After our trip to Hiroshima we took a short boat ride (for which you can use a JR Pass!) to get to Miyajima, a small but beautiful island a bit south of our previous city.
We decided to stay on the island for the night, as we spent most of our other nights of our trip in cities or large villages.
We arrived at Itsukushima (the official name of Miyajima) in the evening, right as the sun was starting to set behind the mountains. We took this opportunity to quickly visit the main attraction of the island, the Great Torii, a gate that’s located on the beach and is designed to be partly submerged in water during high tide, giving it a floating appearance.
By the time we arrived most tourists also seemingly left the island, and the sea was already slowly receding. While this low tide meant that we didn’t see the gate in its most picturesque form, the view was still beautiful and we could walk right next to the water.
What surprised us was that there’s really not a lot of things to do on the island in the evening. There are no convenience stores on the island, and the open restaurants in the area were either on the higher scale of the budget or small izakaya bars aimed at the few tourists that stay overnight.
We opted to eat in one of the izakayas and went to our hotel afterwards to get some rest.
A second visit to the Great Tori
We woke up to a beautiful morning and a cool sea breeze blowing through our windows. It really felt like we were in a totally remote place from the rest of Japan.
In the early morning the tourists flooded back to the island, much like the water that engulfed the beach by now and made the Great Torii finally float.
The area leading up to the gate was starkly different from yesterday. Most of the gift shops were back open, ready to get down to business with the sightseers. As expected the tori gate was packed with curious visitors, creating a line that extended far into the road leading up to the shrine complex itself. After taking a few obligatory pictures of the gate we decided to skip waiting in the crowds.
Climbing Mount Misen
Instead, we decided to hike on Mount Misen, one of the numerous mountains on the island. At the start of our walk we were offered to buy a ticket for a bus ride to the base of the mountain, but we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather by walking on foot to the ropeways.
After being dropped off at the top of the Miyajima Ropeway we went on for another walk to the Misen Hondo and the Reikado Hall, two shrines on the mountain, with a beautiful view over the sea in between the trees on the route. We totally underestimated the hike though, and skipped the last leg to the very peak of the mountain. Maybe it was too hot for this kind of activity? Or maybe our physique is just not up to par (no, that’s impossible…). Anyway, we went back down to the elevator, went to eat oyster donburi in the village and took a boat back to the station to get to Okayama via the Shinkansen.
We chose to visit Okayama as a short stay-over on our way back to Tokyo. It’s not a popular destination amongst foreign tourists, but after visiting nearly every major tourist destination in the central region of the country it was a fine break of pace.
The city is quite large and at a quick glance very similar to, say, Hiroshima. It’s a modern city with tons of high rise concrete buildings, but it unfortunately lacks a bit of the charm of cities like Nara and Tokyo.
We arrived in the evening, went to look for food and snacks at a nearby supermarket, which we fashionably ate at our hotel before hitting the sack to get some much needed rest after our mountain hike.
In the morning we took a bus to visit Okayama Castle, a reconstruction of a castle that was ruined during the second World War. The sturdy fortress, built with giant stones and black slabs, has a great view over the city, but unfortunately most of the signs are only written in Japanese, making it a bit hard to read up on its history during our visit.
Right outside of the castle you can cross the small Yuejian Bridge over the Asahi River that leads to the Korakuen Garden, a large landscape garden with tons of exotic birds and koi fishes in its numerous ponds. It’s also seemingly a popular location for taking your wedding photographs. We lost count on how many wedding gowns and heavy duty cameras we spotted during our short stroll through the park.
Other posts about this trip
- Our trip to Japan (video)
- Exploring Tokyo
- Half a day in Nikko
- The ancient history of Kyoto
- Burning torches in Nara
- Attending a sumo honbasho in Osaka
- A few notes on Kobe, wagyu beef, and ropeways
- Hiroshima and the aftermath of the atomic bomb
- A night in Miyajima & Okayama (this post!)
- Hakone (coming soon)
- Hakodate (coming soon)
- Sapporo (coming soon)
- Otaru/Yoichi/Noboribetsu (coming soon)