On my very shortest list of places to visit in Japan is this island, Miyajima. Japan thinks similarly and has listed the famous red gate here as one of it’s top three views in the whole country. For reals.
Although crowded with tourists, the main attractions are worth the trip. The conventional method of travel to Miyajima is to take a 15min train to the 35min ferry. Lori and I aren’t always the most conventional however.
After experiencing the gripping exhibits of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, we hopped on a private ferry that took us straight to the island in 30min for about $20. Yes, a little on the pricey side, but on a weekend trip time is money and I would make the same choice again. On the island we had a delightful time viewing the Red Gate (looks more orange if you ask me though), strolling through the intricate Itsukushima Palace, and admiring the hordes of deer which apparently own the place. You may want to check a tidal chart before making the trip to the island. If the tides is out you can walk right up to the red gate, but it makes for worse pictures.
To cap it off, before returning we went on a more-than-we-bargained-for nature hike up east side of the island. Not even a 5 minute walk from the main shopping avenues, I was amazed that no other tourists made it to this pretty nature reserve area.
I had seen pictures and heard stories before we got to Miyajima, but somehow I hadn’t expected the island to be so lush and the town to be so quaint. I think everyone focuses in on Itsukushima Palace, and actually I can’t blame them because it’s a stunning place and very well maintained (they must paint it at least a couple times a year to keep the colors so vibrant!). Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend exploring a bit further if you have the chance.
One word of caution though… if you happen to be afraid of sand crabs, don’t look down too often. They’re everywhere! I kept being shocked while we were on our nature hike from seeing crabs that looked like they belonged on the beach, scuttling along the mossy rocks in the mountains.