Murasaki Imo is 1 of the best Japanese Soft Cream

Murasaki Imo is 1 of the best Japanese Soft Cream

No matter where you go in Japan, you will find it. In English, we call it simply as “soft serve ice cream,” the soft ice-cream served on a wafer-cone which we hurriedly enjoy before it trickles down our fingers 😊 Yes, that’s the one I am talking about! I am sure it is available and popular in many countries but what makes the ones in Japan so special? Well, it is the flavours and its association with a particular region of Japan.

Different flavours of soft cream

Murasaki Imo is 1 of the best Japanese Soft Cream
A shop front advertises the soft cream as “silky ice cream” – a variety of unique flavours | Photo by georgina_daniel

There are so many different flavours of the silky smooth soft cream in Japan. A lot of people would probably be familiar with the standard vanilla, chocolate or the green tea matcha flavours, but you would also find the unusual purple coloured ones, along with the fruity melon or the soy sauce flavoured ones! Yes, indeed – the soy sauce! These varieties, I am told, is related to a region which has their own speciality.

For example:

Kyoto –         Match green tea because of its association with Uji, producer of superior   quality matcha tea;

Furano –        Melon, a region famous for its fruits;

Kamakura –  Purple sweet potato

Tokyo –          Tofu & Amazake

Kyushu –       Yoghurt Ice

My mini-adventure with soft cream

The shop that sold interesting flavours of soft cream at the Omotesando St, Fushimi Inari

The varieties of these soft cream caught my attention when I visited Kyoto, Japan. My mini adventure with the “soft cream” took place on a very hot afternoon after visiting Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and climbing (and down) of those 4000 or so bright orange Torii gates. I was drawn to this one shop front that had yuba ice cream and various different coloured ones. It had a long line of visitors waiting to be served…so figured the “soft cream” must be good? Correct? Well, I decided to join the queue and try it anyways.

I could have a combination of two flavours or a single flavour. Two scoops. All for 400 Yen. I definitely did not want to try the green tea flavour (had already tried before on many occasions in Kyoto), so I opted to try something different and exotic, a combination of  yuba soft cream and the Murasaki Imo, the purple sweet potato.

Yuba soft cream

Yuba soft cream is derived from soya. Yuba is a soy milk skin that is created on the surface when the soy milk is boiled. The yuba soft cream is flavourful and tastes like thick soy milk. It was tasty.

What is Murasaki Imo?

The Murasaki Imo is purple sweet potato soft cream. It is mellow with a gentle sweet taste and creamy, but not overly creamy.  It is not overbearingly sweet like most Japanese desserts.

Murasaki Imo soft cream

This is the one I tried! Murasaki Imo topped with Yuba soft cream!
This is the one I tried! Murasaki Imo topped with Yuba soft cream! Absolutely delicious!

The Murasaki Imo or the purple sweet potato soft cream was mellow with a gentle sweet taste and creamy, but not overly creamy.  It was not overbearingly sweet like most Japanese desserts. It did not have the strong flavour of the orange yams or the yellow sweet potato and it certainly was not bland. It does take a little time to settle on your palate, especially when you are working through the silky smooth yuba and a tad stronger but mild silky smooth root vegetable.

My thoughts on the Murasaki Imo

The combination was interesting and was indeed refreshing. An exotic flavour and tasty soya combined with some sweet mild flavour with a hint of potato. Murasaki Imo is definitely one of the best soft cream I have tasted. I would highly recommend that you try this exquisite flavour when you visit Japan. You will not be disappointed.

Happy travels!

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murasaki imo

A detailed guide for first time travellers to Japan to discover soft cream associated with various regions via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A detailed guide for first time travellers to Japan to discover soft cream associated with various regions via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Kyoto Markets – Ultimate guide to the Best 2 not to be missed

Kyoto Markets – Ultimate guide to the Best 2 not to be missed

Kyoto Markets

Kyoto Markets are a nice addition to an itinerary of temples, shrines and gardens which should not be missed. There are, typically undated information on the best flea markets in Japan, so, here, I have just listed two which are Kyoto’s MUST GO! Must SEE! and A Must BUY! experience. These are Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple and Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

1 | Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple, Kyoto Markets

You will find one of the popular Kyoto Markets on 21st of each month. This popular one is called Kobo-san flea market which is at one of Kyoto’s most historic of temples, the To-ji Temple (East Temple). Toji Temple is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a five-storey pagoda, 57 metres high (187 feet), which was founded in 796 but due to lightning strike, was rebuilt in the Edo period by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1600).

Kobo-san, one of two Kyoto Markets
Kobo-san, one of two Unmissable Kyoto Markets

The market is called ‘Kobo-san’ to honour the Buddhist priest, Kukai, who brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan and founded the temple in 796. After his death on 21st March 835, he was honoured with “Kobo-Daishi” title.

