Travel Japan: Miyajima, Hiroshima

Miyajima is one of the Nihon Sankei, one of the three most scenic places in Japan, and is definitely my favourite place. Miyajima is situated just outside Hiroshima and is reached by ferry. The ferry takes only about 10 minutes and you can soon see what the island is most famous for – the giant red torii (shrine gate) floating in the water.

The torii being in the water means that the whole island is sacred, as the gate symbolises the entrance to the island. Itsukushima shrine is also situated over the water facing the floating torii. The torii appears to be floating, and it really is, as it isn’t fully secured to the sea floor, just balancing. At high tide, you can see the torii floating, and water under the Itsukushima shrine. When the tide is low, you can walk right out to the torii. I recommend viewing the torii at both high and low tides, and Itsukushima shrine is best visited at high tide.

There are many souvenir shops on the island where you can buy some reasonably priced souvenirs and beautiful wooden products. Momiji manju are the local speciality, soft bread filled with red sweet beans all in the shape of an autumn leaf. If red beans aren’t your favourite, there are plenty of others to choose from – I tried chocolate, custard, green tea, and banana. If you’d like to bring something back for your co-workers or friends, they will love these momiji manju, and will immediately know where you visited!

I love trying local foods in the places I visit, and Miyajima is no exception. I ate many oysters (kaki), as they are a local food; on Miyajima there are many stalls selling fresh barbequed oysters. I also ate them fried at a restaurant. Miyajima being part of Hiroshima-ken also means Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, which is slightly different from Osaka style, as it has noodles inside along with normal toppings – I had oyster! The momiji manju are delicious and it is worth trying a few different flavours. I also tried deep fried momiji manju – delicious!

There are many festivals held on Miyajima during the year. I was lucky to visit once during the oyster festival which is held in February. My friends visited Miyajima during the fireworks festival in August, and their photos were amazing with fireworks behind the torii.

Mt Misen is the tallest mountain on the island and can be reached by two connecting ropeways for 1800 yen return. There is a free bus to take you to the first ropeway station leaving from behind the shrine, just follow the signs in English. It takes about 5 minutes to get to the ropeway station and then 15 minutes each way. Once you reach the last station, if you feel like hiking, it is about an hour to the top of the mountain. Even if you just walk around at the last ropeway station, the views of the islands are amazing, and in winter you can see many monkeys. Sadly, when I have visited in summer and early autumn, there have been no monkeys around.

To stay overnight in Miyajima is very romantic. As the sun sets behind the torii and the day tourists leave, it becomes much quieter and more peaceful. Wild deer roam the island during the day and sleep on the walkways at night. We stayed in a convenient and well priced ryokan which had both Japanese and western rooms. The only problem with staying is that there is only one small general store which isn’t open late, and many other stores and restaurants close early when the tourists go home. However we found a few okonomiyaki restaurants and a small izakaya that stayed open later. The other option is to eat at your ryokan. There is also a camp ground on the island called Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-jo. From the pier you can take a bus to the campsite 10 minutes away. There is a shop, bath, showers, toilets, and a covered cooking area. Just watch out for the wild animals, especially deer which love to eat anything and everything!

Miyajima is a place to enjoy in any season and I definitely recommend a visit to this beautiful island.

Where to stay –
Yamaichi Bekkan Ryokan
From 7875 yen per person per night (depending on the season)
Breakfast is 1050 yen (western or Japanese style)
Dinner ranges from 3700 yen up to 8400 yen
There are many other ryokans on the island that vary greatly in price. It can get very busy in peak seasons so it is best to book ahead.

Miyajima Tsutsumigaura Camp-jo
(082) 944-2903
Camping is 300 yen per person. You can also rent tents (2060 to 3360 yen) or cabins (14,830 to 49,440 yen).

How to get there –
We drove there, which takes about 3 ½ hours from Himeji, and around 4,100 yen in tolls if you are driving a kei car.
Trains from Himeji –
The shinkansen takes 1 hour from Himeji to Hiroshima, then a train to Miyajimaguchi takes 25 minutes – total cost = 8400 yen (one way)
The local train takes about 5 hours (depending on times) from Himeji to Hiroshima, then a train to Miyajimaguchi takes 25 minutes – total cost = 4700 yen (one way)

Ferries run up to ten times an hour; last ferry returns at 10:40pm. 170 yen one way.

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One Comment

  1. Miyajima is great indeed.
    I used to live very close to it, so I went there several times.
    The best seasons to visit are spring, but even more autumn!

    Miyajima is just so beautiful. I feel sorry for the deer, but I think they have adapted and try to steal food from people just like the deer in Nara *g*

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