Miyajima is easily one of my favourite places in Japan! We fell in love with it during our first trip to Japan in 2015 and went back in 2017. You would think we could have skipped it this time around, however, Miyajima is particularly famous (and beautiful!) for its autumn colours, so we happily included it in our 2018 itinerary.
Miyajima is a small island in front of Hiroshima famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and its “floating torii”. However, there are also other beautiful temples to visit and the island has a big population of deer.
The first thing you see when approaching the island on the ferry is the famous Floating Torii.
The torii is not always floating, as that depends on the tides. Which means that sometimes you can walk to it and see if from close, while other times, you simply can’t and it looks like it’s floating in the sea.
The floating torii is part of the Itsukushima Shrine, a “floating temple” itself. We visited it in 2015, so we decided not to enter. It is a very beautiful red temple with plenty of wooden corridors and lanterns.
I highly recommend you spend a night in Miyajima. We always do and we love it. This way, you get to enjoy the island when the crowds have left and, above all, you can get to see the sights “by night”.
Luckily this time we had beautiful weather, especially the day we arrived. The sun was shining, unlike the other 2 times, when we had rainy days.
We immediately went to Momijidani Park, to see the famous autumn leaves that had turned bright red, yellow, orange and all shades in between. It was breathtaking, especially with the sun reflecting on them.
There were many people just enjoying a picnic (autumn hanami?) under the trees.
We sat there for a while and we enjoyed the scenery. It was a bit breezy and the beautiful leaves were falling around us like colourful rain!
We then took the ropeway up to the top of Mount Misen.
From there, you get to see the amazing view over the inland sea.
You can also walk all the way to the top, but we wanted to be back down in time to see the Hiwatari Shiki – a ceremony held at Daisho-in temple twice a year (15th of November and 15th of April) during which the monks (and normal people) walk on burning coals.
At the end, when the coals are definitely cooler, even children walk on them.
We LOVE Daisho-in temple!
It’s a Buddhist temple, and there are 500 statues lining the steps to the temple, all of which have unique facial expressions! Fascinating!
This time, thanks to the fact that the weather was sunny, we took the time to explore all of it.
At the back, there is a room full of beautiful lanterns and statues. It is almost moving, with all that incense filling the air.
There are also many small temples, each of which with different wooden plaques called ema, on which to write your prayers.
Then, we just wandered around and enjoyed the beautiful streets of this quiet island.
We also went back to see the torii.
And the beautiful red pagoda.
There are many little souvenir shops and tea houses/cafes worth exploring, especially on the main street (Omotesando).
The next day, we went back to Momijidani Park to take a few more pictures.
We even saw a bride and groom there – and then again on Omotesando!
I guess Miyajima is a popular spot for weddings and wedding pictures, as we even saw a wedding procession!
Miyajima is particularly beautiful during autumn, as there are plenty of maple trees (called momiji) that turn red. However, I recommend it all year round!
Miyajima is famous for its seafood, particularly for the local oysters. You can find them everywhere … even in the food stalls around the Itsukushima shrine.
Another typical food item is the momiji manju, a maple-leaf-shaped cake traditionally filled with sweet bean paste. There are also many non-traditional fillings available like lemon and custard – my favourite!
We also tried the deep fried version, which is to DIE FOR!!
We also had some amazing steamed buns filled with Hiroshima beef, just opposite the momiji manju store. Oh, they were so good!
If you are staying overnight, I highly recommend you eat at your ryokan and try a kaiseki dinner. We did (again!) and loved it (again!). The food is beautiful and delicious and an experience not to be missed. Scroll down to read more about our kaiseki dinner experience!
In Miyajima, we stayed (as always) at Auberge Watanabe, a beautiful Japanese ryokan.
We had already stayed here in 2015 and in 2017 and we had absolutely ADORED it. The ryokan itself is beautiful, beautifully appointed and… well, simply perfect. But what stands it apart from other ryokans we stayed at is the warmth of the owners. They are simply AMAZING.
Our stay was once again perfect. The owners came to pick us up at the pier and let us sit down at their café during the check-in procedure, which was quite fast. They also gave us some delicious matcha tea and momiji manju. YUM!
It felt like meeting family again after being away for some time. We felt welcome and… cherished. I don’t think there is a better word to describe it.
Not only… they asked our daughters if they wanted to play with their children and they welcomed them into their own house as if they were part of the family. This was a highlight of the trip for our children and they enjoyed the afternoon immensely!
Miyajima is quite small, so no matter where your accommodation is, you can easily walk almost everywhere. Auberge Watanabe is just in front of Daisho-in and a 5-minute walk from the Itsukushima Shrine. It is a family business, so it’s not a huge hotel, so book in advance!
We got the same room as always! It’s actually comprised of 2 Japanese style rooms, a bathroom (with a private onsen!), a toilet and a veranda!
The futons were laid down while we were having dinner…
We even had a yukata each to wear for the night and all the usual toiletry sets you find in Japanese hotels, like toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors etc…
Booking was very easy. I sent an email directly to the hotel and they accommodated my extremely restrictive dietary requirements perfectly!
As I mentioned before, Miyajima is a great place to experience a Kaiseki dinner in your ryokan. A Kaiseki dinner is a traditional multi-course Japanese haute cuisine dinner. It balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colours of food. Only fresh seasonal (and often local) ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavour. The finished dishes are carefully presented on plates chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal. The garnishes are beautiful too and they are often made with real leaves and flowers. It is an amazing experience both for your palate and for your eyes.
We ate in a private room in the ryokan.
We had a lot of food and even our kids had their little junior kaiseki dinner. It looked so pretty and it tasted even better.
My husband and I had a delicious aperitif and then some local beer.
Then the food started to arrive. We began with Sakizuke, an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche – spinach and chicken.
Then we had Hassun, the second course, which is meant to set the seasonal theme, which in our case was autumn. Our tray was similar to the kids’ one and it had smoked snapper, a local fish similar to an eel, barracuda, snail, gingko beans, mushroom and scallop, and smoked duck (YUM). Everything was delicious.
Then we had Mukōzuke, seasonal sashimi – which included sea bream and a local fish that was so tender, it would melt in your mouth!
And tempura: a mix of vegetables, including green pepper, eggplant, lotus root, and fish.
Then we had some beef served with seasonal vegetables and cute decorations (momiji and gingko leaf-like). The meat was so tender and juicy!
But the highlight of our dinner was definitely Yakimono: grilled fish head served with a sweet soy sauce. We had eaten this in 2015 and 2017 as well and we had LOVED it. I had mentioned in one of my emails how much we had enjoyed our dinner and the fish head and the people at Auberge Watanabe were so kind to make sure it was included in our dinner this time as well! See what I mean when I say they are the perfect hosts??
The fish head was as delicious as we remembered! Tender and sweet and still one of the best things we ate during the whole trip. My husband also had the fish eye, which apparently is a delicacy.
We also had some pickles, warm fish and vegetable soup, and rice.
And we finished off this amazing dinner with Mizumono, seasonal fruits.
And some Hojicha – roasted green tea.
What an amazing experience it was! Yet again!
We also had breakfast at the ryokan. We all had a western style breakfast which was delicious. The bread was particularly good and it was home-made at the ryokan.
I highly recommend Auberge Watanabe for the comfort and the beauty of the room, the warm and friendly service, the amazing attention to details, and the great location. I also recommend you eat there and try the Kaiseki dinner. It is a bit pricey, but it is absolutely worth every penny. It is an unforgettable experience for your taste buds and for your eyes and it was, yet again, one of the highlights of our holiday!
This is definitely the place where we will be staying again (and again!) on our next visit to Miyajima. It was hard to say goodbye to our hosts, it felt a bit like leaving family! But we will be back!
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