Two Days in Miyajima

When Dan and I were planning our trip to Japan, he had the genius idea to rotate between big cities and smaller villages.  While I didn't think much of this at the time, I think that became a saving grace and best part of our trip.  When we were about to leave Tokyo, I was starting to feel worn out by the crowds, always catching trains, and exploring SO much while feeling like there was still so much we were missing.  Hakone was the perfect antidote to that, with a relaxing and reinvigorating stay.


Similarly, while Kyoto was incredible and we had so much fun, I was definitely looking forward to a more laid back and relaxing next portion of our trip, which came in the form of Miyajima.  A little island in Hiroshima Bay, this area topped most of the lists of most beautiful places to visit in Japan.  It definitely lived up to the hype!  Read on for what we did in our 3 days and 2 nights.

Ryokan

I mentioned in other posts that all of our hotels were paid for using points, and because of how much money we saved, we decided to splurge for two nights in a traditional ryokan.  These are Japanese inns which have tatami-matted floors, sliding wooden screens as doors, and one main room that gets transformed from living space to sleeping area.  We chose Iwaso, which also featured a communal onsen for bathing and some of the best food we had on the entire trip!  The room itself was also beautiful- there was a porch that overlooked a brook and the rooms were set in Momijidani Park, so it felt very intimate and like we were in a fairytale.


In the mornings, we padded to the main hall in our yukata and slippers, and were served a feast of traditional Japanese breakfast foods.


For dinner, the meal was brought in, course by course.  It was HEAVENLY and featured fresh fish, oysters (the island's specialty), salad, miso soup, and more.  My favorite was shabu-shabu, which was a method to cook thinly sliced wagyu by swirling it in a large simmering pot of oil and broth.

iwaso ryokan review

After a filling and decadent dinner, we sleepily made our way to the onsen, which was segregated by gender.  After showering, we were able to soak in natural hot spring tubs.  There were also outdoor tubs, which felt so amazing contrasted with the cool weather.  The outdoor tubs also looked over the brook, and we were able to see deer and other animals walking by.  Such an amazing and unique experience!

image via Iwaso

On our final day, there was an annual mochi festival, so we got to see the staff making mochi from scratch and were served fresh pieces, while a band played to keep the workers entertained!


Shopping Street


Most of our time on the island was spent relaxing in our luxurious room, but we did venture out each day to explore the shopping street and try different specialties.  This is really the only main street in town, and had lots of vendors and shops.  My favorites were the soy sauce shop and the island's brewery!  Their slogan is "Deer Love Beer"- a nod to the wild deer that roam all over the island.  There are also a lot of shrines, museums, an aquarium, and pagodas in this area, so it's definitely the place to be.


Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima

I think that the most famous part of the island, and the reason most people come for a day trip, is the floating torii gate.  This is a HUGE gate that has received many accolades for its beauty, including being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its frequent inclusion on lists for most iconic views in all of Japan.  It's easy to see why- at high tide, the gate appears to be floating in the water and has a backdrop of the mountains.  Since it's so popular to see the gate at high tide, the tide times are posted everywhere (and was given to us the day before on a paper at dinner so we could plan our day).

japan floating torii high tide

At low tide, you can actually walk out to and under the gate.  The view from the gate to the rest of the island is beautiful too!  

Itsukushima torii low tide


Mount Misen

mount misen hike

Since our ryokan was in the middle of a park, we decided on one clear day to make a hike to the top of Mount Misen.  This is the highest mountain on the island, and had a few trails to the top that you could take.  There is also a rope-way to the top in case you just want to hike down!

mount misen hike

We decided to take the Momiji Dani route up, which involved a lot of steps, and the Omoto route down.  This part was really pretty, and had some amazing natural views.  Once we reached the summit, there was a shrine and some benches to rest on before making your way to the very top.  Unfortunately it was a foggy day so we couldn't see much, but the hike was still worth it.




Big or small towns- how do you like to travel?

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