There is no doubt that Japan is a country like no other. Within its four major islands are spell-binding destinations that never fail to attract both foreign and local tourists. But like so many other things in the world where ranking is a way of somehow putting things in order, it has been a century old practice for the Japanese to vote for what they consider as the best and the most beautiful places in their land.
Less than an hour away from Hiroshima and easily accessible via JR ferry boat is one of the selected top three of Japan’s most scenic view- Mijayima. What does this small island has that earns a coveted spot as one of the country’s best view? Giant floating torii gate.
From the moment that the ferry gate was open, every one was rushing to board in order to secure the best spot where you can see the floating gate afar and as the boat approaches the island. You can sense a feeling of excitement among the crowd especially with kids, who are not only looking forward on riding the boat or seeing the gate but mostly a chance to play with deer and visit the Mijayima Aquarium.
The island of Mijayima is one of the many places in Japan who strictly maintain its traditional look. The houses are constructed in an Edo-era style and deer are allowed to roam freely as they please. Completing the ambiance are charming walking path towards Momijadani Park which lead to the ropeway station for those who intends to see the island from above or for those who aim to hike towards Mt. Misen.
Though now popular as Miyajima which means “shrine island”, the official name is actually “Itsukushima”, in reference to Itsukushima Shrine, which like the giant torii gate is constructed over waters. What makes the shrine particularly attractive are the hanging lamps, the orange color, the Senjokaku pagoda in the background and the sea.
Itsukishima Shrine is usually crowded and always the first stop for most tourist. Not to popular is another equally beautiful temple located at the base of Mt. Misen. I guess the fact that you need to walk a bit uphill to reach Daisho-in Temple makes this less attractive option for most, but somehow turns out to be an advantage for people like me who seeks a few minutes of peace and quite. One interesting thing to do in the temple that don’t require you to speak Japanese is to walk along the temple steps and at the same time move the metal wheels in the middle. The metal wheels are inscribed with Buddha scriptures, moving it is believe to be the same as reading the scripture and can guarantee blessings for anyone who does.
As expected, a tourist spot like Miyajima would not be complete if there is no “Ginza”. A small shopping lane sandwiched somewhere between the temples, which takes pride on selling red-bean paste filled sweets called “manju”, grilled oysters and a flat rice paddle of all sizes called “shamoji”, said to be inventedon the island. Even the shopping street is a tourist attraction itself, where you can hypnotically watch the manju machine as it produced fresh sweets one after another.
So what makes Miyajima more than a mere side trip from Hiroshima? It is a perfect blend of beach and temples.