1.1 | A bustling Kyoto Market from dawn to dusk

On this one-day each month, the Temple itself becomes a secondary stage. The grounds of the Temple, turns into an enormous and liveliest market area, bustling with tourists and locals in search of antiques and good bargains. There is an incredible variety here and you can find pretty much anything that you might be looking for. The market opens at sunrise and as the sun begins to set, you will note the stalls start to pack-up and prices fall to a dramatic low!

1.2 | Kimonos are a bargain at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto

There are over 1000 stalls where you can find beautiful vintage and cultural products such as second-hand kimonos, shoes, hats, hand-fans, ceramics, chopsticks, books and prints. I bought a few kimonos for 500 Yen each, not just for use but to use the fabric for other creative ideas such as handbags or purses. These kimonos are exquisite vintage fabric and can be used to create modern garments. Modern garments with an exquisite vintage fabric would be lovely, I think. Would you agree?

These kimonos were of top quality fabric and was well worth the money! There were some for even 300 Yen! Just keep looking and you will find the stall 😊.

This is also one of the very few markets where you can negotiate and bargain over the products.

Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market
Kyoto Markets: Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market
A bustling Kobo-san Market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food.
A bustling Kobo-san Market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food.
One of Kyoto Markets is Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple.
One of Kyoto Markets is Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple., a bustling market from dawn to dusk.
Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple.
Kyoto Markets: Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple.

1.3 | Street food at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets

The Kobo-san flea market is not just about bargain-hunting. It is also a great opportunity to experience the variety of Japanese street food on offer here, from yakitori (grilled meat on skewers), takoyaki or the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki

If you are feel like having something substantial, you could try the okonomiyaki. It is a Japanese-style savoury pancake, topped with layers of cabbage, meat, noodles and a choice of octopus or fish, with lots of okonomiyaki sauce (a combination of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, sugar or honey).

You can view the post on Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki on a previous blog I wrote:

Hiroshima’s Soul Food – Okonomiyaki and Oysters

Takoyaki

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. It is ball-shaped, made of wheat flour batter and cooked in special moulded pan.

These dough balls are filled with pieces of octopus, pickled ginger and onions but you can hardly taste the ginger or the onions. It is topped with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise, sprinkled with aonori or green laver (an edible green seaweed) and sometimes, shavings of dried bonito.

I must admit that takoyaki is not one of my favourite of Japanese food. People differ in taste, therefore I suggest that you try it at least once!

Takoyaki mould
The wheat batter is poured into one of these takoyaki mouls and then the octopus or fish is added into it.

1.4 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore. You can easily get lost here, amongst the huge crowd. The enormous market area is like a maze and on occasions navigating around the stalls and re-tracing your steps may be a little challenging. So, give yourself plenty of time to get lost here and experience the authentic market atmosphere.

Mornings are best for choices

Mornings are best if you want choices and are looking for specific items such as antiques or silk kimonos. If you are looking for a bargain, after 3 pm would be best as the sellers will reduce the prices to get rid of their stock. I visited the market at about 10:00 and it was already beginning to pick-up the crowd but was still pleasant. However, by midday, it was really crowded and queues were building up around the food stalls.

Tip: If you are looking for a bargain, try after 3 pm where sellers reduce their prices to at least half so they can reduce their stock.

1.5 | Getting to Kobo-san Market

Kobo-san Market is within the grounds of Toji Temple. Toji Temple is situated in Minami-ku, There are couple of ways to get here.

i) Kobo-san Market is easily accessible via the modern Kyoto Station, a 15-minute walk southwest through the Omiya and Kujo Street intersection. Be warned, this walk is not really that interesting as there is not much to see except busy streets amidst heavy traffic. 15-minutes is quite a long walk, if you think about it.

If you don’t fancy the walk, the nearest station, which I used, is the Toji Station.

Toji Station is on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. It takes about 5-minutes to reach Toji Temple/Kobo-san Market. You can see the pagoda from the street outside the Toji Station.

1.6 | Access

Entry to the market and the grounds are free but there is a small charge if you are planning on visiting the pagoda and the surrounding buildings.

1.7 | Conclusion on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Market

Despite the crowd, Kobo-san Market is a place for antiques, trinkets and good value kimonos. There are other selections of traditional garments and hand woven pieces of material which you can purchase too. In addition, there are a great selection of street food for you to taste. For an authentic Japanese traditional market, I would recommend that you visit the Kobo-san market.

My second of  the two Kyoto Markets which you should not miss is the Tenjin-san Market at the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine.

2. Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto Markets

The Tenjin-san market at the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine is held on 25th of each month. There are well over 1000 stalls, in and around the shrine. There are rare ornaments, silk kimonos and yukatas for a bargain, plants, pottery and antiques.

There is a huge selection of street food stalls for every taste-bud! The aroma of the yakisoba just draws you…which is mouth-wateringly delicious, cooked right in front of you.

The market is open from the break of dawn till late, 9 pm, but has early closing hours in the winter.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto_7
The Tenjin-san Market on 25th of each month.

