Learn more about Hiroshima and Miyajima

Learn more about Hiroshima and Miyajima | Inspiration by Tomonoura and Onomichi
Hiroshima is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, but most people leave the area within a few hours and rarely scratch the surface that cities, prefectures, and regions have to offer. In the Setouchi area, which is the coast and islands of the Inland Sea between Okayama and Hiroshima, you will find amazing encounters and opportunities in numerous small islands highlighting Japan's past, beautiful scenery, sparkling sea, and narrow streets of historic harbors.

I was happy to be able to share my favorite places and discover new places in Hiroshima. My goal was to discover the jewels between the main attractions off the beaten path. I began to take Donald Richie's classic story about his journey across the Inland Sea more than 40 years ago to see what I could find and how things changed.


- Hiroshima -

Let's start where Donald Richie finished his trip to Miyajima Island. But first, let me say a few words about Hiroshima, the hometown that adopted me.
Thousands of people from all over the world visit Hiroshima every year. Looking around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Memorial Park before making a quick move to the next destination on your trip to Japan is not fully aware of the most powerful message of hope. Take the time to experience an amazing recovery, feel modern vitality, energy, and friendliness of people, and yes, have a little fun.


You can't miss it, but passing through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum can be exhausting, and if you suddenly return to the hustle and bustle of the city, your senses can be damaged.
The grounds of the Peace Memorial Park itself provide a buffer device. Here, sitting quietly under a tree ignoring the prediction that “nothing will grow in 75 years” after the bombing, you can provide the first patch of green hope on the devastated city's Burnt Plains, which will become one of the greenest urban centers in Japan.

If you sit for a few minutes, you can provide the first patch of peace in Hiroshima. It is accessible to school children through a study trip. The smiling, happy face and the contrast of what I saw in the museum uplift my mind.

Two ideal places for quiet contemplation are the Shukkeien Garden in the city center and Mitaki Temple, which requires a little extra effort. The Shukkeien Garden is a delightful “circular tour style garden” originally designed by the warrior tea master Soko Ueda in 1620, but rebuilt after being completely destroyed by the atomic bomb.The name literally means “Shrinkage Landscape Garden”, and although it is very compact, there are many narrow, repeating paths that allow you to explore the surroundings of the central lake.

Mitaki Temple is 8 minutes away by train from Hiroshima Station, but it can be said to be part of the Shukkeien Garden. Ueda Soko cleverly incorporated the surrounding mountains into the garden design with a natural background to further enhance the effect by planting pine trees on the summit of Mitaki Mountain on the slope of the temple.
Shingon Buddhist Temple dates back to the beginning of the 9th century and takes its name from the three waterfalls in the precincts. This waterfall contains buildings of historical importance and Buddhist images. However, the true charm of Mitaki lies in its atmosphere. As you climb the moss-covered stone steps, you pass through hundreds of Buddhist images and Jizo statues in bright red hats and bibs, each with its own unique expression and expression.The further you climb, the more magnificent the trees become. The place feels almost enchanted, and even the most “temple-stricken” travelers never fall in love with the place.


The impression that visitors take away from Hiroshima seems to have been greatly influenced by whether or not they had the opportunity to meet and communicate with the locals. One of the best places to catch locals in a relaxed, talkative atmosphere is the counter at Hiroshima's Okonomiyaki restaurant. Everyone who grew up in Hiroshima,  grew up eating Hiroshima's soul food : okonomiyaki. It's delicious.

Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake cooked on an iron plate containing eggs, chopped vegetables, meat and/or seafood. In Hiroshima, this dish is greatly increased by adding a lot of noodles and vegetables. Instead of mixing all the ingredients together, as in the more common Kansai or Osaka styles, Hiroshima is layered and everything is topped with a savory sweet sauce.
It is usually served in small counter-style restaurants and is eaten directly on a hot plate with a metal spatula, commonly called “Hera”. Sitting shoulder to shoulder at the counter of a local okonomiyaki shop and trying out Japanese people in particular is one of the best places for outsiders to connect with Hiroshima people.


