Saturday, 7 November 2015

Caroline vs. Miyajima

We did everything we wanted to do in Hiroshima within the first day and a half, so for the last full day before I went back to Tokyo and my family went to Kyoto, we went over to Miyajima, home of the famous Itsukushima Shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  At only a 30-ish minute train ride from Hiroshima Station plus a short ferry ride, it is incredibly accessible.  There are even a few hotels on the island, which is a great way to explore once the ferries have stopped running and tourists have gone home.

We were blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather, and spent almost the entire day outside.  We first stopped at Miyajima Itsuki Coffee, which I'd seen on a number of Japanese Instagram accounts I follow.  The coffee was, of course, delicious, and the décor was so clean and minimal; absolutely the kind of café I would set myself up in for an afternoon of work.  We also ran into a huge number of deer who populate the island they way the do in Nara Park, but unlike in Nara you are not allowed to feed Miyajima's deer.

Once caffeinated, we walked partway up Mount Misen to the beginning of the Miyajima Ropeway (also accessible by shuttle bus), which would take us most of the way up.  Thanks to the beautiful weather we had clear views of the island and the sea, and I was taking so many photos I *almost* forgot how antsy I am about heights.  From Shishiiwa Station at the terminus of the Ropeway, we climbed the rest of the way to the summit of Mount Misen, which took about half an hour.  It wasn't incredibly challenging, but having supportive footwear is a must if you don't want to risk slipping and hurting yourself on the rock steps.

The summit of Mount Misen has a small observatory, which is a great place from which to see all around the island.  A couple deer had even made it all the way up there and were relaxing in the shade!  We didn't stay at the summit for long, but the observatory was a nice shady place to sit down and have some water and snacks (if you were smart, unlike us, and remembered to pack any).

On the way back down, we walked the path that took us through the National Treasure Misen Primeval Forest and past Daisho-in Temple before bring us back into town.  Most of the path is made up of rock stairs, many of which are in shady areas of the forest and hadn't dried after the rainstorm the day before.  It was way easier to go down than up, but we did pass several brave souls who made the 1.5 hour trek up to the summit.

It was the middle of the afternoon by the time we got back to town, so we found our way to Yakigaki-no-Hayashi, a well-rated restaurant that specializes in oysters and other local seafood dishes.  The restaurant was still packed when we got there, so I imagine the queue for lunch must be quite something.  The food was fantastic and so fresh, and they served my dad's oysters on a plate with a miniature model of the famous Itsukushima Torii!  We also ordered the local beer which was so good, and I was disappointed that I couldn't find it in Tokyo afterwords.  We also stopped for gelato at Baccano as a treat.  Gelato and ice cream places aren't as ubiquitous in Japan as they are in Europe or North America, so I rarely turned down the opportunity if I passed one on a hot day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering out under the Torii after the tide had gone out.  Some deer joined us too!  It was a really cool way to end the day, and one of my favourite parts was seeing all the offeratory coins that had lodged themselves in the Torii.  Eventually the sun started to go down, so we headed back to the ferry terminal.  But not before running into some girls wearing amazing yukata!  I love how young people are embracing traditional Japanese outfits while giving them a modern twist, and I was so pleased when these three girls let me take their photos.

Miyajima is a great side-trip from Hiroshima, just check the weather and the times the tide goes in and out to make the most of your day.

xx, C.

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