Mystical Miyajima

By on March 30, 2009

An hour south of the city of Hiroshima, the tiny island of Miyajima sits majestically in a curve of Japan’s Inland Sea. Easily accessible as a day trip from Hiroshima or on a weekend away from Tokyo’s sprawl, the island is best known as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. But it’s more than just a pretty place; Miyajima offers a wealth of activities guaranteed to make for a fun family outing.

 

Ferry boats service the island regularly, with departures at least twice an hour. Once on the island, it’s hard to miss the herds of friendly deer that congregate along the waterfront. Buy some animal food from a local vendor and you’ll have a new friend for the rest of your stay!

 

Along the waterfront, the world heritage-designated shrine of Itsukushima delights visitors who wander through its many crimson-columned hallways. As with the famous and oft-photographed torii gate in the sea nearby, the arrival of high tide gives the shrine the appearance of floating on the waves. A number of other temples dot the village’s shady streets, including a five-storey pagoda dating from the 1400s. 

 

Hiking opportunities abound, with many trails winding through Momoji-dani Park behind the village. The area is an explosion of color in all seasons, from plum and cherry blossoms in the spring to gold and scarlet-hued maples during autumn. Energetic families can also choose to scale the island’s highest peak, Mt Misen. If a half-day hike is not your speed, take the fifteen-minute ropeway ride to the Misen’s upper slopes and enjoy the leisurely half hour walk to the summit. On clear days, you can engage the whole family in an island-counting competition as you survey the far reaches of the Inland Sea. Troops of monkeys also live in the forests near the peak, so keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready!

 

Back down in the village, wander through the tiny streets and sample the island’s tasty cuisine. Miyajima is renowned for oysters, most of which come from just offshore. Younger gourmets will enjoy munching on momiji-manju, cakes filled with a variety of sweet toppings and baked in the shape of maple leaves. Don’t forget to check out the many craft shops filled with unique Miyajima products. Parents can stock up on Miyajima paper dolls and traditional wooden crafts, while kids search the town on a treasure hunt for the world’s largest wooden rice scoop.

 

As the day draws to a close, catch the ferry ride back to the mainland at sunset for a picture-perfect panorama of the island bathed in the fading glow.

 

Getting There

Miyajima is reached via ferry from near the JR Miyajima-guchi rail station on the JR Sanyo line (connecting Hiroshima and Iwakuni). Ferry rides cost ¥170 and take ten minutes. In the summertime, high-speed ferries leave directly from Hiroshima’s Peace Park (¥1900, 50 min). Hiroshima is a four-hour shinkansen journey from Tokyo.

 

Where to Stay

Most visitors stay in Hiroshima and visit Miyajima on a day trip. However, Guest House Kikugawa (www.kikugawa.ne.jp) and Iwaso Ryokan (www.iwaso.com) offer comfortable and kid-friendly overnight options on the island.

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