Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Five Reasons to Fall in Love with Miyajima

My first visit to Japan isn’t Tokyo, but in Itsukushima (more popularly known as Miyajima). Yes, you’ve read that right and why not? Miyajima Island may be far from the bustling metropolis in every sense, but this is the very reason why Miyajima is a must see destination.

Miyajima, located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay, is where you can still see herds of deer roaming freely, amidst a backdrop of virgin forests and a deep blue sea. Aside from the nature-feels, being in Miyajima feels like being transported back in time with preserved shrines and temples, symbolizing Japanese history and culture.

And may I say that the island is just so romantic? I assure you that memories on this island will linger on your mind, here are five reasons why:

    1.    Itsukushima Shrine
When I travel, it is a must that I visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Miyajima has one -- the Great Torrii. Don’t miss the chance to walk to the foot of the Great Torrii during low tide. At high tide, the Great Torrii will look like it’s floating in the sea. The Chinese red or scarlet color of the shrine changes with the sunrise and the sunset.

    2.   Five-storied Pagoda
The 27 meters high pagoda is found on the hill on the left of Itsukushima Shrine. It was said to be built in the 15th century using Chinese Zen Buddhism construction techniques. It is vermillion-colored with decorative drawings and colored paintings.

    3.    ... and more temples!
Miyajima won't be know as a shrine island for nothing. Right after you exit Itsukushima shrine is the Daiganji Temple. It contains many important cultural properties and archives. A saraswati (Hindu goddess) is enshrined in the temple and is known to be one of the three major saraswatis in Japan. Daishouin Temple, meanwhile, is located west of Itsukushima shrine, and is the center of Buddhism on Miyajima. It has Buddha statues, Mido (temple halls), kiyomori shrine and a treasure hall.

    4.    Traditional Streets
Strolling along the street of Miyajima feels like a journey back in time. Here, you can see ateliers and trinket shops. Better buy yourself a shamoji (rice scoop). Stay the night in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with tatami-matted rooms. And of course, wear a yukata (kimono)!

    5.    Food!
A trip wouldn’t be compete without tasting the local food! And here in Miyajima you can never go hungry as there are plenty of food that you can buy along the food stalls dotting the streets or in various restaurants on the island. Miyajima is well-known for Momiji manju, a maple leaf -shaped pastry with a bean-jam filling (which can come in flavors like matcha, red bean, etc). They are still baking it like how it was done in the 14th century and you can buy it freshly baked along the streets. Miyajima is also famous for its conger eel, grilled oysters and okonomiyaki. Miyajima’s okonomiyaki is different from Osaka-style—definitely a must try!

Now, how to get to Miyajima? If you're coming from Ossaka and traveling by shinkansen (bullet train), you'll be boarding at Shin-Osaka station. You can reach Hiroshima in about 1.5 hours.From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (about 25 minutes). Then, take the ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Pier (about 10 minutes). Enjoy and fall in love with Miyajima too!

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