Miyajima- the Prettiest Tourist Trap

Have you heard of the island Miyajima? Maybe not, but you’d probably recognize the one thing it’s famous for: the “floating torri.”. Subject of a thousand postcards, this orange gate is supposed to be one of Japan’s Three Views. It’s a very popular spot for domestic and international tourists alike, often visited via ferry from Hiroshima.

Honestly, I was somewhat skeptical that I would be able to spend an entire day on this island. After all, how many pictures can you take of one gate? Judging by the sheer hordes of people crowded at the shoreline, the answer appears to be a lot. I was disappointed though to stumble upon the gates at low tide. Pretty, but not so dramatic:

But I was also able to find a lot of other interesting things on this little island. First off were my old friends the deer. Unlike Nara, you aren’t allowed to feed the deer here and they seem much more civilized as a result. I did see one munching on some poor guy’s map, but other than that they mostly seemed docile and friendly.

Then there was Mount Misen. The tallest mountain on the island is friendly looking at the bottom but deceptively steep. Unlike my heartier friend Jeremy I decided to take a cable care close to the top and then climb back down.Even though it set me back 1800 yen I was really happy with this decision after the two hour hike down steep steep stairs. As a bonus, the view from the cable car was pretty great:

Once I reached the end of the cable line though I was dismayed to find that I still had a tough up hill hike ahead of me to get to the top lookout peak. I had already resolved to hike down the mountain, which meant I really needed to get to the top first. This meant a lot of stairs. Steep ones. Even though I’ve been training it was still one tough walk and my thighs hurt for days after. Oh, and as it turned out, I’d swapped pick pocketing deer for bag swiping monkeys.

The 360 degree views at the top though made it all worth it:

At the tail end of my hike back down, I stumbled across the Daish-In temple. I had seen more than enough temples in Kyoto that week, but after looking at nothing but stairs for two hours I felt compelled to go have a look. I’m so glad I did. This rather large temple was populated by literally hundreds of foot tall Buddha statues. Peaceful Buddhas, jolly Buddhas, stern Buddhas and even little mischievous Buddhas. They totally made my day.

By the time I reached the main little shopping area it was late afternoon. The hordes of bus tours had mostly cleared out and the tide had come back in, restoring the gate to it’s proper aquatic place. I paid my 300 yen to visit the Itsukishia Shrine, the shrine associated with the torri. It was now strikingly empty.

In spite of myself I had to marvel at how pretty the iconic symbol really is in the right setting. It might be a tour group magnet, but it is a beautiful one, worth a visit, as long as you can look beyond the orange gate.

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Russell West
Russell West

I’ve been reading so much of your blog lately – thank you for doing it! I was wondering if you thought Miyajima would be worth it as a half day. We’re looking at doing Hiroshima in the morning (I understand ~3-4hrs there should be plenty), and then Miyajima — and then heading back to our home base in Osaka for the evening. Would ~3 hours in Miyajima be worth it do you think?

Thank you!!

AdelaideBen
AdelaideBen

Nice post – and yes, there’s a lot of tourist traps in Japan… and if you can find the nice ones then its even better. I’ve never been here however… even though it’s so popular. Having said that by the number of blogs I’ve read where people arrived at low-tide, I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy here…

Amy
Amy

I didn’t realize how far out the tide goes. I thought we had missed high tide, but apparently not since the water was all around the gate like it was in your last picture. We didn’t go up the mountain, so I’m glad I got to see it through your eyes!

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