Miyajima island is home of the infamous floating Itsukushima shrine that is used on pretty much every Japanese tourist brochure. The shrine doesn’t actually float; it is freestanding weighed down by rocks, but look at it from the right angle and with the right weather and with one eye slightly closed whilst standing on one leg then it gives the illusion that it is indeed floating (am I being too cynical or am I just too smart for my own good?!). The island itself is considered sacred as supposedly the island is actually God’s body. How true that is I don’t know (actually, I think I do) but it is a beaut of an island.
We arrived on Miyajima island at about quarter past ten and it was already packed with tourists (God is as popular as ever it would seem). We rushed to the famous shrine in the hope of a good snap. Alas, the tide had already gone out and tourists had flocked to the shrines feet. But we still enjoyed the sight of the big orange and the deer which roam about freely (although not as tame as those at Nara).
Whilst the shrine is the biggest draw to the island there is still lots of other things to see and do. The island is home to Mount Misen with a peak at 535m elevation and surrounded by virgin forest. Whilst you can get a cable car up and down we decided to climb and descend it ourselves (well Louise demanded we did).
And we are glad we did. Whilst you do have to beware of killer snakes (we saw two as we walked up) it’s a rewarding hike which takes about an hour up and less down. Along the way up we stopped at the Daisho-in temple. This beautiful temple is surrounded by hundreds of little gnome like statues wearing woolly hats and cheeky smiles. Unfortunately, the reason these statues are here is quite sad. Each statute is donated by a family who lost a child. The family then look after the statute ensuring that it stays clean and create them little hats and scarves all in memory of their lost child.
Once you reach the summit you are rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of the island and mainland from the purpose built viewing tower. Stunning.
By the time we’d made our way back down the other side of the mountain, the tide had come in and we got to take some snaps of the floating shrine surrounded by water. We even managed to wade ourselves out and get some one-on-one time with it. Result; although I’m sure the Japanese were wondering what those crazy foreigners were up to waist deep in water.
Ideally we would have liked to have stayed the night on the island to see the sunrise and sunset over the shrine but budget would not allow for this, however, it’s just a short train and ferry ride, which with the JR rail pass it’s free (smash – take that budget!), so makes a great day trip from Hiroshima. If you are over that way then it is definitely worth the effort!