It was the middle of a cold morning on Miyajima, The souvenir shops weren't doing any business, but the photographer in front of the floating Torii gate was seating twenty at a time on two low benches, daytrippers posing for pictures on either side.
I left the crowds at Itsukushima Shrine, walking through the tiny town to Daishin Temple, which was, by contrast, an oasis of peace. Water tumbled gently into rock pools, there was the slow tinkle of coins in a donation box, Koi swam in lazy circles around a pond completely still except for the movement of the light. From the highest point of the temple you could see right back across the bay to where the ferry had just come from.
There are three well-marked trails to the top of Mount Misen, four if you include the cable car (though I never do). The Misen Climbing Path is the longest, taking over an hour from Momijidani Park, and also the closest to the route of the cable car. The Ohmoto Course (one and a half to two hours from Ohmoto Park) is the most difficult, a long slog up, down and back up again through primeval forest which is better tackled on the way back down from the top. The middle route, and probably the most scenic, is the Daishoin Course, which a relatively fit hiker could do in little over an hour without stopping for a break (though the signs indicate an hour and a half as an average time). Both the Daishoin and Ohmoto routes involved lots of steps and don't have too many comfortable rest stops, though the paths are well-built and not too hard on the soles. Note the even taking the cable car will leave you with a half-hour walk to the summit.
Picking up the Daishoin trail from the left of the temple's main gate, I stopped for lunch in a wooden pavilion a short way up. Ferries crossed the water and clouds drifted in over the mountaintops, threatening rain. It took a hour to the top, stone step after stone step, bending first this way then that along the sides of mountain streams until I came upon the summit. There were large, rounded boulders, an open-topped wooden building selling sweet sake and udon noodles, someone speaking French, a wild deer grazing on the stone, a man listening to a transistor radio looking out across the islands dotting the Inland Sea. The clouds were low overhead; over the water Hiroshima had been picked out in a single shaft of sunlight.
And then, 529-metres up, the snow began to fall.