”, a small eatery tucked away in a corner of the town which happens to be reachable through a 5–10-minute walk from JR Okayama Station (岡山駅).
Demi-glace Katsu Don at Ajitsukasa Nomura. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Surprisingly, the highlight of the katsu don is none other than the demi-glace gravy itself. Thick in consistency and saturated in flavour, the gravy pairs really well with the pork cutlet which was served piping hot. I only ordered a small portion as I was rather full from a heavy breakfast, but there are larger portions featuring different cuts of meat available.
Ajitsukasa Nomura (味司 野村)
Address: 1-10 Heiwacho, Kita-ku, Okayama, 700-0827
Nearest station: Okayama Station (岡山駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–14:30, 17:30–21:00 (Closed on Mondays)
Tel: +81 86-222-2234
After a hearty meal, enjoy a leisurely stroll down the main street towards our next sightseeing spot. In about 30 minutes, I was able to find my way towards Korakuen Garden (後楽園), a picturesque landscape garden with origins dating back to the Edo Period. Did you know that Korakuen Garden holds the title of being one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens?
Korakuen Garden, with Okayama Castle in the backdrop. (Image credit: photoAC / rupann7777777)
I was genuinely surprised to be able to spot some cranes which were reared in the garden! They make really weird sounds, but they are really a rare sight to behold.
Cranes in Korakuen Garden. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Following through the winding paths towards the south gate, one is led to a bridge which leads up to the Okayama Castle (岡山城 Okayama-jō), framed in a view you would have come across during your stroll in Korakuen Garden. Also known as “Crow Castle” due to its unique dark shade, it is a six-storey castle which dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama Period in 1597. The existing castle however, is a reconstructed version erected in 1966 as it was previously destroyed in World War II.
Okayama Castle. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
After capturing several beautiful photos of this unique castle, make your way back to the town via cutting through Ishiyama Park. After reaching the main street however, head back to JR Okayama Station through the local street car. I really loved the atmosphere of the vintage interior which made me feel a little nostalgic.
Old-school interior of street cars in Okayama. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
2PM: Okayama Prefecture (Kurashiki)
Upon reaching JR Okayama Station, use the rail pass to hop on the JR Sanyo Line to Kurashiki Station (倉敷駅). Kurashiki, a 15-minute train ride away from Okayama City, is rather well known for its storehouses which may remind you of Singapore’s very own shophouses. The main attraction however, is the canal area—the picturesque sight of a canal framed by willow trees on both flanks. It’s possible to take a boat ride along the canal, but I personally feel it’s more worthwhile to walk along the canal and explore the little shops along the way. According to my Japanese friends, Okayama is really famous for kibi dango (きびだんご) and peaches, so be sure to check out the local shops to buy some back as souvenirs!
Lane of shophouses in Kurashiki. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Grilled Kibi Dango is one of Okayama’s specialities. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
The picturesque Kurashiki Canal. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
With the goodies in hand, head back to JR Okayama Station via the JR Sanyo Line, and hop on the shinkansen headed for Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県 Hiroshima-ken). Just 40 minutes away, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite and do some shopping after all that sightseeing.
Walking route guide to Korakuen Garden/Okayama Castle from JR Okayama Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim / Map Data ©2020 Google)
Walking route guide to Kurashiki Canal area from Kurashiki Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim / Map Data ©2020 Google)
5PM: Hiroshima Prefecture
JR Hiroshima Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
To compensate for a rather early lunch, dinner will be partaken in 2 parts—of which the first shall be enjoyed in Hiroshima. Aside from oysters, did you know that Hiroshima is especially famous for okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)? Many might be familiar with the okonomiyaki of Osaka Prefecture, but few are actually aware of the existence of its cousin variant. Unlike Osaka’s okonomiyaki which comprise a batter and ingredient mixture, Hiroshima’s okonomiyaki is prepared in a layered style: batter, vegetables and meat are all stacked upon one another and compressed together as a rather thick pancake. From JR Hiroshima Station (広島駅), hop on a street car and head towards Hatchobori Station (八丁堀駅), which is extremely near Hondori, Hiroshima’s most famous shotengai (商店街 shopping arcade).
Hiroshima streetcar. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Just across Hondori, I recommend Mitchan Sohonten for their amazing Okonomiyaki, which is open for business at 5:30pm. A long queue always forms prior to the opening time, so I suggest making your way there as soon as you alight from the tram. After the hearty meal, enjoy a brief stroll along Hondori to check out the local shops and accelerate the digestion in preparation for part 2 of dinner! Once satisfied with the stroll, return to JR Hiroshima Station via the streetcar.
