Day 11: Miyajima

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Especially compared to yesterday, it was a super early start this morning, as in 6:00 a.m. wake-up. The reason was because Miyajima, our day trip today, is best experienced with the high tide and low tide due to the “floating torii” gate. The high tide today was just after 9:00 a.m. so we had to leave early to make it to the island on time.

I don’t know why, but the weather always has it rain on our day trips. There was a light rain when we left, so we had to take our umbrellas with us to the station. I didn’t particularly mind, though, since we will be doing some cycling tomorrow. By then, the rain should be long gone.

Top: the “floating” torii seen from Itsukushima Shrine. Bottom: the long “floating” corridors of Itsukushima Shrine.

Turns out our early morning start and the light rain were good things in the end. We arrived on the island before most tourists so we didn’t have to jostle with the huge crowds that came in a couple hours later. The rain also caused low-hanging clouds that drifted through the surrounding mountains, giving us some really nice backdrops. Even after the rain stopped, the overcast skies contrasted nicely with the bright vermillion floating torii. Moreover, it’s cherry blossom season, meaning the island has some stunning scenery thanks to the white-pink of the many cherry blossom trees around the island.

The floating torii mark the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine, a large shrine composed of long wooden corridors that also “float” over the water. These structures don’t really float but stand in the water, so they appear to float. However, that’s only during the high tide, when they are the most picturesque. During the low tide, the water pulls back, and if the tides are strong enough, it leaves even the torii on dry land, allowing people to walk right up it it.

Top: the floating torii during high tide. Bottom: the torii during low tide.

Like Nara, Miyajima also has tame wild deer that wander around. Like their cousins in Nara, they like to nose around tourists for food, although you’re technically not allowed to feed them on Miyajima so there aren’t any vendors selling deer crackers. So, woe to those who eat any food from one of the many street vendors!

After seeing Itsukushima Shrine, I bought some grilled sweet corn and shrimp fish cake (shaped like a Japanese maple leaf!) from a street vendor, but one deer would not let me eat in peace. Instead, it followed me around, butting its head lightly into my hip, trying to get at my food! Silly deer! It did stop eventually but I was almost finished my food by then, and then it went after some other tourists.

Miyajima deer.

We walked around a little more. There are a few other smaller shrines on the island, including another pagoda, plus some parks, an aquarium, and a ropeway that takes visitors up Mt Misen. We were hoping to take the ropeway but the round trip fare was ¥1800! It was a tad pricy just for a scenic ride, at least for those of us on a budget. So, after our hike a little ways up, we stopped to relax alongside some deer in a beautiful cherry tree grove, where the trees were full of blossoms. At this point, the clouds cleared up for a short while, allowing us to soak in some sun.

Too: the cherry blossom grove. Bottom: a sign directing visitors to the ropeway. I wonder how many times some poor person had to go up and down the trail to figure out the walk/run times…

We walked back down to the main street and stopped at a restaurant for some udon, then browsed some of the shops. There is plenty of interesting food to be had on Miyajima. Their specialty is oysters (their grilled oysters are to die for!) and maple-shaped manju. Katherine and Jr also stopped for some “rice burgers”, which are basically like burgers but with moulded rice patties instead of hamburger buns. I tried a bite and it was pretty good!

Left (top to bottom): grilled oysters (tastier than they look!); maple manju; rice burger, filled with oysters. Right: maple manju-flavoured Ramune, a type of soda known for its interesting way of opening the bottle.

I picked up a few souvenirs and then we made our way back to the mainland to return to our hostel to relax and prepare for tomorrow, when we’ll leave Hiroshima.

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