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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I see you getting ready to type me a nasty email saying that the real name of the island I am writing about today is not Miyajima, but Itsukushima. I know that! But I’m still calling it a Hiroshima to Miyajima day trip. No one is going to find this article if I call it Hiroshima to Itsukushima because everyone calls Itsukushima “Miyajima”, which means Shrine Island.

The shrine in question is Itsukushima Shrine–the world famous “floating” torii gate. How does it float, you ask? Is gelatin or David Copperfield involved somehow? For the moment, you know nothing. But soon, you will know all.

24 Hours: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

Where to Stay?

I suggest spending your 24 hours in Miyajima as a day trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima. So my hotel recommendation is Hiroshima Washington Hotel. It’s affordable, spotless, and extremely well located in the center of Hiroshima. Plus you can get to the train station very quickly from the hotel. That way, you won’t waste your time on your Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip.

If you want a great deal on this hotel, just click here. And if you’d like to explore over 200 other hotels in Hiroshima, just click here.

24 Hours: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

What to Pack?

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

Japan is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

Finally, if you’re not from Japan or the US, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. Japanese electrical outlets don’t work with UK or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.

24 Hours: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

Morning: Explore Miyajima

hiroshima to miyajima

Miyajima is in Hiroshima Prefecture (a prefecture is kind of the Japanese equivalent of a county), so it’s best visited as a day trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima. Just take the JR train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi Station. Get off at Miyajima Station and follow the really clearly labeled signs and obvious throngs of tourists to the ferry to Miyajima–the Shrine Island. Our 24 hours in Miyajima are about to begin!

24 Hour Tip

Don’t sit on the ferry if your legs are in working order. Get a spot with a great view, so you’ll be able to get oodles of snaps of the glorious sights of Miyajima that are about to befall your eyes. At first you will see nothing but water and a pretty island.

24 hours in miyajima

You get closer. You sense that something special is about to happen.

24 hours in miyajima

And then…rising out of the distance…

hiroshima to miyajima

Some enchanted evening! You will see a torii! You will see a torii across a crowded ferry! Yes, the famous floating shrine of Miyajima floats not in outer space or jello, but in water. It looks like it’s rising straight out of the water. It’s even more impressive up close, so let’s go explore the island.

Approximately top 5: Hiroshima to Miyajima

24 hours in miyajima
1) Say hello to the deer!

You thought we were done with deer when we left Nara, but you were wrong. Dead wrong. They’re deer, they’re here, and they’re sacred. There aren’t nearly as many of them as there were in Nara, but they are still pretty friendly. Be warned not to try to eat a snack on the street because a deer will definitely try to jack you for it.

24 hours in miyajima
2) Eat a momiji manju

Momiji manju are the local snack in Miyajima. They are an adorable maple leaf shaped cake filled with sweet red bean paste. These snacks are so popular on the island that you can while away a pleasant half hour just wandering from momiji store to momiji store watching them being made on these little conveyor belt machines.

24 hours in miyajima

I bought a momiji manju from one of the shops on the street lining the beach. It was covered with chocolate and very delicious. This made the fact that I had to fight off a very rude deer who tried to snack it from my hands in order to keep it worth it.

24 hours in miyajima
3) Visit the floating shrine on 1-1 Miyajima-chō

This shrine is the whole reason you came to Miyajima in the first place. But what is funny is that the only reason the shrine exists is because of commoners like you. The island has been considered sacred for a long time, so if commoners wanted to visit, their boats needed to pass through this gate first. Now it costs you only 300 Yen (about 3 dollars) to enter the shrine’s presence. Once you are there, wait until the tide is low.

24 hours in miyajima

Then walk as close to it as your shoes will allow.

24 hours in miyajima
24 Hour Tip

Wear waterproof shoes.

There’s not a lot to do at the shrine but take as many photos as possible. If you are a solo traveler, people will probably ask you if you want your picture taken. I always say no because I assume those people are just pretending to help because they want to steal my camera.

