And more. We were drawn to Miyajima because of that iconic floating Torii Gate off Hiroshima Bay. At low tide, you can approach and walk around the gate. Took the 1 1/2 hour train ride from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima and another half hour using local train to Miyajimaguchi from where a 10-minute ferry ride gets you to the island. All rides were covered by our JR Rail Pass which was truly good value for our 2-week holiday in Japan.
Riding the ferry, try staying on the right side as Itsukushima Shrine (yes, that iconic Torii Gate) will be on that side as you approach the island. Soon as you get off, you’d be met by the tame deer of the island. Much like those we met in Nara Park. Walking towards the Shrine, you’d soon realize what the island is famous for, aside from the vermillion gate. Oysters (Kakiya 👌). Conger Eels (Anago Meshi). Hiroshima Orange Ice Cream. Maple Leaf-shaped sweets called Momiji Manjyu. And many, many food stalls selling skewered stuff as you walk along the island coast.
To be honest, I was quite happy with the oysters already. Didn’t know there’s a “secret menu” where you can have a tray of oysters cooked in different ways: fresh, steamed in sake, au gratin, curried, tempura, herbed, floured, oiled, fried, etc. I even found some sold as street food like doughnuts with oyster fillings and breaded like croquetas. And those souvenir sweets of red beans wrapped in sponge cake bread shaped like maple leaves!
To walk off the tempting street food we partook — and make room for lunch –we walked up to what I consider to be Miyajima’s most interesting building. Senjokaku is also known as The One Thousand Mat Pavillion. The 16th century building stands beside a brightly colored pagoda and offers a commanding view of the bay. A warlord by the name of Hideyoshi Toyotomi commissioned its construction but didn’t live to see the building completed. The “unfinished state” lends charm to the unpainted place, with its massive beams, huge pillars and wooden floors polished by constantly being walked on. Imagine a thousand tatami mats on these wooden floors as you enjoy the breeze from the bay. We did just that. Sat quietly and rested our tired backs on one of the pillars, gazing mindlessly on the autumn greenery of Gingko trees beyond the wooden frames.
By the time we’ve rested and felt refreshed, we were ready for lunch. It’s not easy ordering without an English menu but the numbered photos help. Besides, it’s really all about oysters and eels. I had mine steamed in sake. With more than 50 sake brewers in Hiroshima, and the island waters festooned with oyster farms, how can I go wrong? Besides, many sake barrels are stored in Miyajima’s inner shrines so they must have prayed over those! And mind you, there’s a National Research Institute of Brewing located in Hiroshima. Swell!
All’s well. But there’s still the business of walking back to the port, for our ferry ride back to Miyajimaguchi and a half-hour local train ride to Hiroshima. Enough train ride hours for a power nap to shake off that sake.