Itsukushima island, most commonly called Miyajima, is house to one of the most iconic views of Japan with the “floating” torii gate ⛩. It’s located in the north-west of Hiroshima Bay. We arrive from Himeji in the evening so there’s not much happening in day 4, we go directly to the hostel.
Downtown Miyajima-guchi is super small, it’s basically the train station and the ferry station, everything is within view and a 5-minute walk. People at the hostel woke us up super early so we were already on the ferry to the island before 8 am. It’s best to visit in the morning because there were very little tourists on the island (later around noon, it was packed).
When you take the ferry ⛴ to the island, sit on the right side, so you’ll have a view of the giant “floating” torii gate. You also may want to check the tides before visiting. When we arrived, the tides were high so the torii gate was in the water. Like in Nara, the island has free-roaming deers, but a lot of them had their antlers cut off, probably to avoid incidents with humans during mating season.
We walked from the ferry terminal to Itsukushima shrine (300¥ per person), where you can get the best view of the gate. The shrine is also in the water, depending on the tide. The whole complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a few buildings are listed as Japanese National Treasures. This is understandable, it’s probably one of the most beautiful shrines I’ve seen. It is said that no deaths or births are allowed on the island to retain its purity.
After visiting the shrine we took a little walking trail that led to Tahoto (pagoda), it was so beautiful because of the lanterns 🏮 and the cherry blossoms 🌸, there even was a little deer! From there, we had a nice view of the town. We continued until the Miyajima ropeway. You can hike to the summit but the weather wasn’t looking great and to be honest we were not prepared for a hike at all. The ropeway was pretty expensive, 1800¥ (~20$CAD) per adult for a round trip, or 1000¥ for a one-way ticket.
Views of Hiroshima Bay from Mount Misen
As soon as we arrived at the ropeway terminal (not the Mount Misen summit yet), there was a message saying that people should go down as soon as possible if they don’t want to risk being stranded. Light rain was starting…
We decided to continue and did the hike to the real summit. It was really nice, offering a great view of the bay and we met some more deers, we didn’t meet any monkey, unfortunately. There were warnings of snakes too... They say it’s 30 minutes but honestly, if you take your time and stop, it can be more. I felt like we walked pretty fast.
We spent 2 hours total from the bottom of the mountain (ropeway) and back to our starting point. Anyway, it was raining so we kind of hurried with a short stop at Misen Hondo. We reached the summit but didn’t stay long because the rain was getting worse and it was very (very!) windy. We returned to the ropeway station and we were super lucky to catch the last ride to the bottom of the summit! The ropeway service was suspended because of the wind.
It was now around noon and the crowd was considerably larger on the island. It was time to have lunch and the specialty is apparently eel on rice (anago-meshi) and oyster. The price range for the eel on rice was between 1700¥ and 1900¥ (~20$CAD).
They also make some kind of maple cake (momiji manjyu) and they even have maple-cake-flavored Kit Kat! I think it’s a good indicator of how touristic the island is. There were some ryokan and some coffee shops that looked pretty expensive/luxurious.
Miyajima deers 🦌
An afternoon in Hiroshima
In the afternoon, we took the ferry back to the mainland and took a train to Hiroshima (it’s only 30 minutes away). During the train ride, we were sitting next to a grandpa and when he got off at his stop, he told us “Excusez-moi” 😀 Turns out, he was a French teacher 🙂 It was really funny how the whole wagon was impressed. Young girls were exclaiming “sugoiiiiii~~~~!”
It was dinner time for us (7 pm) but for a lot of restaurants, it was already their closing time 🙁 After failing to find good open restaurants, we lined up at Nagata-ya, a popular okonomiyaki restaurant. It is said that Hiroshima okonomiyaki are different from Kansai (Osaka-style) so we had to try! We’re happy we were seated at the counter because you can watch the chefs prepare it. It’s quite mesmerizing. The restaurant was worth the line-up and the wait 🙂
Because of the rain, I noticed something I didn’t see before: luxury brands will actually wrap their paper bags in another plastic bags! This is one of the small things I love noticing about Japan. The attention to detail and customer service is amazing. I don’t know how ecological it is though… 😛
Stay: Backpackers Miyajima
Our second hostel experience of the trip at Backpackers Miyajima wasn’t similar to the first one in Kamakura at all, unfortunately. My hostel experience in Japan has always been great, so this is the first time it’s bad. It was not a nightmare, it was not even bad, just really not pleasant and I think it’s because I’m too old for this 😛 (#adulting ?)
If you're young and/or traveling on a budget, that's great. The staff was super nice, it was a pleasant cheery atmosphere. To be honest, that's not my cup of tea anymore. I am not always in a cheerful mood looking to socialize or in a mood to hear a stranger snore after a long day. The hostel showers were clean, however, there was a total of 3 showers. Only 3 showers.
We were on the 3rd floor and it's actually a big open area with all the beds in it. I counted 24 on my floor. Let's say the hostel has a capacity of 45, and 50 including staff, this is way too few showers! The common area is pretty small as well. Also, 24 people sleeping in the same room is way too crowded in my opinion. It was pretty smelly and the metal lockers in the middle of the room were pretty noisy.
They rent towels for 200 and sell earplugs for 100. On that 3rd floor, separated by a curtain is what I think is the staff bedroom. My feeling at the hostel is: I'm way too old for this, though I'm sure from the other reviews that the hostel is great for a lot of other people.
Miyajima & Hiroshima Photo Album
You can see all my Miyajima & Hiroshima pictures in this Flickr album: