Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 6 - Hiroshima - Miyajima (Thursday)

Since we were not able to thoroughly enjoy our experience at the Peace Memorial Park due to the rain, we decided to go back there on Thursday especially because the weather turned out great that day. We spent a lot of time taking nice pictures of the A-Bomb Dome, the cenotaph and the memorial for Sadako Sasaki (the girl I mentioned in the day 5 post).

From there we walked North to visit the Hiroshima castle. It was really hot and we took our time to get there. Little side comment: There are vending machines spread everywhere (throughout Japan) and we spent our share in sodas, juices and waters. If you are a smoker you will find plenty to choose from (I didn't check what brands were on sale though). Once you enter the main entrance (the castle is surrounded by a moat), you need to cross the grounds towards the northwest corner to reach the castle itself. We climbed all the way up which gives you a good view of the whole city. The displays were interesting but not very impressive.

Miyajima Island

We walked back to the a-bomb dome where we caught tram #2 heading towards Miyajima. It is a very long ride (the a-bomb dome tram stop is M10 and the Miyajima Guchi is M39 - the last one). Probably it would have made more sense to go back to Hiroshima station and take the JR train from there. There are two companies providing ferry services from there to Miyajima island. They are side-by-side and we took advantage of our JR pass to ride "for free" on the JR Ferry to Miyajima.

Right outside of the Miyajima pier, you start seeing deers in the park nearby. They roam freely and are part of the Miyajima scene. Some of these deers are not shy to approach you searching for food (be careful as they eat paper too - meaning: watch out for your map). Following the map that we got at the pier, we went to the Ometesando shopping street which is parallel to the one coasting the water. There are many souvenir shops and restaurants to choose from. We chose Tachibana for our much needed lunch break and my wife tried deep fried Oyster while I went for the more conservative fried shrimp with curry rice.

With our appetite satisfied, we decided to skip the Itusukushima shrine and went straight to the ropeway. There is a free shuttle service that takes you to the ropeway station. It picks you up from a bus stop in front of a hotel, just past a couple of souvenir shops - a 5 min walk past the shrine. The ropeway gets you close to the top of Mt. Misen in two steps. You need to reserve at least a couple of hours to explore the sites once you get to the end of the ropeway since you need to follow a trail that requires 30-45 min to reach the final point.

Back down from the ropeway we waited for the sunset to take those postcard pictures from the Itsukushima shrine facing the famous "floating" torii. You need to time your visit so that you have mid-to-high tide and enough water to give the floating impression to the torii. For this task, you don't need to be inside the shrine as there is a little sandy area between the shrine and the daiganji temple where you can set up your tripod and wait for the right moment for the perfect picture.

This was the first time we noticed that Japanese students take lots of field trips around the country as they were flocking the souvenir shops of Ometesando. They are loud and "spacious" as other kids around the world and we would find them many times again during our trip.

On our way back, we had to take the Matsudai Kisen Ferry (170/80 Yen - Adult/Child One way) as we would have to wait for 40 min for the next JR ferry. From there we made the right decision to take the JR train back from to Hiroshima station (the JR station is just one block futher away from the tram station).

For the amount of activities available in this island and the charm of its streets, I strongly recommend that you stay overnight in Miyajima to fully explore it. Unfortunately I had prepaid my two nights in Hiroshima so I could not change my plans.

Once again we ate at one of many restaurants available at the ASSE department store ("depato"), attached to the Hiroshima station.

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