Early the next morning, we began our commute to our next destination, Miyajima. Miyajima is one of the top three most scenic locations in Japan and is known for the giant tori gate in the water. On this island that is less than an hour away from Hiroshima, you will find the Itsukushima Shrine which is a World Heritage site. There are also deers that roam around freely which provides you with a close encounter with nature.
Our commute took us approximately three hours. We began with a 1.5 hour ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train), a 30 minute ride on a local JR train to Hiroshima and then a 15 minute ferry ride from the Miyajimaguchi JR station. The ferry terminal is a 5 minute walk from the JR station and there are clear directions pointing you to the terminal. The ride on the ferry is quite scenic on the water.
One of our objectives on this trip was to try out the different bento boxes sold at the bullet train train stations! The first one I had was a chicken bento box which was very delicious as it was freshly made.
We were going to walk to our ryokan (Japanese inn), Miyajima Hotel Makoto, from the ferry terminal. After 5 minutes, a van with our hotel name on it came by and asked for our names. Turns out that the hotel had pick up service from the ferry terminal and they were waiting for us there. They never told us ahead of time but this was a pleasant surprise! On our way back to the terminal, we also requested for a ride.
The hotel provides breakfast and dinner for an additional cost (1,080 JPY per person). However, we decided we would just try out some of the local restaurants. After we checked in, the hotel staff took us to our rooms and walked us through all the amenities in the hotel. The explanations were very helpful.
Our room was very spacious and comfortable. The shower, toilet and sinks were in separate rooms which was convenient for us to get ready. There is also a small living room area where you can sit and enjoy a view of the sea. In the main area, there are three Japanese futons and also a traditional low table. Interestingly, they have a safe and a rotary dial telephone which looks like they are from the 80s.
At night after we finished our sightseeing, we came back to enjoy the public bath which is included in the night stay. Men and women have separate baths but you do have to go in naked. It was a great way to relax after a long day outside.
The hotel costs us $248 CAD per night but I thought it was well worth the cost. Based on my research, this hotel was the cheapest one I could find on the island itself. Book early as they do not have too many rooms!
The island is not very big so most tourists would just make a day trip out here to do sightseeing. 90% of the shops are closed by 5 p.m. so the island is deserted and quiet at night. However, I would recommend spending the night here as it was nice to see the contrast of the tori gate with the setting sun and the blue sky as the backdrop.
Our first stop was the Miyajima Public Aquarium. The admission price is 1,400 JPY and is opened from 8:30-17:00. It took us about 2 hours to see the Aquarium including the shows. It was nice that they make the announcements before the show starts so you have time to head over to see it. It is not a big aquarium but I think it is worth going as you get to see many of the animals up close.
After the aquarium, we headed over to Omotesando which is the busiest street on the island. There are souvenir shops, restaurants and the world’s largest rice scoop. Most shops were about to close but we were able to try their fresh oysters. It costs 400 JPY and they grill it after you placed the order so it is very fresh. Best oysters I’ve had!
We got a map of the island from our hotel staff. It shows the name of the restaurants and their operating hours. This was very handy as there are only a few restaurants on the island that closes after 5 p.m. and this information is difficult to locate on the internet.
We went to the one recommended by the hotel staff as they gave us a 10% discount coupon for it. The restaurant is a small mom and pop shop and there was only one table when we went in. Craving for more oysters, we ordered the oyster tempura dinner set and the oyster don. Both were very delicious and fresh!
After dinner, we walked over to the tori gate to see it as the sun sets. Many people were gathered here with their professional cameras trying to capture the moment. It was a really nice stroll along the beach with the cool breeze in your hair.
After a good night’s rest, we went back to the Itsukushima Shrine the next morning. On our way there, we stopped by for brunch at a okonomiyaki shop. They serve them in “Hiroshima style” which means they add noodles to it. We ordered one with udon and one with soba noodles. It was also a mom and pop shop and they had just opened when we came in. These okonomiyaki were way better than the ones we had in Osaka!
The admission price for the shrine is 300 JPY and took us about 30 minutes to navigate through. It was quite busy here as there were many tourist groups. We also saw many tourists taking a boat tour to the tori gate.
On our way back, we passed by the 5 story pagoda which is not opened to the public. We also hiked up few flights of stairs to see the Senjokaku Hall. Admission price is 100 JPY but it’s a great place to see the island from up top and the cool breeze there was nice.
With the sightseeing checklist completed, it’s time to go back to shopping and eating! We went back to Omotesando to do more damage. We bought some cute rice scoops accessories, deer droppings (chocolate) and tons of momiji manju. There are many shops that sell momiji manju and there are many flavours to choose from (i.e. taro, red bean, green tea). However, the ones that are freshly made are only good for three days. Therefore, we had to buy the machine-made ones but even those are only good for 15 days. There is this one shop which sells unique desserts. We were in a rush to leave so we quickly grabbed 2 to 3 and left. It was soo delicious! I wish I bought more 😦
Oooo…and make sure you try the age momiji (fried buns). There was only one shop selling these but it’s freshly made and it tastes very delicious! They serve them on wooden sticks with the name of the flavour on it (red bean, custard or cream cheese). The shop has a seating area where you can sit and enjoy the momiji served hot in a wooden basket!
There’s so much delicious snacks and souvenirs to buy, but we had to head back to the ferry terminal for our next destination. Miyajima is a great island to visit and it is a great place for you to experience the tradition Japanese culture.
It was really neat to see the deers in such close proximity and roaming free on the island. Surprisingly, they are not stinky at all and generally quite friendly. Make sure you do not feed them as one Grandpa made the mistake of doing so and he got knocked over by the herd of deers that surrounded him!