The island of Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima, is a short trip away from Hiroshima. Throughout much of its history the island was considered a sacred space, so pilgrims were unable to mourn, give birth, or even die on the island. Moving back even further, it was prohibited to set foot on the island at all. Today authorities are more lenient about visiting the island, but it still retains some of its mystique. As we visited the iconic, floating torii gate, cut across the lush forests of Mt. Misen on the Miyajima Ropeway, and enjoyed sweet potato ice cream, we found the fatigue of our first week of travel melting away.

The Floating Torii

The iconic torii gate of Miyajima Shrine, properly known as Itsukushima Shrine, is the first and sometimes only stop for the flood of tourists that ride the ferry to the island each day. When the tide is out, you can walk around and through the gate. When the tide comes in, you can get a picture of the gate as it appears to float on water. The site is one of the most photographed in all of Japan.

The floating torii of Miyajima Shrine at high tide.
The floating torii of Miyajima Shrine at high tide.

It’s worth noting that the streets surrounding the temple are full of deer. Though I spied one trying and failing to make a break for an udon restaurant, most are placid. Visitors are warned not to feed the deer, but that doesn’t necessarily stop them from snatching food from you. Unlike their counterparts in Nara, they’re not likely to bow first.

Photo: Jade Miles

The Miyajima Ropeway

Although it was not originally in our itinerary, we decided to make a trip to the top of Mt. Misen. If you’re feeling up for a hike there is a well-kept trail to the top, but the Miyajima Ropeway also makes the trip in much shorter time. We opted for the latter and rode the glass cable car over the forest and up into the mountains. From there, a second ropeway takes you the rest of the way, though to go to the very top, you’ll still need to walk for twenty minutes.

The Miyajima Ropeway is not for those afraid of heights.
The Miyajima Ropeway is not for those afraid of heights.

After a quick curry lunch at the ropeway station, we made the hike to the top. Mt. Misen is one of the most sacred places on the island, and Buddhist pilgrims would frequently make the trip to meditate. In addition to a number of small shrines along the way, an observation deck looks clear out across the Island and back towards the mainland.

The view from the top of Mt. Misen overlooks the Seto Inland Sea.
The view from the top of Mt. Misen overlooks the Seto Inland Sea.

Ice Cream and Healing Waters

Though we rode the cable car up, we made the hike back down, and after the journey, we were both tired and hungry. At the foot of the hiking path was a vendor selling sweet potato and ice cream. This treat is a favorite of both me and my fiancee.

Image: Jade Miles

We polished off the starchy sweet combo quickly and asked the vendors if there was anywhere we could go to relax. As it turned out, there were several onsen on Miyajima. We selected the closest, and after soaking in the “healing waters” for an hour, we were ready to head back to the mainland. The visit had been one of the most unexpectedly relaxing days of our journey. On the ferry back to the mainland, I began to feel renewed, and by the time I woke up the next morning, I was ready for the second leg of our trip.

Name: Miyajima / Itsukushima
Address: 1-1 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima 739-0588

Post by Japan Journeys.