Hiroshima has been hot these past few days. After some major flooding that devastated the city a few weeks ago, the sun is out and so is the humidity!

After a couple of days in the city, I decided to beat the heat by visiting Miyajima island. Miyajima is a small island located in Hiroshima Prefecture, just off the bay. Known for its forests, temples, and wandering deer, I thought that Miyajima would be a unique place to engage with Japanese culture while getting to spend some time in the water. Miyajima is also famous for its shrine, Itsukushima. Originally built in the 12th century, this shrine extends out to the beach, and the large Torii gate is well into the sea. After learning of this site, I knew it was a place I would have to visit while in Hiroshima.

Getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima City is surprisingly simple. After a one-hour ride on the JR train, I then took a brief ferry to the island. The ferry ride took about ten minutes, but offered some amazing views of the city. Many children on the ferry cheered as the historic Itsukushima Shrine Torii gate came into view. It really appears to be floating on water, as if it were suspended rather than underneath the sea.

Once off the ferry, I enjoyed some delicious Momiji Manju at the train station stop. Moimiji Manju is a sweet that is famous to Hiroshima. Delicious baked bread is shaped to look like a maple leaf, and inside, a variety of tastes can be found. Momiji Manju are found that range from matcha to cream cheese flavor. They’re all unique, and each and every one is delicious.

After stepping out of the train station, I was amazed to see wild deer roaming in each and every direction. Right in front of me, I saw a young girl feeding a deer right out of her hand! These creatures are so gentle and sweet, and they have no problem approaching travelers for a snack and a pet.

The walk to the front of Itsukushima Shrine was brief but historic. The beachfront walkway was lined with many souvenir shops promising delicious sweets including anmitsu, Momiji Manju, and other local treats. I found it hard to resist stopping at each of them for a different snack.

Soon enough, I made my way to Itsukushima Shrine. This shrine is spread throughout the island of Miyajima, but the main tourist attraction is the floating Torii gate. I arrived at the gate around high tide, and it was far from the shoreline. Even so, I was amazed to see many tourists rolling up their pants to wade over to the Torii gate. Since this is such an important site in Japan, I decided to join them and make my way carefully towards the gate.

On a hot day like this, it felt great to be in the water for a while. The gate itself is even more spectacular up close. The torii gate is lined with barnacles, and visitors have created a custom where they place their money offerings in between them. Up close, many 10- and 5-yen coins can be seen lining the bottom legs of the gate.

Momiji Manju in hand, I made my way back to the train station. Back when it was first created, Itsukushima Shrine was only accessible to dignitaries and the wealthy. Hundreds of years later, this ‘floating shrine’ is accessible to all people – Japanese and foreigners alike. I feel so grateful to have visited such a special place, and I can’t wait to see where my travels take me next!



A graduate student at the University of Michigan conducting research & traveling in Japan.
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