Category Archives: Miyajima

The Escapist’s Getaway™: The Wonders of Miyajima

The ancient island of Miyajima has more to it than just its legendary stature.

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Prologue

Miyajima was once untouched by warfare for around one millennium before the Sengoku period in the 16th century. Records showed that the construction of Itsukushima Shrine here dated since as far as the 6th century and completed like its current form by Taira no Kiyomori in 12th century.

It was not until the year was 1555 when the clan of Mouri, once considered only a small clan in Chugoku, challenged the usurper Sue Harukata of the powerful Ouchi Clan of northern Kyushu.

Taunted, Sue Harukata commanded his full army to engage the Mouri and they’re deliberately led to this island. Wily as a fox, Mouri Motonari as the patriarch of Mouri at that time, ambushed Harukata and decisively defeated his powerful army.

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The victory elevated the Mouri to prominence in west Japan afterwards. Despite the eventual victory of the rivaling Tokugawa Clan and the end of Sengoku period, the pride stayed within the hearts of the people in the region and will eventually spark the ultimate transformation from feudalism era to Japanese hegemony in the 19th century industrial era.

With or without knowing the history behind it, Miyajima was the very source of this awakening – started with the victory of the Mouri clan and the eventual Meiji Restoration. In a peaceful era like now, the island welcomes thousands of visitors each year with its natural beauty, rich culture, and stories from the olden times.

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The trip

Summarizing my one day trip to Miyajima, I can now conclude one important thing should you wish to visit the island. And that is to head there early from Hiroshima to spend the whole day here enjoying all the attractions, or even spend a night if possible.

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There are many ways to head here from Hiroshima. If you feel like arriving early at Hatsukaichi to board the ferry, it’s best to start from JR Hiroshima Station by using JR Sanyo Line or if you are planning to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park first – you can use the streetcar from Genbaku Dome for cheaper but longer travel time. Alternatively, there are buses available as well heading to Hatsukaichi or you can even use the high speed boat from Hiroshima Port for JPY 1,800 and head straight to Miyajima.

The ferry trip from Hatsukaichi to Miyajima came with a very considerate price. It took only JPY 360 for a round trip, but bear in mind that the service stops at 5pm. That’s exactly the reason if you wish to spend only a day at Miyajima, then it is best to arrive early. However, if you would like to spend a night – there are more than 25 hotels available, scattering all over the island.

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The short ferry trip was a memorable one as you can witness the legendary Itsukushima torii or the giant orange gateway of the shrine. Later today, visitors can witness the magnificent view of it when the rising tide came, covering some parts of the torii.

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Arriving, it’s best to head straight to Miyajima-cho, the only town in the island and spend some time shopping souvenirs or having your meals. Miyajima is known for its conger eel rice bowl and oysters. I had my terrific all-about-oysters lunch set menu at Kaki-ya and spent additional dime trying Marukin Honpo’s conger eel buns. Another what to do at the town is to shop at Yamadaya for their famed momiji manju and even taking a hands-on class on how to bake these sweet delicacies.

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The distance was a short one from the town to the shrine and I particularly enjoyed my autumn beach walk, funnily accompanied by these inquisitive wild deers attracted with the food I brought. Alternatively, some rickshaws are also available at your disposal, ready to take you anywhere around the island and a blanket to keep you warm.

As expected, the very view of it took my breath away. It was like a dream come true, that this beautiful cultural heritage that I had seen in many pictures since my childhood finally can be witnessed firsthand. Particularly, it reminds me of my father’s travels to Japan in the 80s and that I can finally relive his moments here. I wonder if anyone else there shared the same thoughts as well.

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However, the trip is not considered complete without visiting the shrine as well. For an additional entrance fee, you can spend some time inside and seeing the priests praying and passing you by, marveling upon the architecture, seeing the torii from here, and even encountering newlyweds wearing beautiful traditional garments. It’s like a journey through time again here, realizing that it was like this back in the medieval times almost a thousand years ago which you can still experience it today.

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Alas, it was almost time to leave the island already. Nevertheless, I fully maximized that fleeting moment by having a good cuppa at the island’s famous coffee shops – Miyajima Itsuki Coffee and Sarasvati, while also passing by the Five Storied Pagoda and reserving my dreams to hop aboard the ropeway to Mount Misen and enjoying Miyajima from above.

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Food Trip: Hiroshima & Ehime, Finding Seafood at its Best

The Foodie Magazine has the opportunity to pioneer its way through the regions less heard back on our trip to Japan and here we came up with best places to eat while in Chugoku and the western part of Shikoku.

