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February 7th 2016
Published: March 7th 2016
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Hearth Brown

We headed to the station ready for some breakfast. We went to Hearth Brown, a bakery located past the ticket gates. There was so much food to choose from, we had a bit of a tough time trying to decide what to eat for breakfast. The best thing about travelling with others, you can order more stuff and share it, getting to try more deliciousness. We ended up with a prawn gratin on toast, calzone pizza, a bread cube filled with red beans, and an apple Danish. All of it was scrummy and we washed it down with nice, hot coffee. The bakery has a nice seating area, which wasn't too busy.

We were heading to Miyajima, which means Shrine Island in Japanese. I was really excited to visit, as it is somewhere I have wanted to see for quite a while. The train took about 25 minutes to get us to Miyajimaguchi. From there it was a short walk to the ferry terminal, the walk was well signposted and we just followed the crowds. We headed to the ferry terminal on the right, which was the JR ferry. We bought return tickets, which cost 360 yen. The ferry was busy, but we managed to get a seat. The journey is very quick, only ten minutes. We could see the big red torii gate in the sea as we approached. We disebarked the ferry ,and headed out of the terminal and to the right. We walked along the road, by the water. As it was high tide, the water was pretty close to the shore, so only a tiny bit of beach was showing. It looked so tropical, you wouldn't believe that it was a cold day in February, it seemed more like a beach in Thailand or the Philippines. The walk to the O-torii gate took about 10 minutes, we spotted quite a few deer wandering the streets. There were signs up warning tourists about them.

The O-torii gate of Itsukushima is stunning. I could have spent hours taking photos of it. We were still at a side angle, but it looked so impressive, standing out alone in the sea. You can do boat trips that take you right up to and through the gate. I don't know where they start from, but if I ever go back I think I would like to do one. After getting some good photos, we headed into Itsukushima Shrine. There was quite a queue to enter, but it moved pretty quickly. I think the entrance fee was around 300 yen. Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was probably first erected in the 6th century. The present shrine dates from the 16th century. I really enjoyed walking around the shrine. The floor boards are up on stilts above the water. Since the tide was in, the water was under the temple. The shrine is in a U shape and beautiful to walk around. We were good here, as we didn't buy any emas (votive plates) or do the fortune sticks. We headed down to the front of the shrine, where we could see the torii gate properly. We joined the orderly queue to get our photo taken with it in the background. Everyone in the queue was so nice, taking photos for the people in front of them. We then continued out of the other side of the shrine. There were some temple like building there but we didn't really take a good look at them.

As we were walking along the street, we came to the Miyajima Museum

of History and Folklore. The museum is housed in a traditional style house that was owned by Egami family. Although the house was built in the typical style that merchants' houses were built in, this one has a wide entrance, which is rare. The entrance fee was 300 yen. The museum was really quiet, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. We wandered through the exhibition rooms, they contained many different things, showing the islands history over the years. The first exhibitoin room is filled with farm tools, jars, pots, and buckets. The next room showcases a variety of photographs and models relating to traditional events, such the model boats for the Kangen-sai Festival. The third room contained lots of wooden paddles/rice scoops, as Miyajima's main industry was woodwork. Then we headed upstairs to the room which contained lots of historical documents. There was also an interesting story with pictures on the wall. It was a story about some bloke, I think a warrior type, that defended the island. I wish I could remember more about it. Back downstairs, we wandered through the rooms that set up as a traditional house, it felt very cold. I hope that they used to have fires going or wore a lot of clothes. There was also a gorgeous garden in the centre of the house. I wish the day had been warmer as it would have been lovely to just sit and look at the garden.

From the museum, we had a little walk through the town. Even though it is a big tourist town, this part of town was pretty quiet. We walked the streets filled with traditional style houses. Then we headed down to the water to get even more pictures of the O-torii gate. This side was a lot quieter. Then we walked back through town and started on the path towards Mount Misen. Momiji Manju is a very popular snack from Miyajima, but are sold throughout the Hiroshima prefecture. Momiji Manju are small cakes, shaped like a maple leave, that are filled with red bean paste. We had come across a shop that was making them. We ordered a couple, they were pretty cheap, less than 100 yen each I think. There were two types and we ordered one of each, in one the red bean paste had the skin included and the other was skinless. The shop has an outdoor seating area, so we sat close to the fire to stay warm. We were also given some hot tea. The cakes were good, I definitely preferred the one with the skin on. It just made the cake taste better, the filling in the skinless one was just too smooth for my taste.

