I know I say this about literally every place I visited in Japan, but Miyajima (宮島) holds a special place in my heart. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the island that makes it impossible to not feel at peace when exploring all of its hidden treasures. Anyway, I’d made plans to visit with a friend who studied as an exchange student at my university, and kept in touch me ever since. Mind you, this wasn’t exactly easy! She lives in far west Japan, pretty much about as far as you can get from Ibaraki prefecture. From meeting in Sydney to reuniting in Japan twice, sometimes it amazes me how the universe can conspire for people from such far-off backgrounds to cross paths.
If you ever make the trip to Miyajima, you can’t miss the larger than life torii gates that float on the island’s shore. My first ever trip here was dark and gloomy, and don’t get me wrong – even back then I thought they were impressive. However, there’s something so stunning about the impact of those red gates against the water on a sunny day! The shore actually recedes gradually, so keep an eye out when the sun sets.
Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) is super grand, and quite a popular spot for weddings despite the tourists swarming it at every turn. Sure enough, I’m pretty sure one was happening on the day we happened to be there!
To be honest, I probably could have dedicated a whole post to the food highlights of this day alone. Miyajima’s quite famous for its maple leaves, but all year round you can get your hands on momiji manju (or maple leaf cakes) shaped just like them. My friend and I had special deep fried ones filled with red bean paste and custard, which were honestly in a league of their own!
Don’t even get me started on those oysters, either. Hiroshima is famous for them, and Miyajima has no shortage of vendors that will flame grill them right in front of you. I went for the plain option, but there were also toppings of cheese, bacon, garlic… If you’re so inclined, there are also restaurants selling oyster katsudon, which is exactly like the pork rendition but with deep fried oysters. I think my life actually changed the moment I took my first bite.
I can’t not mention the deer of Miyajima either, because they’re everywhere! I actually found them more docile than the ones in Nara, which go after unsuspecting tourists for food. This one outside a shopfront was so still, my friend and I actually stood for a good few minutes trying to decide whether it was fake or not haha! Anyway, it doesn’t take long to go around Miyajima’s main strip, so to kill time we basically ate and chatted for as long as our stomachs would allow.
When we finally parted ways, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of inexplicable sadness wash over me. Maybe it suddenly dawned on me that within the week, I’d be leaving Japan. Or maybe I was becoming familiar with that sinking feeling in my stomach, when I had to say goodbye to a close friend and was never adequately prepared for the moment. She said she had a feeling we’d meet again someday though, and I really do believe it. After all, sometimes the people you cross paths with in life have too big of an impact to simply brush it off as chance.