Saturday, June 4, 2011
Day 11 (Wed. 5/25)- Off to Miyajima
I was really looking forward to visiting Miyajima! Miyajima is an island right off of Hiroshima, and is widely known for its floating torii. A torii mark the entrance to a shrine... in this case, this floating torii marks the entrance for Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima. In reality, it is not "floating" per se, but during high tides, the waters rise above the ground and gives you the illusion that it is floating. From the pictures I have seen, it looked beautiful.
Our plan was to take the train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi station, and then take the JR ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima island.
When we looked at the Miyajima High Tide predictor last night, we were surprised to see that the high tide would be around 3pm- when we had checked a few weeks before, the high tide at that time was 9am. Thus, we decided to take it easy this morning and just relax and sleep in. I would highly recommend checking the high tide predictor the night before or morning of your visit to Miyajima. This tide predictor is based on the tides of the Hiroshima port; Itsukushima's port is just slightly earlier.
Since the high tide was in the afternoon, we decided to sleep in and relax in the morning. Once we got dressed and ready to head out, I saw this really cute doughnut shop called MOG, located on Chuo Dori. Cute logo, right?
We walked in, and there were lots of delicious looking doughnuts, it was hard to just choose 2. I asked the store associate which one was the #1 seller, and she said the Salted doughnuts. Sure- sounded good to me.
There were other interesting flavors, like this green tea glazed one
I ended up ordering the Salted doughnut, and Darin ordered a plain doughnut with whipped topping in the middle. We also ordered a 3rd doughnut- plain doughnut with chocolate glaze and chopped nuts on top. While mine looked tasty, it was... terrible. I couldn't even eat it all. It was dry and bland. What a waste.
Darin, on the other hand, was much better. Much better than mine, but still not great.
The chocolate-glazed one wasn't any better. You'd think the chocolate glaze would help with the taste, but the doughnut was dry and the chocolate was meh
Since that didn't really lure our tastebuds, Darin was still a bit hungry so we stopped by Yoshinoya for some gyudon. Gyudon is a Japanese rice dish topped with thinly sliced beef and onions that has been simmering in a mild sweet sauce with soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and dashi stock (fish stock). Gyu- means "cow" or "beef" and don is short for donburi which is "bowl". I knew it'd be quick and easy so we decided to grab a quick bite before heading to the train station.
They had a pretty big selection, but we both decided to get the regular gyudon small size which was ¥380 ($5= cheap). The restaurant reminds you of a diner, with counter seating and someone cooking in the back.
Our meals were quick to arrive...
Once we finished, we headed to Hiroshima station.
We hopped on the train and get off at Miyajimaguchi station. Just follow the exit sign with the boats
Once you get out of the Miyajimaguchi station, you'll see signs to to get to the Miyajima ferry port, but you'll need to take the underground walkway to get to the ferry port
You'll see signs in the underground walkway to get to the ferry port
As you exit back upstairs from the underground walkway, you'll see Anago-Meshi restaurant right in front of you. I've heard great things about this restaurant, and made a point to make sure I head there as we leave Miyajima that evening.
You'll see the JR Ferry port right as you exit the Miyajimaguchi underground walkway
Keep in mind that there are other ferry companies at the same pier as JR Ferry, so if you plan to use your JR Pass, make sure to go to the station that says "JR".
Once you get into the Ferry port, you'll show your JR Pass, and then walk down to the ferry.
The ferry is coming!
The JR Ferry has 3 levels (if I can remember correctly)- there are shaded indoor areas that look like this
On our way to Miyajima!
Miyajima is so mountainous and beautiful
It's a short 10-15 minute boat ride. While we boated our way there, we spotted the floating torii
Here is a close-up of the floating torii
We saw some people jet-skiing in the ocean- how fun would that have been?
