Revisiting Korea’s Boseong made me think about trips taken to other familiar places. In Japan, a visit to Hiroshima will lead to new discoveries while rekindling past memories. Out with the old, in with the new means a journey out to the nearby island of Itsukushima, popularly known as Miyajima. A streetcar later and we set foot on the boat for an exciting… 10 minutes.
Soon after arriving, herds of deer flock to greet us… or, beg for food. The deer on Miyajima – and in many other places in Japan – are known as sacred messengers of Shinto gods. Signs warn visitors not to feed them but the deer are quite persistent. Putting food down while taking off my jacket almost costs me a meal, as one particular deer sensed my carelessness from afar. Flashbacks of deer in Nara—a historic Japanese city—come to mind, where one took a chunk out of my sweater trying to get to the (park-endorsed) biscuits I was feeding them.
Seriously, these deer act like they own the place! But if you were a messenger for the gods, wouldn’t you deserve such a marvelous places as Miyajima? After the brief snack, we take in most of the sites thanks to an early arrival. We’ll stay until around 2-2:30 when the crowds really start picking up and even the deer seem annoyed at the site of so many people. The masses really do come to Miyajima.
Itsukushima Shrine is the big draw and a beautiful structure, built over the water with its famous gate an icon many people know about through pictures and Miyajima promotional guides. Walking around the temple reminds me of so many thoughts and experiences associated with life in Japan. Emotions of times long forgotten come back and overcome me for a moment. Closing up and shutting those feelings away is almost too difficult. Yet again during this trip to Japan, I really feel welcome here.
The surroundings are so warm and friendly but the people above all really made this place seem like home. They present such grace and courtesy, always saying “Excuse Me.” So passive and deferential. I remember what it was like being here so long ago while studying abroad and trying to find my way. Outside of the five storied pagoda, an old man approaches me and talks about how this day is just perfect. He complains of similar haze and smog that we deal with in Korea. He had just finished a hike to the top of Miyajima’s famous Mt. Misen and notes how visibility is crucial to those who reach the top.
Thankfully for both of us, there’s no problem in taking in the beautiful scenes at any spot on this day. We talk for some time before I catch up with my friends but not before thoroughly thanking him for his courtesy and desire to talk with me. Nature influences people. We stopped at Senjokaku, a wooden structure originally established yet unfinished by one of feudal Japan’s most famous generals—Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Thanks to his successors’ neglect of the building, the lack of a true ceiling allows a breeze to fill the building. Add in its proximity to the water and the result is a cool resting place for those in need of a break.
After a brief rest there, we eat some lunch and walk around the souvenir shops. Even though going back to Hiroshima will lead to some truly memorable sights, Miyajima remains on my mind ever since leaving. Maybe all islands possess something special but this one definitely got me in so many ways. Whether it’s the fact the locals know you want their life and are just teasing you with the laid back approach associated with the lifestyle or if it’s something else, I’ll never know.
What is known, though, is that I long for another visit to that truly picturesque and beautiful place. Give me just a little more time to walk around and maybe a hike to the top of Mt. Misen. Regardless of my regrets and hopes, this “Welcome Island” will truly require a revisit.
Getting to Miyajima
Courtesy of Japan Guide
Train and Ferry
From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station. (25 minutes, costs 410 yen one way, and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. That’s the route that we took.
The route we took was via the tram line number 2 from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi. It’s slower but costs only 260 yen one way. Also, it’s NOT covered by the Japan Rail Pass but that wasn’t a problem for any of us. We didn’t use one while staying in Japan.
From Miyajimaguchi Station, it is a short walk to the ferry pier. Two competing ferry companies operate from this port: JR and Matsudai. Time (10 minutes) and Cost (180 yen one way) are the same for both. The Japan Rail Pass is valid ONLY on JR ferries.
For those looking for more boat action, you can go directly from Hiroshima Peace Park and get to Miyajima in 55 minutes, at a cost of 2000 yen one way or 3600 yen round trip. A shorter distance boat connects Miyajima and Hiroshima Port after 25 minutes and costs 1850 yen one way. The Japan Rail Pass does not apply on these boats.