Miyajima is famous for being one of the most picturesque places in Japan with its large torii gates and wild deer roaming the island. It’s one of my favourite places in Japan, quaint, quiet & peaceful and is a nice break from the hustle and bustle from the bigger cities. Regrettably, we didn’t get to spend a night at a ryokan to properly explore Miyajima but we will definitely go back, I’ve heard the experience is different staying overnight, serene and peaceful rather than the hustle and bustle from the tourists on day trips.
Our day started pretty late since our bodies were quite worn out from all the walking. As usual, we spent time wandering around and hopped onto the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. The best part of taking the Shinkansen is the amount of bento (lunchbox) food and souvenir stores available and even on the platform there are convenience stores, restaurants and vending machines. On the way to Hiroshima, I had a Teriyaki Beef bento with pickles. I forgot what Chia had. I think we were so hungry we forgot to take pictures =P
Miyajima is less than an hour away from Hiroshima and there are several ferry companies that travel to and from the island. The scenery on the ferry is beautiful and peaceful inlet surrounded by mountainous terrain with calm waters.
Arriving at the port – we managed to catch a traditional play about a warrior and demon fighting and was enjoyable to watch. The costumes were vibrant and the performance was energetic. Something that I love about Japan is the amount of enthusiasm and effort that goes into preserving and celebrating culture.
The island was not as bustling like the other tourist spots that we had been to. With the lack of large crowds, our walk to the Itsukushima shrine was very pleasant. As you could tell from the photos, the weather was rather mild despite it was winter. The shrine as most people know, is famous for its “floating” torii gate. The torii gate alongside with the shrine are built over water, giving an illusion that they are floating on sea. At low tides, visitors are able to get up close and perhaps snap a few photos with the gate. Unfortunately, Chia and I arrived at the shrine during the high tide, so we walked around the boardwalks connecting the shrine complexes. The high tide did make a goop photo op and I managed to snap a few picturesque photos of the torii gate.
Since we wanted to take photos with the torii gate up close, we decided to explore the shops littered around the island until the tide is low. Just outside the shrine, there were a couple of pulled rickshaws lined up, awaiting for tourists who would like to take a tour around the island.
Like Nara, the island itself has a lot of wild deer roaming around. Compared to the deer from Nara, the ones from here mostly do not disturb the people around them. Perhaps, it might be due to the fact that there are no stores that sell any specialty foods made exclusively to feed them, unless you hand out your lunch directly to the deer, which of course is not allowed.
Chia and I stopped by a stall that sells oysters that were cooked on a charcoal grilled. Since I’m not a huge fan of oysters, I decided to let Chia have the two oysters that she’d ordered. According to her, they oysters were fresh and the charcoal enhanced the natural, subtle sweetness that fresh seafood usually has. We also tried out an ebi (prawn) katsu rice burger from one of the stores but was left disappointed. There was nothing much to the burger and tasted rather bland and costed around 450-500 yen. Give me a $2 Hungry Jack’s cheeseburger anyday, please. :p One of the most unsuspecting souvenir that visitors could bring home is a rice scoop from Miyajima. I’m not talking about the plastic ones you could get from Daiso for 100 yen. The ones sold here are based on a design from more than 200 years ago. It is claimed that the curvature and the smooth texture of the scoop ensure that the cooked rice do not stick as much onto the surface area of the scoop. There are also giant wooden rice scoops that are sold or displayed outside the souvenir shops. These scoops have become symbols associating with luck and prosperity. Just a few hours before the sun set, we managed to snap a few pictures with the torii gate as the tide had subsided. After that, we journeyed back to our hotel as our worn out bodies were giving into exhaustion. For dinner, we went for something simple at a random restaurant near our hotel since were too tired to look for any popular place to eat. We settled for some simple fried comfort food. Chia ordered an ebi katsu platter, served with rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage. On the other hand, I was rather ravenous that night, so I ordered tonkatsu and a bowl of curry udon. The dishes may be simple but you could never go wrong with a platter of fried food and warm bowl of curry on a cold winter’s night.