Making use of our Japan Rail passes we depart Hiroshima and head to the nearby island of Miyajima. We take the advice of the guidebooks and websites and decide to stay a night rather than do the day trip option.
Our Japan Rail pass even gets us across the water on a ferry, though due to our bags (heavy) and the length of the trip (short) we do travel on the car deck!
Miyajima is relatively small but very popular with the Japanese as a tourist location, something we discovered when trying to find accommodation – we think we got the last room on the island! On arrival it felt they we all huddled round the big draw of the island (at least based on the tourist board posters)…the Shinto Gate (more on this later).
We choose the temporarily avoid this and head to what the tourist board should really be focusing their marketing effort on……The World’s Largest Rice Spoon. After this short (but obviously amazing) stop we make use of wonderful weather to climb Mount Misen, a 500 metre peak that requires 90 minute of steps to reach.
Just before the summit, as well as a quite frankly overpriced vending machine that only makes money because you are thirsty after the climb, is a temple. Within this temple is a cauldron. Nothing too remarkable so far. When, however, you find that this fire has burned continuously for over a millennium you start be a little bit impressed.
Lit nearly 1200 years ago, it was the flame that was used to light the peace flame in Hiroshima. I wonder if the Bangles have been here on holiday?
Once you leave the temple you shortly get to the top where you can relish one of the “top three views in Japan” (ie third?), which makes the cardiovascular workout and £2.50 bottle of water all seem worthwhile before taking the easy option of the cable car back down.
As mentioned earlier, Miyajima is famous for its Shinto gate known as Itsukushima Shrine. On arrival it was less than impressive due to the fact it was surrounded by 100s of tourists and it was low tide. The thing that makes the shrine so famous is that as the tide comes in it is surrounded by the ocean and stands as an orange beacon in the waves.
Our heeded travel advice meant that as the tide came in, the day tourists left for the last ferry and we were left in relative peace to observe the gate as the sun set and the sea rose.
The only downside of the lack of tourists is the almost complete lack of evening food options, but fortunately we find one before it closes and partake of the local delicacy of oysters before it’s time for bed.