THIS has to be one of the most romantic spots in Japan, judging from the countless number of dating couples of all ages and nationalities. Of course having a good location matters in romance. And one that offers a mix of culture, sports and adventure in a breathtaking setting is difficult to beat. Even if you are single “the Island where People and Gods live Together” offers enough to keep you distracted from all the love around you.
The small island Miyajima is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site is considered one of Japan’s three most scenic places (nihon sankei). Since ancient times, the Japanese have been compiling lists of the most beautiful places in their country. During the 10-minute ferry ride to the island you will see why Miyajima is in the top three.
The iconic bright red torii gate comes into sight and if you take the ferry at high tide it seems to float on top of the water. Just behind the gate lies the island’s most famous Shinto shrine, the Itsukushima Shrine. Like the torii gate, it’s built over water. The official name of the island is Itsukushima, but most people refer to it as Miyajima, meaning “shrine-island”. It attracts around three million visitors every year. Despite the increasing number of visitors since becoming World Heritage in 1996, Miyajima has protected its unique culture and pristine nature. The island itself has been worshipped as a god and this belief has helped maintain its natural beauty.
If you have come to climb the island’s highest peak, Mt. Misen, there are several hiking trails, which take you through primeval forests before you reach the top. The view from there over the red gates and shrines shimmering in the water is magnificent. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the ropeway. Back down and to the main village and why not explore the dreamy cobblestone alleyways while sampling some local specialties in the small shops that line them. Fresh oysters from the Seto Inland Sea and grilled juicy conga eel atop a bowl of rice are some of the most famous delicacies here.
Some cheeky deer will probably demand their share of your food – most are patient, but some can be a little feisty. Deer have inhabited the island for centuries and have become accustomed to people, so don’t be surprised if they follow you. Most tourists only take a day trip from nearby Hiroshima, but it’s in the evening when the island becomes peaceful and really romantic. At sunset you can have a picnic at one of the many viewpoints, while watching the colors fade over the Seto Inland Sea.
If you decide to stay overnight, you could make the most of your Japan adventure by staying at one of the island’s ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel with tatami-matted rooms and a communal bath. You can wear Yukata – a cotton lightweight kimono – while enjoying your dinner. Many Japanese guests also wear it outside for an evening stroll. The ryokans on Miyajima can be a bit pricey, so if you are on a budget stay at the backpackers hostel or the campsite.
For those into watersports, head to the opposite shore the next morning and spend the rest of the day jet skiing or boat racing. How to get there: Trains, tram and busses run frequently from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi train station, slowest connection takes about one hour. From there it’s a two minutes walk to Miyajima Ferry Pier (ticket to the island ¥170). The Matsudai Miyajima Ferry goes directly from Hiroshima to Miyajima.