24 hours in miyajima
4) see the cherry blossoms

I mean, this is pretty obvious advice anywhere in Japan, but there are some nice cherry blossoms in Miyajima, and they pair well with the old-fashioned looking houses. Plus the deer like them too.

24 hours in miyajima
5) Go shopping

Japan is the greatest country for souvenir shopping because each prefecture has its own special goods and symbols. Get something with deer, the floating torii, and/or maple leaves on it, and you’ll think of Miyajima every time you look at it.

24 hours in miyajima

I bought this makeup bag that has all three things on it! Oh the cleverness of me!

24 hours in miyajima oyster
6) Lunch at Kakiya

Miyajima may be famous for floating torii, deer, and maple leaves, but we must not forget the most delicious thing it is famous for: oysters. In fact, oysters are a major delicacy all over the Hiroshima region. As you can see, Hiroshima oysters are HUGE and gorgeous. What you cannot taste in this photo is that they are also perfect to eat. They taste exactly like that “I kissed a fish and I liked it” sensation that every oyster lover looks for.

Kakiya is the perfect place to go for an oyster set-lunch. Your waiter will probably pull out his cell phone while you are ordering and you show the “secret menu”. The “secret” is that for 21 dollars, you can get oysters five ways: barbecued (pictured above), fried, in miso soup, oiled, and cooked in rice.

I really think the waiter should know better than to keep secret pictures on his cell phone because those are so easily hacked. But I ordered the secret menu anyway because the only thing better than four kinds of oysters is five kinds of oysters.

24 hours in miyajima

All of the oysters were succulent, but the small black oiled oyster, which is the house specialty, was my favorite. It was so rich and dense that it tasted just like an oyster who had died and gone to heaven. I found it interesting though that all of the oysters were cooked. When I eat oysters here in the US, they are almost always raw and on the half shell. I wonder if there are any raw oysters in Japan or if the walrus and the carpenter ate them all.

24 hours in miyajima
7) Daisho in Temple

I had never heard of Daisho Temple before I came to Miyajima. I just kind of stumbled upon it when I was wandering around, and I fell in love. It is a Shingon Buddhist temple, which is also known as esoteric Buddhism. I’m afraid I don’t know very much about Shingon Buddhism in general. But what I do know about this temple in particular is that it is full of statues wearing clothes.

24 hours in miyajima

These stone statues are all statues of Jizo, who is a Bodhissatva who protects travelers and children. People make offerings to him by dressing him up in different outfits. Maybe Jizo is really modest, or maybe he’s just one of those people who gets cold super easily? Don’t feel bad about that, Jizo! Cold hands, warm heart!

24 hours in miyajima

I appreciate that people want to respect Jizo by giving him these beautiful hats, but I kind of feel like the red and the white makes this look like an incomplete Where’s Waldo? drawing.

24 hours in miyajima
24 Hour Tip

If you see a room in the temple and it’s not obviously blocked off, don’t hesitate to go inside and explore! You might find the room with 1000 images of Fudo, the Immovable King. These images were placed here by worshipers when the current head priest took office. I feel like if they wanted to make these really immovable, they should have tried making them bigger.

24 hours in miyajima

Or you might find the famous Henjokutsu Cave, which is a popular pilgrimage spot. If there’s one thing that makes me feel like a traveler and not a tourist, it’s finding an empty cave.

24 hours in miyajima
24 Hour Treasure

My favorite thing to do at this temple was to look for the many adorable offerings of toys that people had left for Jizo. It makes sense that people would give him things meant for young ones, as Jizo is supposed to be a protector of children. The Minion was by far the most popular toy offering.

24 hours in miyajima

But my favorite was this Winnie the Pooh dressed in a Santa costume. Good to know that old Pooh Bear is still valued enough to be used as a sacrifice to Jizo! A classic is always a classic.

