Itsukushima island, the famous beautiful Miyajima
Miyajima is in all Japan travel wish-lists for a reason. In fact, people who know that this was our third time visiting the country was very surprised to learn that we hadn’t been able to visit before. Why took us this long?
The island is really called Itsukushima and it’s just in front of Hiroshima coast. It is famous for its large torii & shrine, both floating in the water, which is even more beautiful if you are able to witness day-long tides covering and uncovering the grounds around them. The deers rambling on their own around the island are obviously the stars of Itsukushima, and the streets in the town are lovely as well. Foodie wise, you must make sure to try its most famous dessert: the momiji manju, a leaf-shaped sponge cake filled with anko (red bean paste), but also lots of other food options, including grilled oysters, unagi, and sweet potato ice-cream.
TOKYO >> OSAKA >> HIROSHIMA >> MIYAJIMAGUCHI >> ITSUKUSHIMA ISLAND
We came to Miyajima all the way from Tokyo, it takes around 6h.
We took our first shinkansen to Osaka and then a second shinkansen to Hiroshima. Both trains are super comfortable and you can seize the opportunity to grab a bento box and eat it on the train, just like a local. We bought our bento at Tokyo’s Shinawaga station in ecute, which is a gourmet space near the shinkansen area, and everything is mega yummy, we recommend any place in there to grab yours!
From Hiroshima you should travel with a local train to Miyajimaguchi, the town where the ferry to the island leaves. Once in the station you only need to follow the crowds going to the ferry station, it’s a maximum 10 minute walk. The ferry to Itsukushima is included in the Japan Rail Pass, and you don’t need to take any tickets, so only go to the dock and leave on the next one.
It’s quite straightforward, staying in the island!
We got to Miyajima after lunch and the island was very crowded, you can take a glimpse in this picture above, but it was even more impressive in the Itsukushima shrine, with people completely covering all the aisles and making a line to take pictures on the photo spots. Instead, we decided to go to the less popular areas of the island and visit the Momijidani Park, you can read here how magical it was. Afterwards, for the sunset, the crowds had almost vanished, and after dinner the island was indeed completely deserted! The same happened during the morning after, we didn’t had to wake up that early, we visited the shrine around 8:00 am, took the pictures you can see below, ate breakfast at Starbucks (don’t miss it, it has a lovely view) and were just in time for our check-out. I wouldn’t change our plans in any bit.
I think I wouldn’t be able to praise Miyajima so much, as I do now, if we haven’t followed this advice. We have lots of patience, but the crowds tend to eventually get on my nerves, although I have to admit that it is less painful in Japan, where you will find people thinking about your enjoyment too and not just theirs. It really doesn’t have to do with wanting to have pitch-perfect-no-people pictures, that’s not it, it’s the “explorer” feeling that you have when travelling to new places that slowly fades away when you can see that thousands are blocking your views & way.
We stayed in an affordable place called Sakuraya, and was completely surprised by how good it was, I was expecting a much humble abode than what we got. Definitely recommend it as well!
The morning after
It is not pictured, but worthy of mention, we bought our yummy 6 pieces Momiji manju box before leaving and it was a perfect train snack on our way to Osaka. Also, on the 25th of April a Rilakkuma café opened in Miyajima, please do me a favor and visit it for me, I still can’t believe I was just in front of its door (I saw the poster on the door), but too early to enjoy it!
Have you been to Miyajima before? Would love to know your thoughts!