Perhaps I’ve never brought this up, but… the San’in region really likes to welcome visitors with international passports and resident cards. They give you discounts. Lots of discounts.

Although many people taking advantage of the cheap yen also take advantage of the JR Pass (which does reach into and through the San’in region, hitting all the major cities and then some), some of us travelers–as in, those of us who live in Japan and are not eligible for the JR Pass–prefer to take buses. While I do like riding the Yakumo Express to Okayama and then hoping a bullet train from there to Osaka or Kyoto (standard one-way fare between Matsue and Kyoto: ¥12,020), a highway bus between either location is both cheaper (Matsue to Kyoto: ¥10,000) and more direct, and they also have night bus options.

The really obvious bus choice, however, is from Hiroshima. Not only is it faster–much faster, thanks to the new highway–and cheaper, but international visitors get half-off. If you present your residence card or passport when buying your ticket in person, you get a one-way trip through the Chuugoku Mountains for ¥1,950 instead of ¥3,900. This is still in the works, but a local hotel association is considering making the round trip free if you fill out a short survey when purchasing your ticket. Yes, free. This is still in the works, though, and if it works out, it’ll probably only be offered for a year a so.

But how about once you get into the region? Here is a non-extensive list of discounts:

Places offering 50% discount on admission:
Matsue Castle: ¥280
Samurai Residence (Buke Yashiki): ¥150
Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum: ¥150
Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence: ¥150
Meimei-an Tea House: ¥200
Matsue History Museum: ¥250
Horan-enya Memorial Hall: ¥100 (Though this is free if you bought admission to the history museum around the corner anyway)
Gessho-ji Temple: ¥250 (yes, that’s the one with the enormous tortoise)
Shimane Art Museum Special Exhibitions: ¥500
Adachi Museum of Art: ¥1,100
Yuushien Japanese Garden: ¥300
Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo: ¥300
Yasugi-bushi Entertainment Hall: ¥300 (That’s where you can watch the silly Dojo-Sukui dance)

30~33% off:
Horikawa Sightseeing Boat: ¥820
Matsue Vogel Park: ¥1,050
Lake Shinji Pleasure Cruise: ¥980

This is such a common-place thing to me here that I forget that’s it’s not as common elsewhere. Be informed, everyone! And I hope to see you out here soon!

NOTE: All prices are subject to change!

Huzzah! Many international travelers to Japan are aware of the JR Pass, which allows temporary visitors a chance to save on extensive travel throughout the country. For those focusing their travel in any given region there are cheaper area passes, and now the San’in region gets to have its name represented in one–and its JR routes and then some too, of course.

JR West will be offering the JR Sanyo Sanin Pass, effective March 1, 2015, for ¥20,000 (¥19,000 if you order outside of Japan). It includes service on the Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains between Shin-Osaka and Hakata (Fukuoka), which can get you in and out of the region in either direction. Considering going straight between these two stations would cost ¥15,310 anyway, that means you can get to any other the other (literally) hundreds of stations covered for ¥4,690. Given the depreciating value of the Yen against other major currencies, that’s not much at all.

Map credit goes to Click the image to read their page about this pass and see a larger version.

Map credit goes to Click the image to read their page about this pass and see a larger version.

For a consecutive week of travel, this will cover towns to get your Edo Era kick from Hagi to Tsuwano to Matsue to Bicchu-Takahashi and to Kurashiki to even Hikone and Iga-Ueno. For the 8th century history buffs, this will take you from Nara to Izumo and to everything in between. Ocean lovers will enjoy the different views of both the Sea of Japan and the Seto Inland Sea. Even first time travelers to Japan and hit major sites on the Golden Route, like Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima, and still be able to get to a wealth of places off the severely beaten track.

It’s at times like this I sort of wish I didn’t live here, because my work visa makes me ineligible for JR Passes. For a full San’in tour, I’d like to start in Kyoto, work my way through Tottori, then Shimane, and down through Hagi. But then again, I do get to live in the beautiful Edo Era-esque city of Matsue with a view of Matsue Castle and wide breadth of choices for tea and wagashi or fresh seafood, so I guess it’s not that bad of a trade-off.

Side note: Fuji Dream Airlines is starting service from Nagoya Komaki airport to Izumo on March 29th!

Come see us here in Matsue and the rest of the San’in region, Travelers! And keep those passports handy for discounts on admission!

Who says the Shadowy Side can't be sunny?

Who says the Shadowy Side can’t be sunny?

Millions of people on summer vacation around the world will be packed into cars soon and carried across miles and miles–or kilometers and kilometes–of road, faced with hours and hours of boredom, cramped quarters, and crankiness. Out of those millions, there will be a handful of lucky people who will be drive along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and out of the weariness of being the road, they will suspect they are hallucinating when they spot a giant pink octopus.

Rejoice, parents of small children (and anyone else in touch with their inner child)! Behind the strip of restrooms and restaurants, there is a jungle gym!

And a roller slide!

And was that a dinosaur? Yes, that was a dinosaur.

There is more general playground equipment not pictured here–you’ll either have to imagine it or experience it for yourself. Should this excitement happen to wear you out, there is also a covered gazebo overlooking the view of the sea, though there are a number of vantage points around the hill tucked behind Akasaki district’s rest stop by the port. It used to be a town of its own until merging with Kotoura (which is still small town).

Ah, Tottori. Least populated prefecture, most epic rest stop.