Sponsored by MIYAJIMA ROPEWAY
Hiroshima is a famous and well known tourist city. This city offer a striking contrast between its dark historic past and its bright neon lights and friendly southern hospitality. From history enthusiasts to food connoisseurs, there’s more to do and see in Hiroshima than one can do only on foot. When I say Hiroshima, that of course includes a visit to the famous island of Miyajima, just a ten minute ferry ride off the coast of the mainland. So how can you make sure to see it all without wasting time or any money? Here are a few tips that I learned from my trip.
Hiroshima Electric Railway ‘Hiroden’ 1 Day Pass
First, treat yourself to a Hiroshima Electric Railway “Hiroden” 1 Day Pass. This pass is your life saver! For only ¥840 for the whole day, you get unlimited rides on the street car in Hiroshima and a roundtrip ferry ride to and from Miyajima. The street cars are enjoyable because you get to ride through the center of the city, even being able to see the famous river and the A-bomb Dome from the window. The street car, which is only two cars long, also have a very authentic and vintage feel to them. It’s a great way to step back into time and enjoy all the different views. All routes are free to use all day long with the pass, which can be purchased at information desks, major hotels, or from streetcar conductors. I got mine on arrival at the Hiroshima station’s streetcar station the night before I used the pass and here’s why…
You want to start your day early.
I know, I know, this is a tough one for many of us. But the struggle can be worth it especially if you want to beat crowds. Some street cars start running as early as 6:00am but kiosks don’t open until 7:00am or later. So make sure to purchase the pass the night before to get the most out of your pass. While many stores and museums in Hiroshima open later in the morning, trains and ferries operate much earlier. With an early start, it’s wise to begin your day on Miyajima because there are many things to enjoy on the island without having to rely on the operation of building facilities.
It takes close to an hour from central Hiroshima city to get to the ferry port for Miyajima (Hiroden-Miyajimaguchi). Once you’re there, you’ll see that there are two ferry options. Don’t pay the extra fee by mistakenly using the JR ferry! To your left is the Miyajima Matsudai Kisen tourist ferry. This is the ferry you want. There are indoor and outdoor seats; typical outdoor benches to comfortable velvet momiji-printed sofas. It’s only a ten minute ride but make sure to poke your head out onto the third floor to catch the beautiful mountain views. You’ll even see the famous Torii gate out on the water.
Once you’re on the island, there are endless activities to do. Here are the things I suggest you do first, so you get to enjoy it fully. First off, run out to the Torii gate in the water! The bright giant gate is submerged in water during the day but in the morning and evening when it’s low tide, you can walk all the way up to the gate. Just tiptoe your way around the beds of seaweed to admire the work of the holy gate, and turn your head around to see the famous Itsukushima shrine from an angle that’s not easily captured. To enjoy the same view during the day, visitors have to pay to hop on a rowboat, but this method won’t have you spending the extra cash.
If you want to pay the ¥300 and check out the Itsukushima Shrine, I suggest you do this in the early hours, too, because tour groups start piling in later on, making the crowds impossible to peacefully enjoy the walk around. If you choose not to go in, though, you’re still able to muse at the structure of the “floating” shrine from the outside. It’s an open hall shrine, so they’re not hiding anything from visitors even if you don’t pay to go in.
If you want to check out a more underrated but beautiful building, take a left by the shrine and go up the stairs. Here, you’ll find Senjokaku which means “pavilion of 1000 mats.” For only ¥100, you can enjoy the views of Miyajima from the little hill while swinging your legs off the balcony, or marvel at the high ceilings and openness of this Buddhist hall. The fading wood carvings atop old pillars are painted with gorgeous spiritual drawings; they must be just as old as the building itself which was built in 1587. This is less crowded than the attractions below the hill, and well worth a shiny silver coin on a budget.
Get a Discount for the Ropeway to the top of Mt.Misen
Don’t let this little hill fool you as the highest you can go on this island! Remember that 1 Day Pass you purchased earlier? Whip that back out to get a discount for the ropeway that gets you to the top of Mt. Misen. When you show your pass at the gondola station near Momijidani Park, you can get a roundtrip pass for ¥1,350 instead of ¥1,800. You can read about the ropeway experience and what to do on the summit of Mt. Misen here.
Hang our with the Deer!
Here’s one last activity you can enjoy, for free (possibly at the expense of your snacks). Wherever you are on the island, don’t hesitate to hang out with the deer! Miyajima is home to friendly, happy deer who roam freely around the island, and it’s completely safe to interact with them. They’re sometimes too friendly that they will eat anything and everything in their way! But edible (which isn’t limited to only food) objects aside, they’re calm enough to pet and play with. At busy times of the day, you’ll find hundreds of visitors posing for pictures with and hogging play time with the deer. Try to find a quiet time to find a lonely deer or lure them with some Miyajima delicacies and cheap eats which I’ll tell you about here.
Once you feel like you’ve seen enough of Miyajima, remember that the pass can still get you back onto the mainland and around with the streetcars. Keep in mind that the last ferry from Miyajima leaves at 8:15pm. The streetcars, however, run until 10:00~11:00pm depending on the line so you still have plenty of time to enjoy the free rides!