We had a beautiful sunny day to explore Miyajima Island and Hiroshima as a day trip from Kyoto. Thankfully for the amazing rail system in Japan, a trip like this can easily be done in one day. Japan is definitely a country of contrasts – after all the hustle and bustle of the big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, it is nice to get away to places such as Miyajima Island. The short ferry trip from the mainland (which is covered by the JR Rail Pass if you have one) transports you to another world. The island is quiet and peaceful, and would almost be devoid of people if it were not such a popular tourist destination.
Take at least half a day to explore the island – visiting the parks and gardens, viewing the famous ‘floating’ gate and wandering around the small streets. Don’t forget to sample the local sweet, a small sponge-like cake shaped like a maple leafe, filled with custard, chocolate, bean pastes, etc. You cannot miss them in the main shopping street – every second store is selling them.
After Miyajima Island, we made a brief stop in Hiroshima to visit the Peace Park and the museum. The museum is amazing, yet also shocking, and definitely worth the visit. I would allow at least a few hours if you want to visit it properly – it’s bursting full of information about the atomic bomb drop and its unfortunate aftermath. A great history lesson, that hopefully the world has learnt and taken careful note of.
I found Hiroshima very different from the other Japanese cities – it had a much more European feel, with its wide avenues, parks, tram line and European styled buildings. It was only later that is dawned on me, that the entire city had to be rebuilt after 1945, when the atomic bomb literally decimated the city.
From Kyoto, take the shinkansen train to Hiroshima where you transfer to the Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi. From the station there will be signs to the ferry terminal – it’s only a short walk away. To navigate Hiroshima from the train station, take the tram. To get to the Peace Park, take tram number 2 or 6 to Genbaku-Domu.
On Miyajima Island, sample the barbecued oysters and the momoji manu (the local filled cakes). In Hiroshima, you must try the local okonomijaki (Japanese savoury pancake) which is filled with egg noodles.