If you have been following TripQue for a while now, you will realize the theme of many of Tripque’s posts is all about “efficiency.” While we would all love for a chance to wander aimlessly and become lost in a foreign land, my limited number of vacation days dictate that I just can’t do that. Therefore, the goal for many of my TripQue articles is to help you(the time strapped traveler) be as efficient as possible, while also experiencing the must-do activities in your travels.
If you have been researching for fun things to do in Western Japan, both Hiroshima and nearby Miyajima(宮島) Island are places that you must visit. While the city of Hiroshima is mostly known for the atomic bomb devastation in World World II, the nearby Miyajima Island makes for a great day trip that should take no more than 5 hours out of your day.
The city of Hiroshima is conveniently situated off of the JR Hiroshima Station while Miyajima is accessible both via the Miyajimaguchi station on the JR Line or by a ferry. On my last trip, I didn’t get a chance to take the direct ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima, but I’m sure either choice that you make will get you to Miyajima just fine.
Itsukushima(厳島), popularly known as Miyajima, is long considered one of the most uniquely stunning places in all of Japan. Situated right off the coast of Hiroshima, Miyajima houses the famous Itsukushima Shrine – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lasting image of a “floating” torii gate, whose base appears and disappears depending on the water level, provides a lasting impression for all visitors to the island. Along with the overly friendly deers that populate the island and the quaint little town next to the shrine, Miyajima makes for a great day trip from Hiroshima that you can conquer if you have a good 5 hours to burn.
The “floating” torii gate will greet you as your ferry approaches the island from the north. The water level will change depending on the time of day and usually by the time the sun goes down, the torii gate will appear to be “floating.”
Keep in mind that as a whole, Miyajima Island is rather rural when compared to the glitz of Osaka, Tokyo and even, Hiroshima. Upon your arrival onto Itsukushima Ferry Terminal via the JR ferry from the Miyamaguchi station, walk straight ahead and out into a large courtyard that is situated in the middle of the only town on the island. Here, you’ll see a bunch of souvenir shops, restaurants and because it’s Japan, vending machines. English wasn’t widely spoken, but big hand gestures and painstakingly enunciated English seems to be the preferred method of communication by tourists.
Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of wild deers roaming the island. The deers are friendly but I would caution to exercise common sense lest you are looking to take a memorable Instagram picture of a pack of deers chasing you.
To get into Itsukushima Shrine, every visitor is required to pay the ¥300/person entrance fee. Depending on your appetite for shrines, Itsukushima can be a transcendent experience or simply just another shrine in Japan(for people who are “shrined out”). However, the surroundings are gorgeous. The shrine is wedged between Mt. Misen(弥山) on one side and the sea on the other. One of most unique feature of the shrine is a platform that is built over a marshy/wetland area. As the high tide rolls in, visitors are treated to a tranquil scene as the land gives way to the tide and the sun starts to set in the background.
For a leisurely walk, be sure to make a quick trek through the town for souvenirs and a few other photo opportunities. Because Miyajima is known for churning out rice scoopers, in the middle of the town sits a humongous wooden scooper that has become a big tourist draw. Take turns taking pictures with the spoon while throwing up a piece sign with your index and middle finger for a truly authentic asian photo.
If you have any extra hours to spare, you might want to check out the ropeway ride to the top of Mt. Misen. Unfortunately, the ropeway was closed(and I was dead tired) after 5pm so I decided to head on back to Hiroshima.
Yes, by all means, go to Miyajima. Even if you are a fast-trekking, time strapped, vacation starved traveler(that’s what I am), I urge you to take time out of your trip and stop at Miyajima. I was fortunate to make it onto the island just before the sunset. Watching the high tide create the illusion of the “floating” torii gate is an experience you will always remember and I recommend that you take the time out to time your visit accordingly. Additionally, another major benefit of coming during the sunset is that the the majority of tourists will have already left the island. At the time, it’s just you, your thoughts and a bunch of deers.