We followed the path up through the village to reach Momijihodo Park, the road up was quite steep but not to bad. We continued on past/through the park and just before the ropeway headed on to the Momijidani Course that would take us to the peak of Mt. Misen, in the centre of the island. I was determined to hike up the mountain as the receptionist at the hostel had been adamant that we should take the ropeway. She had been making out that the hike was really tough and was really trying to persuade us not to do it. I had read a couple of blogs of people hiking up and they said it as a little steep, but not too bad. She was even telling us that most people use hiking poles and get all kitted up. Seriously, Mt. Misen is only 535 metres high! So even if it was very steep, it wouldn't be a long climb. We must look very unfit and like we've never done any hiking before, don't judge a book by its cover. The path we had chosen was 2.5 kilometres long, as it wasn't too bad. A little steep in parts, with quite a few steps, but there were plenty of places to rest and we didn't see anyone with hiking poles. The trail was well marked with a signpost every 100 metres, so we could easily track our progress. The first 1.8 kilometres (I think) of the trail was winding up through the forest. We came across some deer along the way. Then we came out where the path forked, left to the cable car and right to the peak. The path towards the peak was lovely and wide and we started to get some beautiful views of the surrounding area. The sun was shining, it was a lovely day. We came to a set of temple halls. We had a quick look around them. There were lots of cute little Buddha statues that were wearing sunglasses, hats, and regular glasses. I think the one that was lifting weights was my favourite. I loved looking at the different little statues. We climbed a little higher and had more stunning views of the surrounding area, we could see the ropeway station in the distance. I'm still glad that we chose to walk up. We walked under a kind of doorway made by the rocks and emerged at the peak. There were quite a few people about, some having a picnic as there is plenty of space to sit down.

There is an observatory deck at the top of Mount Misen. We climbed the steps and reached the top. The views were gorgeous. The sun was shining and we could see for miles. It reminded me of the south coast of Korea. I still can't get over how much this part of Japan reminds me of Korea, as everywhere else has been so different. Disaster struck on the top of Mt. Misen! We were taking a selfie, as you do, with the gorgeous views in the background, that was fine, but as my friend lowered her selfie stick, her brand-new iPhone 6 fell out of the holder. It landed face down, and when she picked it up the screen was shattered. I felt like crying, I don't know how my friend didn't. So gutting knowing that you have to pay a small fortune to get it fixed. The only remedy was to eat some snacks. My friend is a star, she always makes up snack packs when we go on trips. They are filled with Japanese cookies and pieces of candy. I love them as I get to try stuff I would never think to buy. She told me that they are what mothers normally make up for their children when they go on school trips, well I am happy to be a big kid. There is plenty of seating on the top level of the observatory deck.

We had decided to take a different path down Mount Misen. There were three different trails, we had come up the Momijidani Route and we came down the Daishoin Route. This trail seemed more open, but at first it was a bit tougher. But then the trail changed to nice wide open paths. We saw a few hikers coming and going in both directions. I think one group of old men had been on the sake, as one of them fell into a ditch, that was funny! The views were great as we headed down, we could see the bay and the O-torii gate at Itsukushima.This route took us past Daishoin Temple, we had planned on visiting it, as we thought it was on the actual route, but it was slightly off. We would have to walk down the trail and then up a steep driveway to get to the temple. We couldn't be bothered to go back uphill, so we skipped it.

The tide had gone out now, so we headed back to the torii gate at the beach. The beach was packed. There were loads of people about, most taking selfies with the gate. You couldn't really get any decent pics as there were so many people about. The gate is huge, the tree trunks that make it, are massive. It is only when you get up close that you can appreciate the size of it. A tradition, that is meant to bring good luck, is to place coins on the gate. They fit in nicely between all the barnacles on the gate. The weather had changed and it was overcast now. It was also raining a little, but not enough to spoil our enjoyment of the area.

Our walk back to the ferry terminal was slowed down with a few food stops. First we saw oysters on sale, so we stopped to buy some as they are a specialty of this area. It was 400 yen for two oysters in their shells. This place was just a hole in the wall, a counter with a grill, where they cooked the oysters. There was a small seating area, so we sat there and ate the oysters. They were really good, I wish we could have had more. As we got closer to the ferry terminal, I noticed another bloke selling some thing I really wanted to try to. He was selling croquettes filled with curry and oysters. I think they were only 300 yen each. I love croquettes, they taste so good, but are totally unhealthy, as they are deep fried. I definitely wasn't disappointed with this oyster curry one. It was delicious. I wish I could buy these everywhere. When we got to the ferry terminal, there was one there ready to leave, so we rushed down to the boat. We just made it in time and were the last passengers to get on. As we sailed away, I was really happy with the time we spent on the island. Another amazing place visited in Japan. The sky was still overcast, but the sun was breaking through in parts, creating some stunning views.