- Miyajima -

Itsukushima Island (or Miyajima Island, more commonly known as Miyajima) is simply sacred. Every trees, rocks, sand, and Miyajima's main attractions, Itsukushima Shrine, is considered sacred since the time when myths and legends. Itsukushima Shrine was built on water to prevent penetration into the sacred soil of the island.
Every shrine has a torii gate that allows you to reach the gods in it, but the door to Itsukushima is different. Floating on the water , the huge vermilion gate is a symbolic image that adorns the front of many guidebooks, and was named one of the “Japan's Three Great Scenery” by a scholar in the 15th century as one of Japan's Sankei.

The “Great Scenery” gate has ensured a steady flow of visitors to the island for centuries. The scenes depicted on the folding screens of the Edo period show that the island's history as a place of recreation and entertainment, as well as pilgrimages, has long strolled through the streets as it is now, and there are also descriptions of contests that are still common among tourists and tenacious deer who have an appetite for maps and rail passes instead of real food.

In recent years, the profile of the island has increased even higher. Along with the Atomic Bomb Dome in the center of Hiroshima city, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then Taira no Kiyomori, the leader of the Taira clan in the 12th century, who was responsible for expanding Itsukushima Shrine to the form we see it today, was the subject of  series of historical TV dramas for a year.

In 2012, the number of visitors exceeded 4 million, and this sacred island, whose residential population is only around 2000, is often very busy.
However, the vast majority of visitors remain on the island for only a few hours, usually passing through the torii gate and descending along the waterfront to pay homage at Itsukushima Shrine, and then return to the ferry terminal along the lively Omotesando shopping street. Restaurants, food stalls, and jewelry stores.
On the one hand, I'm missing out on a lot of what Miyajima has to offer. You can easily spend more than a few days here. On the other hand, although the main road is crowded, it takes very little effort to escape the crowds.


However, the main site should not be missed. The scale of the torii gate is difficult to understand without standing on the floor of a huge bridge. Under a huge bridge, it stands unbelievably freely on the seabed, and its weight is reduced by numerous stones carved with Buddhist scriptures inside the cross beams that form its own weight and the roof of the gate. It is surprising that the current Torii Gate, which has stood since 1875 in this land of earthquakes and typhoons, is only the eighth incarnation for centuries.

Most visitors can see the shrine “floating” as it arrives at high tide. If you're stuck at low tide, you can walk straight to the gate and admire and feel its volume. And you can inspect small votive rocks placed on the cross and coins filled in cracks.

When I visited Miyajima most recently, I decided to leave the waterfront and go to Itsukushima Shrine via Machiya Dori, a narrow street lined with traditional townhouses. Some of them have been converted into ryokans, galleries, boutiques, and cafes.


Looking down, I saw an elder working on a huge piece of wood in a narrow space between the house and the wall. He was cutting a rough paddle-shaped piece that would become a shamoji rice paddle that can be found in every souvenir shop on the island. The idea of shamoji was thought of by an 18th-century monk named Seishin, who was concerned that local souvenirs were scarce in Miyajima, which is increasingly famous. He got an idea from a dream that appeared with a similar shape of rice paddle I was reminded of it. Souvenirs from Miyajima also come from divine inspiration.
Another famous souvenir of Miyajima is momiji-manju, which started recently. The small maple leaf shaped cake, modeled after Momiji maple leaves, changes its color in the fall. Originally it was filled with sweet bean paste, but now a variety of ingredients are available. Shops in Miyajima are full of cute boxes of sweets. If the whole box is too much, sitting in one of the shops and enjoying one with a free cup of green tea is a great way to recharge the batteries, and watching the mechanized production process through the shop window is fascinating.

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Surrounded by eaves along Machiya Street, the vermilion five-storied pagoda stands tall on the top of another hill that represents the western end of the street. As you walk through it, you will find Senjokaku, one of Miyajima's most interesting buildings.
Senjokaku stands in stark contrast to the adjacent brightly colored pagoda. Senjokaku was commissioned by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Japan's second unified warlord in the 1580s. The general died before the building was completed and remains unfinished and unpainted to this day. However, this is in our interest because it is an incredibly beautiful building. And it is a real treat to be able to see huge beams that are usually hidden across the space under a huge roof. It is a very calm experience to take a walk through the wooden floor (not 1,000 tatami mats in area, but not far from 857) that has been used for centuries between thick wooden beams and various large votive plates with horse-themed illustrations and scenes from classical literature.

