As you may already know, last summer Isa and me went to Japan for two weeks and we traveled around quite a bit. Of course we just had to spend one day on Miyajima to see the red floating torii that is one of Japan’s most famous sights. But there was so much else to discover on the island, some wonderful shrines and temples, pretty bridges, beautiful pagodas and so on.
We were staying in Hiroshima for the night and reached Miyajima by ferry. Due to his striking colour, you can recognize the red torii from pretty far away, and if you are like me you end up having taken about a hundred pictures of the gate even before reaching the island :) By the way, if you want to see the torii floating on water try to get on Miyajima during the high tide or else you will be able to walk under the gate and through the mud. We reached the gate in the morning and it was perfect, even the adjoined shrine was still standing in the water which was an incredible sight. Of course the first stop on the island should be the gate, take your time for some pictures from all the angles. If you’re staying on the island for the whole day, come back when the tide is low for another perspective. Then move to the shrine which is just behind the torii. By this time you will have met some of the very cute Miyajima deer. Unlike in Nara, here you are not allowed to feed them.
Itsukushima shrine was one of my favourite shrines I’ve seen during the trip, it’s built like a pier, standing in the water during the high tide. It’s very lofty with many open spaces and when we visited there was a traditional wedding taking place. Our guide taught us how to pray in a shrine and explained the differences between shrines and temples, it was really interesting. I’m so happy we went on a guided tour in Japan or we would have missed out on so many things!
After visiting the shrine we started to climb the mountain to reach the Disho-in Temple complex. This place was just so so so interesting, there was so much to explore! I think our guide gave us one hour to visit, but I guess you can easily spend double the time as there is something to discover behind every corner. There are quite a lot of buildings, including prayer halls, caves, treasure halls, gates and a tea room. There is also a giant mandala to see, as well as the stairs path surrounded by 500 Rakan statues, each having its own distinctive facial expression. I loved the many funny buddha statues that you can see all over the place. You can read more about the temple complex here.
Unfortunately when we were on Miyajima, the cable car to the top of Mount Misen was closed and we didn’t have it in us to climb the mountain on foot, but I bet the view from the top of the island must be incredible. It should definitely be on your list of things to do when visiting the island.
What we did instead was walk towards Momijidani Park to see this pretty red bridge. In the park there are 200 maple trees, the colours in autumn must be pretty stunning!
Then we went back into the village and Ometosando shopping street. On the way we saw the five stories pagoda but we were too hungry to stop :/ On Ometosando street we took a quick picture of the giant rice scoop and then looked for a restaurant. This street is very touristy with a lot of tiny and bigger shops selling souvenirs, and quite a few restaurants. You will see many shops making Momiji Manjyu, a sweet soft biscuit that comes in many flavours, the traditional being sweet beans, but also green tea, strawberry or chocolate. Something else you should eat in Miyajima are oysters, Isa tried the fried ones. And then there’s the melonpan, a sweet bun that on Miyajima you could have filled with ice cream, yum!
We then took the ferry back to Hiroshima as there were things we wanted to do and see back in town, but we could easily have spent a few more hours on the island and visit more temples, shrines, pagodas and museums. If you need more information about this beautiful island, start here.
If you go to Japan, don’t miss out on Miyajima!