Widely considered to be one of the most scenic areas of Japan, beautiful Miyajima Island didn’t disappoint. Also known as the Island of the Gods, Miyajima is located only a thirty minute train plus twenty minute ferry outside of Hiroshima. The iconic floating torii gate of Itsukumisha Shrine (pictured above) for which Miyajima is most famous is a world heritage sight, but only the beginning of the beautiful sights you can expect to see. Keep reading for our favorite experiences below.
Deer roam free all over the island and they’re very accustomed to humans. They will happily eat paper or clothing though, so keep an eye to your belongings. We definitely saw at least one cheeky doe trying to make off with someone’s wind breaker left on a bench.
MOUNT MISEN GONDOLA
In addition to the main temple, you’re going to want to visit the beautiful Mount Misen. You have the choice of summiting by either hiking or by gondola. We highly recommend taking the gondola and then hiking down, for two reasons. The first being that there are beautiful views from the gondola, and the second being that the hike up, especially on a warm (and humid!) day is brutal.
The local guides claim it will only take an hour and a half to hike the to the top (all stairs), but we’re pretty sure they’re greatly underestimating considering how long it took us to descend and the sad condition of everyone we saw hiking up (every single one of them asked if they were almost there yet, even after we were more than half way down). Even though we were only descending, the humidity was so high that Anthony’s head was actually visibly steaming.
FOREST PILGRIMAGE + SHRINE
Once you take in the sweeping views from the top of the gondola, there is a twenty minute hike/walk to the shrine and temple complex which is also where the official summit of Mount Misen is. Our favorite shrine was Reikado Hall which contains the eternal flame which has been burning for over 1200 years, which was also used as the pilot light for the “Flame of Peace” at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It’s also called the Lovers Sanctuary, and you can light a candle or write wishes on wooden hearts to hang in the sanctuary. Be forewarned, after visiting you will smell of barbecue for hours after.
Once you have visited the different temples and shrines, you will can the peaceful hike down the traditional pilgrimage route back to the main town through the “virgin forest.”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
We would have loved to get a photo of the floating torri gate at sunset, but you have to time it for high tide because at low tide it becomes a beach, and it was low tide at sunset the day we went. Check the tide schedules when you’re planning to go so you don’t miss the iconic view!
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Carina Covella is a writer and currently working on her forthcoming memoir, Love Dogs, detailing her six month transformational journey from Hollywood through India. Carina graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University cum laude with a degree in Art History. She also attended the Sorbonne in Paris and studied opera at the Manhattan School of Music through the university exchange programs. Until recently she lived in Mill Valley, California with her wonderful Welsh boyfriend Anthony in a house nestled in the trees, but now they’re off on a two year adventure around the world. When she’s not writing or traveling, she loves to cook for her friends and family.