When we left Tokyo our first trip was to Miyajima (Shrine Island), an island about 40 minutes from Hiroshima. The Island is most famed for its giant red torii that appears to be floating in the sea. We arrived mid-afternoon and had booked to stay for two nights, one in a standard ryokan in a western style room at a very reasonable price and the other at a high end ryokan in a traditional Japanese room with meals included.
The boat journey over gives you an excellent view of the giant torii and it only takes about 10 minutes. After we arrived and dropped off our luggage and went for a stroll around the town. There is a really pretty main street with lots of lovely shops and cafes. We also had our first encounter with Miyajima’s infamous deer.
Signs do warn you that they are wild deer even though they appear tame and they soon provided us with some drama when three of them started converging a young japanese girl. She started screaming, causing her mother to run over to her and try to shoo them away. However, this meant that the mother had left her baby in the pram unattended and other deer had made eyes on tasty parts of the pram. When the mother realised that these big deer were peering into the pram she tried to dart over to get her baby away from the mouths of the deer.
While still trying to protect the little girl she knocked over the pram and the poor baby was flung face down onto the pavement, thankfully he was strapped into the pram so was unharmed. J was off in a flash to help the now frantic mother rescue her baby and move along the very persistent deer. I was trying to comfort the little girl (in Japanese) who was still crying. Before I knew it the wily deer had taken yet another opportunity for mischief and stolen all my maps right out of my hand and shredded them to pieces (we spent 5 mins in the tourist office getting all the hiking routes marked on them!). So a little lesson for travellers to Miyajima… yes the deer seem cute, but remember they will crowd you in groups and can be quite intimidating and they find maps delicious!
During our stroll, as the tide was out we walked down to the torii and discovered a fun new game after wondering for a while why everyone was looking up. The game was to chuck a coin in the air and then get it to land on top of one of the torii’s beams for good fortune….
We then headed to Senjokaku (meaning pavilion of 1000 mats), a large wooden hall dating back to 1587. The hall is an amazing space and has become one of my favourite attraction in Japan. It is packed with interesting artworks and the beamed structure is really amazing!
Just on the other side of Senjokaku is a large red pagoda…
Our walk continued on to the foothills of Mount Misen and through the park with a stop of at a beer garden with a great view of Miyajima (they only serve beer!).
To be honest, it is well worth staying the night in Miyajima, even though a lot of people do it as a day trip, the place is so much more beautiful and peaceful at night as all the crowds disappear. We had a lovely dinner of curry, cheesecake and coffee at a cafe on the far side of the bay. We opted to eat outside at the only outdoor table on the island, on a very cute decked area and had the most wonderful view of the torii all lit up. At night you can do cruises to see the torii up close and the boats pass through the torii. After a day of travelling, saving children from dear and sight seeing we headed back to Kikugawa, our ryokan, for the night and had a wonderful night sleep. I would highly recommend this ryokan if you are staying on the island overnight.