It’s billed as an almost essential day trip from Hiroshima, so we had to check out Miyajima. Luckily it is worth the hype.
Accessible via train and boat (both free with the JR rail pass) it doesn’t take long to reach the island.
The appeal of Miyajima is that it is almost totally traditionally Japanese. Most places in Japan retain the traditional temples and shrines but also have plenty of ugly concrete buildings, as everywhere does.
Because of this it is popular. Very popular. From the second we got off the boat there were herds of people everywhere. After Kyoto it was the most tourist laden place we visited in the country.
It’s also full of wild deer, a bit like Nara we’d visited the week before. The Miyajima deer though are a lot less aggressive, probably because no-one is allowed to feed them, so while they’re inquisitive, they didn’t try to eat our clothes.
Without a doubt the most popular sight on the island isn’t actually on it at all. It’s the floating Torii gate, located a few metres from the shore. The floating illusion can be lost when the tide is low enough but luckily for us the tide stayed high enough for it to be submerged when we visited.
Close by is Itsukushima shrine, a vast network of walkways and halls on stilts over the water. It occupies a bay area and affords a great view over the water to the floating torii.
Wandering the streets is fun in Miyajima, the shops are full of quirky gifts and we even got to see the worlds largest spatula, quite a humbling moment I can tell you. The island specialises in a certain type of spatula and they are for sale everywhere.
The waterfront is also a pleasant stroll, it even has it’s own beach of sorts.
Oysters are on the menu almost everywhere in Miyajima so I took full advantage, starting with a curry oyster doughnut as soon as we arrived and then soba noodles with something like 8 oysters for lunch. Hard to believe something which is quite expensive most places could be had so fresh and reasonably priced!
After lunch we wanted to climb Mount Mison but after walking for a while and seeing it would take 3 hours for the round trip we decided not to bother. This turned out to be a rare wise decision for us because as soon as we got to the bottom it started hammering it down with rain. There was no escape from it – the shops are tiny and we had already eaten, so reluctantly we headed towards the ferry again.
We liked Miyajima and it’s definitely worth a day or afternoon out considering how easy it is to get there. I don’t think we’ll be looking back on it as the number 1 highlight of our travels but it was a really nice day out.
To get to Miyajima from Hiroshima, take the train to Miyajimaguchi which takes 25 minutes and costs¥400. When you exit the station you’d really struggle to get lost, the route to the ferry is heavily signposted. There are 2 ferry companies, both are the same price (¥170) so it really doesn’t matter which you go for, unless like us you have a JR Rail Card, in which case you need to take the JR ferry.