24 Hours: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

Afternoon: Hike Mt. Misen

24 hours in miyajima

Some days I have a careful travel itinerary planned down to the last second. And some days I get to about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and say to myself, “Ho, hum. I think I’ll climb a mountain today.” My 24 hours in Miyajima was one of the latter days.

24 hours in miyajima

There is a path from Daisho Temple that leads directly to the top of Mount Misen, the sacred mountain on Itsukushima Island. I imagine being a sacred mountain on top of a sacred island must make all the other mountains lime-green Jello with envy. Even though I was wearing sandals and a dress, and I hadn’t planned to go climbing at all, as soon as I saw the signs for Mt. Misen, I knew I had to scale the 90 minute walk to the top.

24 hours in miyajima
24 Hour Tip

If you want to hike Mt. Misen, buy some water or green tea from one of the many vending machines on Miyajima before starting your climb. You will thank me later, trust me. There’s plenty of benches and places to rest upon if, like me, you are not used to scaling sacred mountains on a regular basis.

24 hours in miyajima
Fun (and dangerous) Fact!

Apparently Mt. Misen is home to the poisonous viper known as the Mamushi. These signs warning of an Incredibly Deadly Viper are all over Mt. Misen and they are hilarious. Do people need to be warned to not go near strange snakes and to not poke at them with sticks? The first time I saw these signs I felt frightened, but there were plenty of other hikers going up and down the mountain and none of them seemed to have mamushi-phobia, so I gather that the vipers aren’t really a problem for hikers.

24 hours in miyajima
24 Hour Treasure

Obviously the greatest thing about Mt. Misen is the sense of accomplishment you feel when you see that glorious view from the top! There is an actual observatory room but it was closed by the time I got there, so I just had to make do with the view from these rocks.

As I poked my head up over the top of the rocks upon arriving at the summit, I heard the sound of Japanese flute, or shakuhachi, music. I was delighted to see a young man wearing a light kimono trying his hand at traditional music.

I thought he was a professional at first, but it soon became obvious that he had just come to the top of the mountain to practice and…make the mountain more atmosphere for tourists, I guess. Thanks kid! Listen to that shakuhachi music while looking at my photos of the mountain and you can perhaps replicate the effect in the privacy of your own home!

24 Hours: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

Evening: Dine on Snacks

anago bun
24 hour treat: anago bun

I recommend stopping at one of the stands that sells steamed buns and getting one with anago eel, a local specialty. Anago is saltwater eel, and it has a sweetness that makes it perfect for putting inside a bun. I really felt that the anago understood me better than the freshwater eels I eat at home do.

ramune ice cream
24 Hour Treat: Ramune ice cream

For dessert, what else can it be but soft-serve ice cream! There are so many different flavors in Japan that I recommend trying as many different ones as you can. This light blue beauty is Ramune-flavor, so it has the lemony, fizzy taste of the popular Japanese carbonated soda. It even has little fizzy candies in it. It almost feels like the ice cream is carbonated. Just keep it away from the deer!

At this point, Miyajima Island kind of shuts down for the evening around 6 PM, so it will be time to get on the ferry, then the train, and head back to Hiroshima. I’m sorry we didn’t spend exactly 24 hours in Miyajima, but I think it was close enough. If you come back, be sure to bring a Minion for Jizo!

Related Reading: Hiroshima to Miyajima Day Trip

Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Hiroshima right now? Then let me give you some suggestions for further reading. I like the Lonely Planet guide to Japan. It’s divided according to the regions of Japan, which makes it easy to use for planning purposes.

If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, I really think the Japanese are some of the best in the world at the magic stuff. Read Kappa by Ryonusuke Akutagawa. It’s like Alice in Wonderland if Alice in Wonderland were about underground lizard people.

And if you prefer mysteries, settle in for a cozy evening with Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Ranpo. (Ranpo was a Japanese writer, but he admired Edgar Allen Poe so much, he changed his name to sound more like his idol.)

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. And if you want to add 24 hours in Hiroshima to your Hiroshima to Miyajima day trip, just check this out

Stella Jane
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