Japan is all about perfection on what we see and what we experience, including of course, every part of my foodie exploration during my recent trip there.

Treading a road less traveled to the Chugoku area where the famed city of Hiroshima resides and a bit to the south, heading to Ehime prefecture across the narrow sea to the Shikoku island, I was held in awe with not just the how this western part of the big Honshu island has to offer with its beautiful nature but also with the food.

From the city of Hiroshima to the heart of Ehime in Matsuyama, hereby The Foodie Magazine shares you the best places for traditional fares and seafood as the main star.

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HIROSHIMA-STYLE OKONOMIYAKI

Okonomiyaki is ubiquitous in Hiroshima that it is even can be seen from the moment I put my footsteps on the city’s main train station. Everyone was seen having it for lunch or dinner and long queues are seen on many places.

Despite having the literal meaning of ‘cook as you please’, how people actually cook this Japanese pancake is actually very straightforward. In Hiroshima, after the batter has been set, the cook will then stack it on a bed of cabbages in abundance, bean sprouts, tempura crumbs and pork.

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An egg is then cracked open and cooked for a moment before being topped with the okonomiyaki. Lastly, taking an advice from an old friend, I decided to instead ask for seafood as a substitute for the pork. With the special sauce topped on it and sprinkles of togarashi to whip up its spiciness, it was perhaps one of the best okonomiyaki I ever had.

At the Full Focus Building on the 6th floor, get yourself caught in a maze filled with okonomiyaki shops where people would choose their favorite shops to enjoy the slice of Hiroshima’s best with good drinks and good friends.

Full Focus Building, 10-1 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima

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ALL ABOUT OYSTERS AT KAKI-YA

The beauty of Itsukushima Shrine and its legendary torii are known worldwide and this site is not only Japan’s third most famous tourist spot, but also one of the world’s heritages.

Right in the heart of the shopping street of the island’s only town, there’s one famous restaurant where people would queue long for its grilled oysters. Kakiya is the name and arriving early before lunch saved me a good seat to enjoy the lunch. The restaurant itself has been featured in publications such as Hiroshima’s Michelin Guide and Lonely Planet Japan.

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For a lunch set that consists of grilled oysters, fried breaded oysters, and oysters rice with miso shiru; it was a kingly gift that gave me power to explore this majestic island and preparing myself with the manju making class at the island’s best shop for the delicacy – Yamadaya.

Kaki-ya, 539 Miyajima-cho, Itsukushima, Hiroshima

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THE FRESHEST GRILLED SEAFOOD AT YOSHIUMI IKI-IKI KAN

One of my best highlights of the journey was the decision to stop by at this rest area on Oshima island before heading to the mainland of Shikoku. With an astonishing view of the world’s longest suspension bridge of Kurushima-Kaikyo, the experience of eating freshly grilled seafood at Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan topped any places that I ever visited.

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Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan has its own seafood market where customers can choose what they wish to eat and pay before grilling it. Wide selections from live fish, octopus, oysters, and cockles are available here including skewered meat, corn on the cob, and many more.

Right next door, Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan has prepared an alfresco dining room and prepares each customer a charcoal stove. Experience yourself the Japanese way of grilling seafood and enjoy it with a bowl of taimeshi ­or the sea bream rice.

Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan, 4530-2 Yoshiumi Chomyo, Imabari-shi, Ehime

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THE TAIMESHI OF DOGO

The sea bream is everywhere to be found in Ehime prefecture and it’s like comparing it to Norway with its salmons. In many restaurants, the use of white rice is often substituted to taimeshi or a mixture of flavored rice with shredded cooked sea bream. Delicious and fulfilling, the taimeshi becomes a great company for any of Ehime’s rich lineup of cuisines.

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At the Dogo Beer Bakushukan, the tavern serves wonderful cuisines of Matsuyama in addition to the city’s reputation for its beer brewery. The dinner set consists of various choices between chicken and beef, but that day I preferred Dogo Beer Bakushukan’s version of sea bream with rice as a dinner set.

The sliced raw sea bream is served upon rice and then to be mixed with raw egg. Add a bit of soy sauce on it and there you go, a dish to remember when in Matsuyama. After such a wonderful treat, don’t forget to pamper yourself on the bath next door at Dogo Onsen before calling it a night.

Dogo Beer Bakushukan, 20-13 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime

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Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Jan 2015 edition

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Photography by Dennie Ramon