If there is one thing I learned from our 5 month trip it’s to be flexible. The second thing I learned is to follow the weather (aka, go where the sun shines). While I like to research and plan ahead a little, I also love changing plans, make new ones and see where I’ll end up.
Leaving Hokkaido a couple days early gave us the opportunity to add both Hiroshima and Miyajima Island to our itinerary and I am glad we did! Miyajima means ‘the Shrine Island’ in Japanese and this is not surprising as the island is famous for the beautiful floating Torii Gate and Itsukushima Shrine.
Miyajima is said to be one of the top three scenic spots in Japan and having admired the massive floating Torii against the colorful sky I absolutely agree…
Besides the impressive Torii, my favorite things about Miyajima were hiking and camping. From Tsutsumigaura campground (read more below under ‘Where to stay at Miyajima Island’) we hiked to the top of Mount Misen, a 500 meter ascent.
Funny story, about halfway into the hike we ran into a group of 4 friendly Japanese hikers, led by a volunteer guide from Mount Misen Hiking Club. The guide gave us some solid advice about the hike:
There are viper snakes on Miyajima so it’s wise to carry a stick and poke the bushes in front of you to make sure there isn’t a viper snake lying around…
We posed for several pictures the guide would put on the Mount Misen Hiking Club Facebook page. Unfortunately I haven’t found that page, probably because the name of the group is in Japanese… But I digress, you are probably wondering when the funny part starts.
The guide asked us, a little surprised, how we found the track. He stated it was a secret trail that was not on any map and only people from the hiking club knew about. We looked at each other and smiled as we had just come across a very clear sign saying Mount Misen to the left.
It turned out the track we took from the campsite was officially closed as it was not considered to be safe by the government. I don’t know why, the trail was perfectly fine and not difficult at all. And not so secret either, because of the very clear signage;-).
Anyway, we continued our way up to the top of Mt. Misen, from the top you’ll have a great view over the island and surrounding sea. At the top there a big wooden lookout post, which doubles as the perfect pick-nick place. We only had our simple 7-11 sandwiches, but there were many families (who had taken the cable car up) having the most extensive and delicious looking lunches…
We hiked back down via the Daishoin Route (a lot of stairs!) and visited Daishoin temple along the way, one of the most famous temples in Miyajima.
At the Daishoin temple there were little statues wearing tiny hats. For months I didn’t know what this meant, but I was recently informed by reader Erin the hats on the statues commemorate babies who were stillborn or miscarried.
From Daishoin temple it was only a short walk back to the village and another 3 kilometers to our campsite. Unfortunately that’s when the rain started…
The rain continued the entire night and the next morning we decided to pack up and leave. Despite the rainy ending of our Miyajima trip, the island is a great place to spend a couple of days! Read about more things to do on Miyajima on the official Miyajima tourism website.
How much does it cost to travel to Miyajima island
• I spent 2 days and 2 nights at Miyajima island and traveled with my husband.
• Our trip to Japan was in April/May 2016. The exchange rate around that time was approximately €1 = 125JPY (¥) and $1 = 110JPY (¥).
Our expenses in Miyajima can be divided into 3 categories
1. Campsite: 10% of our costs.
2. Transport: 59% of our costs (I allocated 2/5th of the costs of our railway pass, read more below).
3. Food: 31% of our costs.
4. Activities: 0% of our costs (hiking is free☺).
Transport: how to get to Miyajima
It really depends on your itinerary if buying a rail pass is worthwhile, for us I feel it was great value for money. Not necessarily for the time we spent on Miyajima but for traveling from Osaka to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Miyajima, Miyajima to Nara, etc. You can read more about our 1-month itinerary here.
From Hiroshima we traveled by rapid train to Miyajima (Miyajima-gushi station), there we took the JR ferry to the island. At Miyajima Island there is a minivan service to Tsutsumigaura campground.
Keep in mind though that the minivan service doesn’t run until late, in fact, the last bus to the campsite departs around 6pm.
We were happy we could take the minivan on the way to and from the campsite upon arrival and departure, as we had our heavy backpacks with our camping gear.
But we also walked to and from the village a couple of times when we didn’t have to carry our big bags around. It’s only 3 kilometers to the village and it’s a nice walk, we came across some monkeys and a lot of deer!
Where to stay at Miyajima Island: accommodation
We went camping at Miyajima Island, a great way to cut the costs. We stayed at Tsutsumigaura campground for 2 nights.
What I liked
+ The pleasant night temperature at Miyajima was a nice change from the freezing cold at Hokkaido.
+ The sun was shining, deer grazed beside our tent (if you look closely you can spot one in the picture below) and I was happy… Well, the sun didn’t shine the entire time, but still;-).
What I didn’t like
– No shower and no onsen either! Well at least we haven’t found them. It would have been nice to shower after hiking Mount Misen, we were pretty sweaty…
• Price paid per night: ¥1000/€8/$9.
• Click here to see the campsite website.
Where to eat at Miyajima
One of the dishes I discovered in Japan is okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a mix of batter, vegetables and meat (or seafood, usually squid) looking a bit like a pancake. I first ate this dish on Hokkaido, but the dish is said to have originated in Osaka. You can find okonomiyaki throughout Japan and each region has it’s own version. And so did Miyajima!
We found a cute little restaurant serving okonomiyaki, complete with the big hot plate where you can see your dish being prepared. Usually you can also order yakisoba in these kind of restaurants. Yakisoba is a fried noodle dish with vegetables and some meat, you can see mine in the picture on the right of the hot plate.
There is no market on the island so on day 1 we we hopped aboard the JR ferry to the mainland and did some quick shopping at the 7-11. You can find the 7-11 in between the ferry and Miyajima train station.
We bought some bread (raisin-butter rolls and sandwiches, yummy), bananas and water and took these groceries with us on our hike on day 2.
Map of Miyajima island and the highlights
In the map below you can find the places mentioned above.
You can download the map and Miyajima budget infographic below. If you want to read more about Japan, be sure to check out my other Japan posts!