Layering of ingredients in the preparation of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Mitchan Sohonten Hatchobori (みっちゃん総本店)
Address: 6-7 Hatchobori, 1F Churis Hachobori, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, 730-0013
Nearest station: Hatchobori Station (八丁堀駅)
Opening hours: 11:30–14:30, 17:30–21:00 (Daily)
Tel : +81 82-221-5438
The most famous shopping arcade in Hiroshima—Hondori. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Route guide to Mitchan Sohonten and Hondori. (Image credit: Eugene Sim / Map Data ©2020 Google)
8PM: Hyogo Prefecture (Kobe)
JR Shin-Kobe Station. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Using the same JR Pass, hop on the shinkansen to Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県 Hyōgo-ken), where we will be specifically alighting at Shin-Kobe Station (新神戸駅) slightly after 1.5 hours. And yes, we’ve arrived here to savor some Kobe Beef—one of the world’s most elusive breeds of beef! Even in Japan, licenses to serve authentic Kobe Beef are limited to only a number of exclusive shops, so it is definitely one of those must-do experiences if you happen to be in Kobe. Unfortunately, most of the decent restaurants require advanced booking, which may prove to be difficult if one is unable to converse in Japanese, or if the restaurant itself is not affiliated with any booking platforms such as Klook. If you happen to be like me however, who arrived in Kobe at this time hunting for a decent place to pop in without having to make any bookings, I recommend Steakland near Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)—which offers a variety of meal packages depending on your budget. Although I chose one of the cheaper set meals on the menu, I was still extremely surprised by the amazing flavour of Kobe Beef! Cooked before you and served piping hot, its texture reminds me of marshmallows—downright fluffy, with a burst of umami drawn from the complex marbling of the cut. I’m sure the more expensive cuts would taste even better, so if you happen to have a larger budget, please indulge in this rare chance to savour the best of authentic Kobe beef.
The Kobe beef is prepared right before you, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Kobe beef set meal, including bread, salad, soup and a drink. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Steakland Kobe (ステーキランド)
Address: 1-8-2 Kitanagasadori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0012
Nearest station: Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–22:00 (Sunday–Friday), 10:30–22:00 (Saturday)
Tel: +81 78-332-1653
Imagawayaki stuffed with generous portions of azuki (red bean). (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
If there is still room for more food, I suggest popping by this humble store located in Sannomiya Station for a fresh, piping hot imagawayaki (今川焼き) before tapping in! Prepared fresh right before your eyes, imagawayaki is a Japanese pancake with a generous filling of azuki (あずき red bean).
Gozanurou Sannomiya Station Branch (御座候三ノ宮店 ゴザンウロウ)
Address: 4-1-1 Kanocho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-0001
Nearest station: JR Sannomiya Station (West Exit, 2F) (三宮駅)
Opening hours: 10:00–22:00 (Monday–Saturday), 10:00–20:00 (Sunday)
Tel: +81 78-392-1118
The iconic Port Tower in the Port of Kobe. (Image credit: photoAC)
Round up your memories of Kobe by swinging by the Port of Kobe, renowned for the iconic Port Tower in Red, the symbol of Kobe. The beauty of the night illumination of structures surrounding the port is sure to leave you impressed as you indulge in a slow paced stroll to digest your dinner!
Route guide to Steakland (Sannomiya Station) and Port of Kobe. (Image credit: Eugene Sim / Map data ©2020 Google)
Last but not least—10PM: Back in Osaka
Conclude your exciting day by hopping on a shinkansen back to Osaka Prefecture, which is conveniently located just 15 minutes away. If you’re still hungry and energetic, hop on the subway to Namba to savour that last serving of Osaka’s street food. I recommend kushikatsu (串カツ), a fried version of yakitori (焼き鳥) which is not that well known, but still, amazingly delicious! Kushikatsu tastes roughly the same regardless of the stores, so just swing by any eateries which happen to be open. Be sure to order a highball as well, as both go pretty well together.
Assorted Kushikatsu. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Bonus: If you wish to compare and contrast the best of Osaka- and Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki, I recommend popping by “Fukutaro Honten” in Namba, Osaka! Come prepared to face a long queue, but I promise it is definitely worth the wait. It’s extremely near Dotonbori as well, so you can also look forward to an exciting post-dinner stroll in the heart of Osaka!
Osaka-style Okonomiyaki, prepared with ingredients mixed in a batter. (Image credit: Eugene Sim)
Fukutaro Honten (福太郎)
Address: 2-3-17 Sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0074, Japan
Nearest station: Namba Station (難波駅) / Kintetsu Nipponbashi Station (近鉄日本橋駅)
Opening hours: 17:00–23:30 (Weekdays), 12:00–23:00 (Weekends)
Tel: +81 666-34-2951
And that is how the most adventurous foodie can explore four prefectures in a single day! Most of the day is spent sightseeing in Okayama Prefecture, while Hiroshima and Kobe are more of stopovers to satisfy the belly. All in all, this 1-day itinerary only serves as a rough guide, and I have attempted it myself so it is 100% achievable at a pace which is not overly rushed. Nevertheless, if you do have something extra in particular which you would like to explore in addition to the itinerary, plan properly in advance—good planning is key to a fulfilling traveling experience, and it’s something that is definitely within your control, especially in Japan where train arrivals are always on time.
Header image credit: photoAC
Writer's profile: Currently a student majoring in Architecture, Eugene has covered 15 prefectures to date with a deep passion for exploring traditional shrines, temples and shophouses. Loves travelling by foot most of the time, and also known for having an insanely huge appetite for good food!