Manjū are a type of Japanese sponge cake-like sweet that can be filled with a variety of things (green tea, custard, chocolate etc.) but more commonly and traditionally, red bean paste. In Hiroshima, you can get these momiji (autumn leaf) shaped ones that are unique to the region and I couldn’t resist. The custard ones are delicious and I regret not buying more than I did!
We started our trip to Miyajima bright and early, getting to our local station at about 6:50 to catch our first trains out. It was a long, long journey that totalled at around 6 hours, largely thanks to the lack of any rapid or special rapid trains past Okayama. We used the Seishun 18 ticket, which is the equivalent of five unlimited travel tickets that you can either use as an individual (and use all five on different days) or as a group (five people over one day) or a mix of the two. I highly recommend them as they altogether cost us about 4600円 each which is a tiny fraction of what a return journey would’ve cost, and you can even use them on the Miyajima ferry. The only downside is that they’re only available for a limited time, and they’re not going to be on sale for use again until the 20th of July; a day after I go home.
We got in at 2:10 and found our hostel, conveniently located a minute’s walk from the ferries, where we could already see the Otorii, grabbed some snacks and then headed over. The ferry ride is incredibly short and the dock is a short walk by the sea away from Itsukushima-jinja and the gate. It was gorgeous, but as we arrived in the afternoon, it was incredibly busy. Photos of places like Itsukushima (which is 300円 to enter and worth it) and just about any other famous place in Japan (or anywhere in the world, I suppose) can be deceiving; even if photos of them look empty, if you go during the day they’re bound to be crawling with tourists.
We sadly missed most of the sunset because we were desperate to get out of the cold. The weather here has been incredibly indecisive, going from summer days to close to freezing in a matter of a couple of days, and we needed to warm up in a café and get some food. Luckily, we caught the tail end of it and got to see the Otorii lit up at night and a spectacular full moon. By this time, things had quietened down a little, too.
The next morning, we were up bright and early again so that we could see the sunrise, and caught the earliest ferry over again. Even though we were exhausted, I enjoyed it much more this time, because we were just about the only people there. We were able to wander around the gate in what was left of low tide without anyone else on the beach, there was frost on the shrine roof and the cherry blossoms were in bloom and it was all and all spectacular and serene. We even got to feed an adorable fawn some flowers back behind the shrine!
It was a short trip and I never got a chance to see the rest of Hiroshima, but it was still well worth it. As much as I hate getting up early (and having to continue getting up early until Friday), I wouldn’t have traded it and it was a great chance to see one of Japan’s most iconic scenes. More photos to come soon.