A huge ginkgo tree standing on a hill in the fall or through the exposed building facade, like many visitors Having gazed at the breathtaking bright yellow leaf curtains that offer It is worth taking a little time.
It's easy to think of Miyajima as a small place that leads to a few streets from the Itsukushima Shrine complex. However, the island covers more than 50 km2, most of which are covered by deep primeval forest, and can only be penetrated by deer in Miyajima. Mt. Misen 534 meters, is fortunately easily accessible to humans. This mountain is said to have performed 100 days of Buddhist practices in the mountains at the beginning of the 9th century. “The door was opened” by Ambassador Bo. Former Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito expresses gratitude for his hand in serving the maids ( Hirobumi Ito) says that it is the view from the summit of Misen that makes Miyajima one of Japan's top three scenic spots. Anyone who climbs from the foot of a mountain or walked from a ropeway station that is not the worst would agree.


There are many ways up the mountain, but one of the most popular places in Miyajima's oldest temple, is from Daisho-in's back to the Misen's summit.

Until 1868, when the Meiji government implemented a separation, Shinto and Buddhism were very mixed, and this temple was closely involved in running the business of Itsukushima Shrine.Compared to the simplicity of a typical Shinto shrine design, Daisho-in was built in a mountain valley. It's like a religious wonderland that turns the sides of the flag into a snake. Hundreds of statues are lined up along the way, kept in the temple building, and lit by lanterns. It is all packed in a cave. Although my head spins due to the esoteric Buddhist complexity, the temple's English pamphlets are quite effective at guiding me around the temple's precincts.When I heard Japanese visitors express their confusion, my consciousness of ignorance diminished, and statues of Japanese manga and TV characters such as Anpanman and Ultraman made me laugh.

Walking through Misen is a must if you can. Although it is a stiff hike of about 90 minutes, the trail is beautiful. The mountains have a powerful impact on people. Hikers would always greet each others with a “Konnichi wa!”

There are many more temples and shrines around the summit, as well as strangely formed rocks, rocks, and mysterious phenomena. In the Reikado Hall, there was a fire that was originally lit by Kobo Daishi himself and is said to have been burning ever after.This fire was used in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to illuminate the flame of memory. The water from a large kettle heated over the fire is believed to cure diseases.
On the walls of the Reikado Hall, there is a heart-shaped votive board covered with soot to pray for eternal love. I was surprised because it was very common for young couples to be warned that because of the jealous goddesses, they should not visit Miyajima so as not to interfere with their relationship. The root of this faith is another result of a mixture of sacred and secular.


In the early 17th century, the administrator of the Hiroshima family moved the “Entertainment and pleasure Zone” to Miyajima from a village growing up around Hiroshima Castle. It was in the interests of both the managers and customers of the “tea house” that women were jealous because they did not accompany men in Miyajima.
Today, when they arrived in Hiroshima in the late 1990s, you no longer hear a young couple moving away from the island, and on the contrary, Miyajima was listening to the story of a jealous goddess. Today, you no longer hear a young couple move away from the island, and on the contrary, Miyajima is sold as a “lover's sanctuary”. There is even a “fire of oath” machine"Happy Home” at the ropeway station on the summit of the mountain.
Miyajima can be a truly romantic place. When the afternoon is mixed with evening, crowds head to the ferry port or head to the hotel for dinner. During the day, the crowded waterfront becomes quiet. As the sun goes down, the stone lamps light up and the floodlights illuminate the Torii Gate and Itsukushima Shrine. It is very beautiful and will be a memory of a visit to Japan for those who walk long enough.

Eating around Miyajima is possible and quite acceptable. In addition to the sweet Momiji Manju cake that is everywhere, Miyajima's signature dishes are oysters harvested from many rafts floating in the bay, and anago rice (conger eel on top of rice). Both are fresh and delicious. It can be found in the distance between many restaurants on the island and the train station and ferry port on the mainland.

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You can buy feshly grilled oysters in the shell on the street, but this time I decided to sit down at Kaki-ya, an oyster restaurant in Omotesando Shopping Street, with a modern touch. I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy oyster tempura, and then I enjoyed the oyster grilled in the shell. Jazz music swept over me, leaving the locally brewed sake drunk from the wine glass to work its magic.
Miyajima is a place where you can eat until it full without having to enter a restaurant because the stores offers a cornucopia wrapped in sticks and paper. However, the deer had an eagle eye, and they will come to you to ask for food, so don't run foolishly.

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