On Saturday morning, Jen and I checked out of our luxurious hotel and made the long, yet pleasant walk back to Hiroshima station. Once there, we locked our bags away and got on the train to Miyajima.
Miyajima is one of the most famous spots in Hiroshima, and also a World Heritage Site.
It’s a small island located about twenty minutes outside Hiroshima by train. Getting on the train was easy enough, and we found ourselves seated across from a dad with three little girls. At first we found the girls to be extremely cute. But soon enough, we learned the truth of the matter: these girls were wild and uncontrolled by their dad, who spent the majority of the train ride ignoring their antics, or pinching their ears as punishment. The youngest, about three, alternately spent her time spinning around in the aisle and shrieking very loudly when she got dizzy. The middle girl, maybe around six or seven, kept climbing all over her dad, laughed just as loud as her younger sister was shrieking, threw a temper tantrum, and spilled a huge amount of glitter on the train floor. The oldest girl, maybe around eleven, seemed to be like the mother of the two younger. She was embarrassed by their actions and tried to keep them in line. But really, who is going to listen to their older sister when their dad is just blatantly ignoring them, and thus giving his permission for them to continue their antics. We were worried that this family would also get off at Miyajima, but, to our relief, when after we got off and the doors had closed, they continued to torture train passengers.
Though Miyajima is accessible by train, the area itself is an island. Thus, you have to take a short ferry ride to get there. And though I’ve been on ferries before, it was my first ferry ride in Japan, which actually isn’t all that noteworthy, since Jen and I were the least touristy people on the ferry. While everyone else stood at the rail, taking pictures of the oyster diving docks, the approaching island, and the gate that Miyajima is famous for, we spent the ten minute ride shivering and complaining about how cold the wind was and that we should definitely sit inside on the ferry back.
The island has deer walking around being photogenic. And unlike the deer in Nara, who are extremely aggressive for food, these deer were content to just relax while they had their pictures taken and were petted by the many tourists, though there were many signs in multiple languages advising against touching the deer. Jen and I were hesitant at first, but as you can see in the picture, we too decided to ignore the rules.
The island is most famous for two attractions: Itsukushima shrine with its sea torii, or gate, and one of the top three scenic views in Japan, visible from the top of Mt. Misen. Jen and I made plans to see both.
The gate was beautiful. It sat in the middle of the bay, directly opposite the shrine that it was built for. We learned that the gate is free-standing, supported by rocks placed in the horizontal portion at the top of the gate. It seemed almost miraculous that the gate didn’t fall over by the moving tides or stormy weather. We first saw the gate in the morning during high tide. When we came back down the mountain later in the afternoon, we discovered that during low tide, the gate is completely accessible on foot. So, we joined the crowds and crossed the bay to get a view of the gate up close. And up close, it is huge!
And on a side note, the gate is also covered with barnacles, which I had never realized were living creatures until one of them reacted to me touching it. I had a moment of sadness for all of the barnacles that have been scraped off the bottom of ships, but I recovered quickly and then proceeded to touch as many barnacles as I could in order to get them to close up in defense. Sometimes I seriously act like a little kid.
But before low tide, we adventured to the top of Mt. Misen to get a look at the view. For the majority of the trip, we rode in cable cars to the top area. The ride took about about twenty minutes and even included a cable car transfer!
But once at the top, there was the promise of seeing wild monkeys. There were even signs alerting us of proper monkey etiquette from the monkeys point of view. This one was my favorite. Unfortunately for us, the monkeys were secreted away, probably sick of all the tourists taking their pictures and telling them how cute they were. Or perhaps one monkey went a little crazy from all the direct eye contact and they were all embarrassed and hiding out for a few days.
In any event, we started the hike to the peak of the mountain. After almost a half hour of walking up inclines and climbing steps, and feeling a little out of breath, we made it to the top.
And again, on a side note, we passed lots of women wearing skirts and heels. I was having enough issues and I was wearing shoes made for walking. Were they even thinking about the day‘s activities when they got dressed that morning? Japanese women…
Once at the top, we took a short break and had some ice cream from the little store that was up there. Of course, at the top of a mountain, there would be ice cream, drinks, and noodles for sale. So much for the awe of nature. Setting that aside, the view was beautiful. The sky and sea were so blue. As far as views go, this one definitely ranked up there for me, being an ocean lover. Luckily for us, the climb back down was infinitely easier.
We didn’t take an ice cream break on the way down though. But we were definitely starving by the time we made it back to the village area. We decided that we would just eat at the very first restaurant that we saw. The very first restaurant that we saw didn’t actually look that good, nor did the second. But the third was delicious! We ate fried oysters, oysters being a Miyajiman famous food, and spent a good amount of time relaxing and resting. We then carried on shopping for souvenirs and just enjoying the feel of the village.
Finally around five, we got back on the ferry and headed back to Hiroshima. We spent the rest of the evening until our bus departed shopping and relaxing at Starbucks. Our bus back home was equally as sketchy as the one that had brought us to Hiroshima, but at least it worked well and provided us with blankets. Jen fell asleep quickly, but I was stuck awake. Then one of my headphones broke. So there I was with one of my headphones not working, when the man behind me started snoring softly. And of course he had to be snoring by the ear in which the broken headphone was in, so I couldn’t drown out the noise. Needless to say, sleep was a long time coming. What a way to end such a nice vacation.