If Hiroshima is on the list of destinations in Japan, then Miyajima must be next on that list. Albeit touristy with not only Japanese flag-waving tour group leaders but also Chinese flag-waving tour group leaders, the variety of activities and beauty of the island amount to an action-filled enjoyable day. I especially looked forward to spending a day in Miyajiima since the day before was filled with remorse and grief at the Peace Memorial Park.
We began our morning by strategically relocating to accommodation within the vicinity of Miyajima. Hiroshima is only 25 minutes by train away from Miyajima, but by staying literally a two-minute walk away from the ferry, we were able to make multiple visits to the island which made it easy to observe both low and high tide. Fortunately two weeks before, I was able to book the last two bunk beds in a mixed dormitory for ¥2500 each. This was actually our first time on this trip spending the night in bunk beds; it was fun for that one night, but it was definitely uncomfortable and disturbing due to this one fat guy (who was Vietnamese-American) whose snores were comparable to a giant troll’s.
The ferry was so smooth, we didn’t even know we were moving. It took exactly ten minutes to cross the waters, and we arrived in Miyajima before we knew it!
We rushed through the shops to make our way to Itsukushima Shrine, where the world’s largest torii gate stands. Low tide was scheduled for earlier that morning; it was around 11am then and we wanted to waddle in the water. Along the way, we passed by the world’s largest rice scoop…pretty random.
There are two ways to reach the top of Mt. Misen: ropeway or hike. With the ropeway (gondola), it costs ¥1000 one way or ¥1800 round trip, which is incredibly expensive. We chose to hike up and down which was obviously more rewarding, adventurous, and scenic. It also collectively saved us ¥3600, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love to save money! There are three different routes one can take for the hike; we took the most scenic route through Daisho-in Temple. It is said that the hike should take anywhere from 1.5-2 hours. It took us exactly 1 hour and we did not see anyone else hiking up. WHOO! Granted, it was more or less like the stair master for the entire hour, but with extreme humidity. We were drenched with sweat as if we were in a sauna.
Once we felt our time lingering at the top of Mt. Misen was enough, we promptly returned to the base of the mountain in order to observe the torii gate at high tide which was scheduled for around 4pm. We conveniently dropped by the 5-storied pagoda along the way.
After snapping a few final shots, we left Miyajima with the intent to return in the evening for low tide. The timing couldn’t have been better. Within minutes of disembarking the ferry on the mainland, it began to rain. And it rained hard. In Hiroshima the day before, it rained on and off, and both of us dreaded the possibility of a storm in Miyajima. Wading in the ocean waters and hiking up a mountain wouldn’t have been my cup of tea (but we would have done it anyway). The weather worked in our favor that day and exploring Miyajima under the overcast sky worked out perfectly.
Within a couple hours the storm passed through and we returned to Miyajima that night. The entire town is typically deserted by 5pm (all the tour groups have thankfully departed by then), so when we arrived at the torii gate at 9:20pm we were greeted with soft murmurs and tranquility. Low tide was scheduled at 9:04pm; the gentle water was shallow enough for anyone to walk out and touch the dramatically lit columns.
Overall I would say that a day in Miyajima is a day well spent. With such a convenient location and easy-to-navigate route catered for tourists, it isn’t difficult to enjoy an excursion on this tiny, beautiful island.