Japan Take Two: Miyajima Island -- my favorite part of this trip

by - Friday, March 30, 2018

When we left off last, we had just wrapped up our afternoon in Hiroshima and were hopping on a train to get to Miyajima.

Floating torii gate at dusk

Miyajima is an island about 30 minutes away from Hiroshima. It's most well known for its famous Floating Torii, but there's some good hiking on the island as well.

In all of my research for this trip, everyone said Miyajima is slammed during the day with tourists, but in the evening when they all leave the island is so much better.

View of the island from the ferry

Knowing that, I decided to book us a night staying on Miyajima so we could experience the island when it wasn't so crowded.

This was 100% the right move.

We stayed at a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn. This was probably our biggest splurge of the entire trip because I picked one that included a traditional Japanese dinner and had a private hot spring.

Ryokan set up

When we checked in, we reserved a time for dinner and a time for the private hot springs.

Since we had some time before our dinner reservation, we walked down to see the Floating Torii at dusk. The tide was going out, so we could stand pretty close to it.

In front of the torii gate at sunset

The views with the sun setting were just breath-taking.

Sunset at Miyajima

Back at the ryokan, dinner was massive. I felt rude that there was so much food I couldn't finish, but there was just so much of it. We had some amazing sushi and oysters. Miyajima is known for its very fresh oysters, and my gosh they were delicious.

As we waited for our hot springs time slot, we noticed the tide had completely receded and a handful of people were walking under the Floating Torii. We decided to go do the same.

Selfie underneath the gate

The water line is taller than me. It's amazing how much the tide goes in and out around the torii.

Chilly at the base of the gate

Ending the day with the hot springs could not have been more perfect. After a week of busy travel and sight-seeing it was so nice to just relax and unwind for a little bit.

I think my best night of sleep of the entire trip was that night in the ryokan.

The next morning when we woke up, the tide had come all the way in and the torii gate looked like it was floating on the water.

View of the torii gate from ryokan

After breakfast, we planned to hike Mt. Misen. The summit of the mountain was 538 meters up and boasted an observatory that offered 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

The hike started out really well. The scenery was stunning, and the morning was crisp and sunny.

Waterfalls on hike of Mt. Misen

Hiking views

However, somewhere between a quarter and a half of the way up we started seeing signs warning us of poisonous snakes that lived on the mountain.

Japanese viper signs

This was the first sign we saw, and while I didn't love the idea that we might run into a snake, I figured it was something like a copperhead. You know, the kind of snake that often will dry bite first and even if you get an actual bite, their venom usually isn't fatal.

But a little bit further up the mountain we saw a new sign that basically screamed WARNING JAPANESE VIPERS followed by all the steps to take if you see one and get bitten (basically call 119 immediately because you're probably going to die).

I freaked out the entire rest of the hike. As some people know, we don't have a history of good luck on hikes, so I figured for sure we were going to run into a freaking massive viper and one of us would get bitten leaving the other one to dial 119 and try to convey what happened to a person who doesn't speak English.

Basically in my mind, someone was definitely going to die on the hike.

Panoramic view of Mt. Misen

Obviously that did not happen, but any time the trail narrowed or we got close to some dark clumps of trees or rocks, I would panic. This definitely made the hike super pleasant for both of us.

Despite all that, we did eventually make it to the top of the mountain, and the views made all my spazzing out totally worth it.

Gate leading to the lookout point at the summit

At the top

We stayed at the top for a while just kind of taking it all in.

Panoramic of Mt. Misen summit views

Gorgeous views at the top of the mountain

On the way back down, I panicked so much less about the snakes. In part because we'd made it up without a problem and in part because the trail was way more crowded with people. On the way up, it had just been us and nature. On the way down the trail was crowded with people and kids and dogs. I figured any snakes had slithered back into their viper dens.

Apparently I was so relaxed I forgot to watch my footing because toward the end of the hike I stepped down on to a twisted root, lost my balance and ate it. I was fine. I cut my knee, had a bruise, a tweaked my ankle a bit, but I could walk just fine and didn't have any serious damage.  But alas, so continues our streak of mishaps while on hikes.

Honestly, despite the fact that I was kind of panicking the entire hike, the hike was my favorite part of the trip I think. It was gorgeous and just so different than anything else we did the entire time we were there.

Scott and Christine came to meet us on the island in the afternoon. We met them near the ferry terminal, where we made friends with more deer. Like Nara, Miyajima is full of overly friendly deer. These ones were a bit more aggressive though. We saw them yank food or maps out people's hands.

Someone has a visitor

Trying to make more deer friends

We strolled through town and picked up some yummy street food, and then stopped by the Miyajima Brewery for a beer tasting. (Well, Christine and I drank sangria while the boys drank beer).

Miyajima brewery tasting

Not long after that, we had to gather our bags and head back to the ferry terminal so we could catch our many trains back to Tokyo. We stopped for one last picture in front of the torii gate since the tide had come in and it looked like it was floating again, and then we said goodbye to Miyajima.

In front of the torii gate during the day time

Miyajima coastline

Mt. Misen peak

Fitbit stats:
24,041 steps
10.19 miles

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