Miyajima. No I’m not talking about Stormzy’s girlfriend.
A few years ago I was re-decorating my bedroom and needed some form of wall art to liven up my blank walls. I found a really beautiful piece online that went well with my decor and that I really liked, so I bought it and hung it on my wall. At the time I had no idea really what it was or where it was, I just thought it was pretty. Fast forward three or so years later and I am planning my 2018 travels in Japan, and come across a photograph of the exact same landscape that is sat on my wall.
It is the Itsukushima Shrine’s floating Torii gate off of Miyajima Island in Hiroshima.
So that pretty much settled it – I HAD to go to Hiroshima to see it in person. Fate and all that jazz.
To get to Miyajima island you simply take a train to Miyajimaguchi Station, walk 5 minutes or so down to the port and grab a ferry. The ferry is covered on the JR Pass if you have one which is pretty handy.
The trip only takes 20/30 minutes or so across and the views are spectacular. As you approach the island you can see – in all its glory – the floating Torii gate. Make sure to check the tide times online before you visit the island, as the floating gate is sometimes… just a gate – when the tide is out it’s obviously not floating, but you can actually walk up to the gate. I wanted to see it floating though – the same as it is in my wall art – so I went at high tide.
Miyajima island is beautiful in itself, the scenery is spectacular, just green green green everywhere along with the gorgeous sea view. There are tons of little shops, restaurants and food stalls on the island that you can choose from – including a Starbucks! Oysters are an extremely popular dish on the island, they have every kind of oyster you can think of – fried, boiled, steamed, oyster fritters, breaded oyster etc. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating slimy sea bogies, but if you partake in such things then you will be in heaven.
One of the highlights for me was all of the wild deer found on the island. They are everywhere, and they are very similar to Japanese Macaques in the sense that they will eat/steal anything you have on you if you put it down or don’t pay attention. I actually had to help a few Japanese tourists out as they are not so bold with the animals. Two young Japanese girls were playing tug of war with a food container and a deer, he would just not let go and they were squealing and giggling as they didn’t want to get to close to him. So I swooped in and grabbed the container and pulled it hard from his mouth. I mainly did it as it was plastic and obviously not edible so I didn’t want the deer to choke etc. I then gave the container back to the girls and received lots of “arigatou gozaimasu”’s. Another time some Filipino tourists were taking photos and had put their bags down on the floor, enter Mr deer – one of the deers grabbed a leaflet off of ther bag and started chewing on it, the tourists completely oblivious whilst taking their photos. I was again worried for the deer as I saw that post about dogs chewing leaflets and having their jaws get stuck due to the glue in the paper. So I, again, went in and grabbed the leaflet from the mouth of the deer and told the Filipino tourists he had been chewing their stuff, they were surprised and quickly gathered up their things, along with the leaflet with a nice big bite mark in it, which they found pretty funny.
Due to it being Golden Week the island and the shrine were crawling with people. The queue to get into the shrine itself was insane. I’m telling you, the Japanese beat the English at queuing hands down, those suckers can queue for DAYS. The queue snaked all away around the edges of the island. I decided to give it a miss, you can see the shrine fine without walking through it as it is quite open. And the main reason I was there was the floating Torii gate obviously, and that you can see from just about anywhere on the island’s edge.
If you come on a less busy day and did want to fully explore, I believe there are a few other small shrines and temples on the island that you can venture to as well as forest areas. There are also little beaches which you can chill on as well as take a boat ride out to the floating gate.
I adored Miyajima island, it felt very much like being on a nice holiday where you wander along the beachfront taking in the beautiful views and eating at little sea-view restaurants, I could have happily spent all day there and if you do plan to visit and don’t mind the expense – I would highly recommend staying on the island and truly soaking up the atmosphere.
Later that day I dragged myself onwards and walked up to Hiroshima Castle. I didn’t go inside as I had had my fair share of temples in Kyoto, but admiring its details from outside was enough. Very picturesque and oh so traditionally Japanese.
The next day I had planned to go and visit Okunoshima Island – also known as Rabbit Island – where there are hundreds of wild rabbits roaming around that you can feed and just generally appreciate. So I made the multiple train journeys down towards the port… and was met by another insanely long queue and some drizzly, grey weather. The queue for the ferry to the island was 3 damn hours long. What did I say about the Japanese? They queue like their lives depend on it. I ummed and ahhed about whether I should queue or not, but in the end I decided I was just not hardcore enough. Sorry England, I’ve let the side down. So feeling pretty gutted and sad that I didn’t get to see the bunnies, I made the hour + journey back to my hostel and had a “do-nothing” day, as the weather was crap and I was sad about missing the bunnies!
I didn’t expect to love Hiroshima as much as I did, it is honestly so beautiful and scenic in spite of its tragic and dark past. I would highly recommend a trip here if you are ever in Japan!