Eel is a famous food from Miyajima. We had found a place online that was really popular as the food is meant to be really good. The restaurant, Ueno Anagomeshi, is very close to the train station. This place is very, very popular. We turned up well after the traditional lunchtime period and there were lots of people waiting. We added our names to the list and were told that it would be a forty minute wait. I was glad I'd had that oyster curry bread. If you didn't want to wait, you could also get take out, that would be nice on a warmer day, to find a park and have a picnic in the sun. The waiting area was pretty big and it was well heated, which made the time pass quickly. The staff were often calling people into the restaurant, so we waited less than forty minutes.

We were shown to a table, where two other people were already sitting. This place is so busy, that you have to share a table with others. The restaurant is quite small, I think the waiting area is bigger. We ordered a large eel bowl set each. Conger eel is a specialty of this area, and this type of eel is less fatty and less greasy than regular eel. I have never fancied trying eel before, when I see it swimming around in the tanks outside of restaurants, I think it looks disgusting. However, when I was told it was a specialty in this area, I decided to bit the bullet and try it. The thought of it still disgusted me as I sat at the table, but I knew I could be missing out on something amazing, so I had to try it. Since the restaurant was busy, we had to wait a while for our food to come. But I got a sneak peak, when the ladies sitting opposite food turned up. I was also glad when they started taking photos of their meals, you can't beat a bit of food porn. Our food came, it looked really good. The eel had been cooked in soy sauce and was placed on top of a bowl of rice. We were also served those generic Japanese pickled vegetables and some miso soup. The miso soup was darker and a more reddy colour than I was used to. It is a regional variation and very tasty, too. Well, I can now say I am an eel convert. It was really, really delicious. The meat was so good, and the soy sauce really added to it. I would definitely have it again. The meal was quite expensive compared to what I usually spend on meals in Japan, around 1,700 yen, but well worth it.

We headed to the train station feeling very full. We waited ages to cross the road, we really should have used the underpass, but we were feeling too lazy to go up and down the stairs. We had decided to head to Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. Japan has a series of top threes, like the top three waterfalls, top three castles, etc. Iwakuni is hom to one of the top three bridges in Japan. We only had to wait about ten minutes for the train. I think it took about 30 minutes to reach Iwakuni. The seats on the train were heated and it felt heavenly. I happily dozed the journey away, I think I could have stayed on the train for another couple of hours napping. From Iwakuni Station, we took a bus, for about 20 minutes, to the famous bridge. This town is pretty small and there was a sleepy feel to the place as we drove to the bridge. The bus dropped us off opposite the bridge. First thing we did was to check the return bus times as they didn't come too frequently and we really didn't want to have to stand around in the cold for 50 minutes if we missed one.

Kintai-kyo Bridge was first built in 1673 and it spans the Nishi River. The bridge is a series of five arches that are made completely out of wood without the use of any nails. The bridge was pretty, but maybe not worth the extra travel for alone. The plans for the bridge were drawn up when the previous bridges were destroyed by floods. The original bridge lasted until 1950, when it was destroyed by a typhoon. There were some booths to pay to cross the bridge, I think it was 200 yen, but since we got there late, they were closed. We crossed the bridge, it was weird because of its arches, so we were walking up and down over them. The surrounding area looked pretty, there were quite a few mountains about. I think that it would be very beautiful to visit here in cherry blossom season.

We took a walk around Kikki Park, it was really quiet, barely another soul there. I think we only saw one young couple, who looked like they were on a date.The park was pretty, but all of the attractions were closed. I wish we'd had enough time to visit this place during the day, as I would have liked to have headed up Mount Yokoyama and see Irakuni Castle and the views from there. The sun was starting to set so we took some final photos of the bridge and headed back to the bus stop. We didn't have to wait long. We visited the Daiso store at the station. I was in my element as I love Daiso. I stocked up on all the essentials; Japanese curry, seaweed crisps and chocolate cornflake cake.

From Iwakuni, we took the train back to Hiroshima. I was surprised at the amount of westerners that I had seen around the station area. My friend looked it up online that there is a base there for the US military. That explained it. The train journey took about an hour, maybe a little less. We were feeling pretty tired and not too hungry, so we stopped by Lawsons to pick up some provisions for a picnic supper. We had a good feast in the hostel, which has a lovely kitchen and common room. We had ham and cheese, takoyaki, rice balls, and chocolate filled bread, which tasted better than it sounded.

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