With Kyoto finished, Hiroshima was our next move. I did some quick searching beforehand and found a direct JR from Kyoto to Hiroshima (thanks to our JR Pass) at 8:20AM so we had to wake up pretty early to get packed up and at the station. At the station Chantelle picked up some “triangles” or onigiri as they’re called and I found a bakery and picked up some buns. There wasn’t any time to get reservations so we just sat in the non-reservation car.
Comfort Inn Otemachi
Once we arrived in Hiroshima we caught a #1 tram to our hotel for the night – Comfort Inn Otemachi. I was almost sure we wouldn’t be able to check in because we got there before noon but the guy at the counter asked the manager and they were able to find a room that was just cleaned up. This was awesome because it allowed us to unload our stuff in our room and freshen up.
Making Our Way to Miyajima
Once ready, we headed back out into the heat and caught the #2 tram to take us out to Hiroden-nishi-Hiroshima stop which we then needed to walk over to the Nishi-hiroshima station to catch the JR train down to Miyajima-guchi. At our transfer point we walked by a Takoyaki shop and decided to grab some on the go. We had to wait a bit because they were making a fresh batch but it was so worth it.
From the Miyajima-guchi station we walked to get to the ferry port and immediately hopped on a boat that was just getting ready to leave. The JR Pass comes through again because the ferry is operated by JR so it was free. We also could’ve taken the #2 Tram all the way down to Miyajima-guchi but it probably would have taken double the time vs. the JR.
The first thing that I noticed coming out of the ferry was, whoa there are a lot of deer here too. These ones were just as aggressive than the ones in Nara as I saw a bunch of tourists get surprised by deer trying to eat paper pamphlets they were holding. We also learned that Miyajima is known for their cakes in the shape of a leaf (Momiji manjū). I so wanted to buy some but figured it’d be smarter to check out the rest of the place first and come back when heading back to the shops. Once we passed the shop there were plenty of great views of the famous torii gate in the water. Lets just say we took quite a few shots. Although the lighting wasn’t the greatest a bit of post-processing magic really created some beautiful photos.
We also wanted to join one of the boats that was taking tourists out into the water and around and underneath the gate but it never ended up happening because we went to Itsukushima Shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. At this point we could tell that the tide was slowly dropping as water was already starting to drain out of areas of water surrounding the shrine.
The unfortunate thing about our visit to Miyajima was that the ropeway up to Mt. Misen was closed for the day. I guess that worked out okay because we didn’t have that much extra time towards the end.
One place that some people recommended was Daisho-in which is a Buddhist temple nestled in the hills. The climb up there was a bitch but if parents carrying their babies could do it, so could we. At the top I was fully panting and shirt fully soaked. The views from there weren’t the greatest as a lot of trees and buildings were in the way but it was one of the more interesting and educational temples we went to because the pamphlet they gave us was in English and had clear numbers to describe each area we walked around. They also had typical golden prayer wheels along the way up the stairs so I tried to spin everyone on the way up and down.
Once back down we took a final look at the floating torii which at this point had almost fully revealed itself as the water was being clawed back. As you’ll see in the photos I was able to walk out onto areas that were previous covered by water to take some shots of the gate. Again the light was fully behind so that just forced me to take more silhouette-type photos.
On our way back to the ferry we walked through the shopping street which had a ton of shops selling different varieties of leaf cakes (Momiji manju). My eye was on the shops that provided free samples and when I found them I attacked viciously. They even had a few places that sold deep fried leaf cakes. Since Chantelle had been here before she also knew about the giant oysters. The well known one had just sold out and was closing up shop but we later found another place selling similar giant oysters. Yum!
After ferrying back we trammed back to the Hondori stop to explore another covered arcade. There wasn’t much to buy but we did visit a few unique stores outside the arcade on some of the smaller streets. Chantelle actually bought a watch at the shop where we tried on those funky sunglasses. I still regret not buying that leather fanny-pack turned on-the-back-sling-bag. Argh.
The Original Okonomyaki in Hiroshima
For dinner, other travellers were saying that the real original okonomyaki actually comes from Hiroshima. In Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. The layers are typically batter, cabbage, pork, and optional items such as squid, octopus, and cheese. Udon or yakisoba noodles are also used as a topping with fried egg and a generous amount of okonomiyaki sauce. This was different from Osaka where there was a heavier emphasis of cabbage/lettuce and less on noodles. Okonomyaki is so popular here that they have their own 5 story building dedicated to the dish called Okonomi-mura. There was one floor that everyone recommended so we went up there and it was pretty packed. We randomly picked one to sit down at and shared an okonomyaki. Satisfied and wanting more, we then went around the corner and sat down at another to try somewhere different. The first place definitely had the better okonomyaki as it seemed to be more of a mom and pop shop and specializing only in one thing versus the second one we went to had a whole array of other tapas-style dishes that they cooked on the grill in front of you. The second place had awesome mini beef steaks.
Stuffed, we walked it off and made it our way to a 7-Eleven to pick up some water and these alcoholic pop drinks that Chantelle knew about from her last trip to Japan. I picked up this pineapple flavoured one and you can barely taste the alcohol (4% or something) and even had chunks of pineapple in it! After that we retired for the night.
Hiroshima and Miyajima Tips
- If there’s one site you need to know when travelling with a JR pass is www.hyperdia.com. First of all it’s English friendly so no need to decode it. This is an excellent page to figure out the train schedules and since you know the Japanese railway system runs like clockwork you don’t need to worry about whether it’ll be early or late. I used this on many occasions during the trip to figure out the most effective trains to take to get from point A to B. For example when going from Kyoto to Hiroshima most of the itineraries involved a transfer in Osaka which would waste time. I played around with different departure times and eventually found a direct shinkansen that ran from Kyoto to Osaka and then to Hiroshima. No transfer required = less time = more sleep on the train.
- Photography at Miyajima – One thing that people said about photographing Miyajima and the floating torii was that you have to decide whether you want to shoot it with the tide up or down. I didn’t have the luxury of choosing when I wanted to go so this was a non-factor for me but if you want to shoot it at high tide go in the morning. If you want to see it at low tide and be able to walk right up to the gate you want to be there in the late afternoon. Of course the time of the year also matters but I believe the tide trend should stay the same.
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
- Check-out of Ryokan Shimizu
- Walk to Kyoto station and take JR to Hiroshima at 8:20AM
- Tram #1 to Comfort Inn Otemachi
- Tram #2 to Hiroden-nishi-Hiroshima station, walk over to Nishi-hiroshima JR station and take it down to Miyajima-guchi (picked up some takoyaki along the way)
- Take ferry from Miyajima-guchi to Miyajima
- Take lots of photos of the floating torii gate
- Walk through Itsukushima Shrine
- Hike up to Daisho-in Buddhist Temple
- Walk along the shopping streets for food and souvenirs
- Ferry + JR + Tram back to covered shopping arcade
- Dinner at Okonomi-mura to try two different restaurants
- Back to hotel
Check out the Next Day
To read about my adventures and our humbling experience exploring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, check out Day 79 – Hiroshima – The Atomic Bomb.
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.