So we took the street tram to Miyajima guchi and then the 10 min ferry ride to the island of Miyajima. We arrived on the island around 1pm. My first impressions: Wow, to me this is the epitome of Japanese nature and beauty. There’s a very surreal feel on the island. There are wild deer that roam the streets. Little shops selling traditional Japanese foods, toys and gifts. This area is famous for their oysters. Although the oyster season is February, the restaurants serve them year round. Well, DH and I are HUGE fans of oysters. So the three days we were there… oysters, oysters, oysters. Grilled oysters, raw oysters, pan fried oysters, deep fried oysters… well you get the picture. It was fabulous!!! Oysters are very expensive where we are from… So we went a little nuts while we were there. An average oyster dish with about 5 oysters cost about 1000Yen.
After a lunch of… well, you can guess what we had… we went to the Morinoyado to check in. Well, this ryokan-style inn is highly recommended in the Frommers Guide. The rate of 19,000 per night for 2 included breakfast and a kaiseki-style dinner (we chose the 12 course dinner). The dinner was beautifully presented. Everything tasted fresh and lovingly prepared. But the hotel and rooms themselves were just ok. The rooms were kind of tired. I don’t like bathrooms that have the sink outside, in the hall. The view however of the ocean and the mainland was wonderful. The location was a bit far, a good 20 min walk from the pier and the "town". Not much else in the immediate vicinity, except the aquarium. But for that price, it was fine.
What we loved doing on Miyajima was renting a bike (rental at the pier) for the day. Initially we thought we could cycle around the island but it’s actually WAY too much. Parts of the island is very hilly. But it was neat having the freedom to go parts of the island where there were NO tourists. Miyajima is very touristy. We heard German, French, Spanish, Korean, as well as English on the streets. Definitely recommend renting a bike and getting off the beaten path.
Another day, we hiked up Mt. Misen. You can also take a tram. Our inn, the Morinoyado was right beside the beginning of the trail to one of the two paths (used to be three, but the third one is now closed) going up to the mountain. We took the Omoto Course up. It is the most difficult but also the most rewarding in terms of view. We know this because took the Momijidani Course down. The Omoto trail took about 2 and a half hours but it was extremely intense. (Going down the Momijidan course took about 45 mins or so.) The Omoto course was mostly stairs all the way up. At the top there are a couple of shrines and observation areas. The view is amazing! Apparently this part of the Inland Sea has over 3,000 little islands scattered over it. So from the top of the mountain, which is about 1,000 miles above sea level… you can see quite far into the distance. It’s extremely picturesque. There is no need to hike up, you can take the tram up. But I highly recommend going up to the top of Mt. Misen.
Another fun thing about Miyajima is that their speciality is miyajima manjus (a little cake shaped into a Japanese maple leaf filled with cream cheese, chocolate, vanilla, green tea, and a myriad other flavors). Many of the little shops sell them and DH and I had fun buying every kind of flavor and rating them. DH’s fave was the chocolate and mine was the cream cheese.
The guide books do tell you that the charm of Miyajima is in the early morning and in the evenings (much like Venice) when the tourists are gone. We have to agree. Our 2 nights and 3 days on Miyajima were magical. We loved it!