Since it was around 12pm, the water wasn't high tide. You can tell by where the water is hitting on the base of the torii
Once we got to the island, we took a moment to look around. Miyajima was peaceful and serene with beautiful lush mountains everywhere
We saw this map as we entered the island- you can see there is a lot to explore on this island, but we mainly wanted to see the floating torii. We originally wanted to climb Mt. Misen, but du to getting a late start, being tired, and having a bad ankle, we decided to explore the island instead.
There were lots of quaint shops selling souvenirs, food...
Of course, there were charms of the floating torii for sale too
Miyajima is also know for having deer all over the island...
One of Hiroshima's novelty food is called yakikaki (Grilled oysters). I saw a stand on our way to the Shrine and decided to order
The oysters are grilled on its half shell until ready to eat
This one was 1 for ¥150 ($2)
We chit chatted with the store owner while he cooked my oyster, and he told us to look at the side of his stand
We were like- what are they? Then we looked closer...
... and saw they were aliens made from bike chains
Kind of creepy, don't you think?
Mmm, the grilled oysters were delicious
As I finished the oyster, I started wondering where all the deer was... and then Darin spotted one
Then we realized we had been around a lot of them, but they were camouflaged so well
We had read they were very domesticated and were used to being around people. We weren't allowed to feed them, but there were many stories saying to keep your food out of sight as they were known to eat them out of your hand or in your bag (eating through the bag to get to your food)
Darin wanted to get a picture next to one, so he got close to one
We then noticed that nearby gardens had tall fences to keep the deer from getting to their grass and gardens
Even before we could enter Itsukushima Shrine, Darin spotted another soft-serve ice cream shop. You can usually tell right away if a shop sells soft-serve by the plastic soft-serve cone structure at the store front
He decided to get "Hiroshima Mandarin Orange" flavor
I wanted to look for momiji manju, which is a popular leaf-shaped Japanese treat that has a sweet bread exterior and normally a red bean paste inside, and you can only find it freshly made and warm here on Miyajima. I wanted to get one with a chestnut filling
There are various fillings that can be inside
We also saw a rickshaw
We tightly made our way between the stone post and wall
We saw quite a few people relaxing by the waters
Once we got closer to the Shrine, we saw a ton of deer
When the tide is low, you are able to actually walk out to the floating torii and touch it. Unfortunately, the tide was never low enough while we were there
While we were visiting the Shrine, we witnessed a Japanese wedding. There was a decorated masked gentleman dancing for the bride and groom. We didn't know what was going on, but we were mesmerized by what we saw
Looking into one of the rooms of Itsukushima Shrine
We also wanted to explore the island, so we left the shrine...
... and found these steps so we climbed them
We are always so amazed by the number of elderly who take the trains, walk for miles, or in this case, climb the steep steps
Some beautiful scenery we saw on our walk
We came across this area where there were tons of buddhist statues everywhere
Our walk eventually led us into this small town
With more super compact mini vans
Miyajima is known not only for its torii, but it's also famous for inventing the rice paddle, and thus they house the largest rice paddle. Every store sold various rice paddles in all sizes, as well as other Miyajima souvenirs
Anago meshi is a popular meal on Miyajima, which is conger eel on rice.... but eel-flavored candy drops?
The sun is setting
Miyajima has a shopping street called Omotesando Street that is lined with shops and eateries
Even Hello Kitty has her own Miyajima-themed store
How cute is this?
I was surprised at how many restaurants were available on Miyajima (though I've heard that the stores and restaurants tend to close early around 6pm)
Lilo in a deer costume for Miyajima
Mmmm, kakigori (shaved ice)
And more soft-serve!
Darin's 2nd soft-serve for the day
You can even get custom-designed rice paddles with your picture drawn on it
And I present to you... the world's largest rice paddle
We left that evening around 4:30pm, and I felt so sick that night. I had horrible stomach nausea, and we ended up going to bed around 5pm and not waking up until the next morning. I don't know what it was, but thankfully I slept the entire night.