Friday Five: Miyajima

Since moving to Portland and getting settled in a city and at a  new job, I’ve again fallen off the blogging train. My last trip in Japan deserves to be written about, though. From Hokkaido, Miyajima can be difficult to reach. With flights to Hiroshima out of our price range, Lynn, Marina, and I flew to Osaka, took an overnight bus to Hiroshima, and then took the ferry out to Miyajima after a day exploring the city. We also met with Lynn’s friend, a Singaporean JET based outside Hiroshima, and she showed us some great places on the island.

1.) Itsukushima Shrine–Perhaps most iconic in Miyajima, and maybe all of Japan, is the floating tori gate. At high tide, the gate in front of Itsukushima Shrine sits out in the water. Both the shrine and the gate are built deep into the ground, and at high tide they appear to float. At low tide, though, people walk up to the shrine and the gate, and it’s quite beautiful to see them in both cases. Throughout our visit, we went to both multiple times. At night, we walked around at low tide when lanterns lit the path above us and only a few other people walked around. It wasn’t too busy during our trip, maybe because of the heat, but at night it was particularly pleasant. We also visited the shrine on our last morning on the island, and it was gorgeous.

2.) Mt. Misen–On our first full day on the island, we took the ropeway up Mt. Misen and hiked to the peak. We went first thing in the morning, and when it was a bit cloudy, which turned out to be the right decision because when we hiked all the way down (we’d bought one-way tickets figuring we could tackle the hike down easily enough), the sun had come out and it was much, much hotter. Throughout the mountain, and the island in general, we encountered the famous Miyajima deer, one of whom ate Lynn’s paper fan.

3.) Ryoso Kawaguchi–We stayed at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese style inn, on the island, and it was amazing. Ryokan tend to be very expensive, and we knew that Miyajima in particular would have pricy ones, so Kawaguchi was a steal. Service was friendly and personable, the Japanese style breakfast was amazing, the private onsen refreshing, and the rooms cozy and homey. My only complaint was that the threshold to the room was short and I may have given myself a series of concussions, even though the owner told me to watch my head when she first showed us to our room.

4.) Food–Miyajima’s downtown is filled with famous, local delicacies. One afternoon we made a lunch of the street food: fish cakes, pork buns, and Miyajima grilled oysters. Everything was delicious, but a deer tracked us down and wouldn’t let us eat in peace. Another Miyajima delicacy is momiji manju: sort of like taiyaki but in the shape of a maple leaf. Stalls sell these hot and fresh throughout the island, and our favorite was one that sold them fried and in ice cream.

For better or worse, Miyajima is also full of trendy cafes and a good gelato shop (Baccano). This meant that there were good breakfast options when we didn’t want to shell out for the hotel breakfast or we needed a coffee fix, but it also sparked discussions about globalization and gentrification.

5.) Island wanderings–Tourists often visit Miyajima as a day trip from Hiroshima. With three days and two nights there, we had ample time to explore the island’s crevices and quiet corners. From Daishoin to little canals to the folk museum. We walked through pools of water on the beach at low tide and played in the sand. We followed deer down deserted streets at night while drinking Miyajima IPA.

Along with Tokyo, Hakodate, and Matsumoto, Miyajima tops my list for favorite places in Japan, and I hope to revisit when I next go to Japan.

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