If you travel to Hiroshima, make sure you plan an extra day to visit the island of Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima. It is an absolutely beautiful spot located an hour away from the Hiroshima’s main station. Many of you may be familiar with the iconic view of the red torii gate standing in the water. This floating gate is the most recognisable landmark of the Itsukushima Shrine complex. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Itsukushima Shrine and the red torii
Apart from that shrine, there is a big number of other temples and shrines on the island. The nature is also very beautiful there. One can enjoy cherry blossoms during spring time and red maple leaves in autumn. The island is also quite mountainous, which makes it a good hiking destination.
We got lucky to come to that place on a sunny day. The red color of the torii was particularly vivid in the blueness of the surrounding water.
This place has another fun perk! Similarly to Nara, it is populated by deer. Unlike in Nara, tourists are not allowed to feed them. Hence, these small deer behave much better and do not attack people. Some of them actually allowed me to pet them.
Streets of Miyajima
There are also many food options on Miyajima. One can get a bento from a convenience store, buy some seafood snack from a street merchant or have a meal in one of small traditional restaurants. We chose a very cosy place ふじたや for lunch and had perfect rice bowls topped with grilled eel.
After the lunch we went on a small hike. We walked through the nice streets of the town towards the ropeway station. On the way, we enjoyed some sweet potato ice cream and visited a super cool store selling statues carved of wood.
The ropeway brought us to the upper station on Mount Misen, the highest peak on Miyajima. Although it is already possible to enjoy the view from the observation deck next to the station, getting to the very peak of the mountain requires some further hike. Hence, we left the observation deck and took a narrow path through the forest.
On the way to the top, we passed by some halls of the Daisho-in, an important Buddhist temple. In one of the temple buildings, I bought a very cute daruma-shaped ema. Daruma is a Japanese traditional red doll seen as a symbol of good luck. Ema are wooden plaques with some drawings, which typically one can buy in both Shinto and Buddhist temples. After purchasing an ema, you are supposed to write down a wish on it and then hang it in a dedicated spot next to the temple in a way so that the wish can be read by anybody. The more people read the wish, the bigger are chances of it coming true. I did not have any wish to write and brought the ema back home as a souvenir.
After we took the ropeway back and came back to the red gate, we were surprised by the change of the scenery. The water was gone!
During the low tide, which usually starts in the afternoon, is possible to come close to the gate. We decided to join multiple tourists and took a closer look. We could not believe that the ground we were standing on was completely covered by water some hours before!
The whole scenery was stunning in the rays of the setting sun. We walked towards the ferry station to continue our trip.
Photos taken in March 2018