2.1 | Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto

The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was built in 947 AD in honour of Sugawara no Michizane, who was unfairly exiled by the political rivals of his time. He was a scholar and a politician during 794 AD to 1185 AD which represents the middle Heian period.

Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane was incredibly talented. He read poems at the age of 5 and wrote Chinese poems at the age of 11. Shrines were built to appease him, and he became known as the “god of academics.” He led the popular “Tenjin faith” throughout Japan. The Kitano Tenmangu is the main shrine and the origin of the faith, and there are 12,000 shrines that are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane.

The Kitano Tenmangu shrine is popular amongst students during exam time and during school trips.

2.2 | Tenjin-San Market, Kyoto Markets

What makes this flea market unique and will be well-worth your visit is the mixture of stalls within the traditional shrine setting. The grounds are large and there are many buildings such as the main shrine which is situated behind the worship hall (this is where the deity is enshrined). The worship hall is connected by the Ishi-no-Ma-Hall which one can visit.

In addition, there are the Sanko-mon Gate and the Ro-mon Gate. So, when you get tired of the bustling crowd and need some space and quiet, you can just wander off to the calmness of the shrine and the gardens, or to enjoy your meal.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is home to beautiful buildings that has architecture going back centuries. It is decorated with hanging lanterns of various colours that just grabs your attention every now and again as you walk through the grounds.
Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping.
Kyoto Markets: Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students.
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students.
Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine - Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities.
Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities.
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine sits within a large beautifully landscaped gardens. It is peaceful, quiet – an area of total zen from the bustling crowds just a few hundred feet away.

2.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Getting to The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu shrine can be accessed directly by Kyoto City Bus numbers 50 and 101 from Kyoto Station. It is about 30 minutes ride and costs 230 Yen.

There is a quicker route – take the Karasuma Subway Line to Imadegawa Station and then take the bus number 102 or 203.

In either case, get off at the Kitano Tenmangumae bus-stop.

Admission is Free.

2.4 | My Conclusion on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Tenjin-san Market is a popular market visited by both tourists and local, especially by students as they pray for wisdom and academic success in observing the Tenjin faith.

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited here. The architectural design was exceptional and the many lanterns just caught my attention. In addition, I watched a show performed by the students of the Shinto faith who sang and danced depicting an ancient story. Unfortunately, I did not understand the story and photography was not allowed. I enjoyed it and it was Free.

If you are considering a visit to a market with a difference, then visit Tenjin-san market, where you will not only what the market offers but also architectural delight and a closer look at Shinto practices.

3 | Ways to experience the cultural city of Kyoto.

If you are looking for some ideas on places to visit, Get Your Guide has some excellent value for money tours. Please click on the link below and have a browse. These ideas can help you plan your next visit to Japan.

Take a look at suggestions in More than one way to Experience the Cultural City of Kyoto

Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Kyoto markets? If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Happy adventures!

January 2021, Update.


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Ultimate guide to the best two flea markets in Kyoto, Japan
Two Kyoto Markets not to be missed
An authentic experience of Kyoto Markets.

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Tofu paradise at a hidden gem in Kyoto

Tofu paradise at a hidden gem in Kyoto

Japanese cuisine and food culture offers an abundance of gastronomical delight with limitless choices in regional and seasonal dishes. Encompassing many traditions passed on from generation to generation and these traditions are also very regional. Developed through political, economic and social changes, the Japanese cuisine is historically much influenced by its neighbour, China. Popularly associated with rice and fish as being the staple dishes, tofu cuisine is also a staple of Japanese diet. Commonly found as little white cubes in miso soups, tofu is a generous ingredient in ‘nabe’, a kind of ‘hotpot’ which is a winter dish. Tofu is often substituted for meat or eaten in addition to meat and vegetables. It is a valuable source of plant based protein and an essential ingredient in the vegetarian cuisine of Buddhist temples, ‘shojin ryori’

Japanese tofu recipes combines simple preparations, exciting flavours and textures. Above all it is super versatile – a tofu paradise to say the least – prepared and eaten in more ways than one . In this article, I share one such experience and a little historical background to Tofu.

What is Tofu?

tofu
tofu

“Tofu” or bean curd is food made of soy milk. The soy milk is then pressed into solid white blocks. The ‘solid’ white blocks can be of varying softness – silken, soft, firm or extra firm. Originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the late 8th century, during the Nara period (710-794) by Zen Buddhist monks.

Tofu was historically a luxury food

Tofu was the luxury food of the Shoguns in the early Edo period (1603-1868), and farmers were only allowed to eat on special days. Today, you can enjoy an exquisite meal of tofu, from starter to main course and dessert in a traditional Japanese setting at Yodofu Sagano in Kyoto.

Yodofu Sagano | Arashiyama KYOTO

Tofu restaurant in Arashiyama: A simplistic entrance to Yudofu Sagano
Tofu restaurant in Arashiyama: A simplistic entrance to Yudofu Sagano, Arashiyama, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

Yodofu Sagano is tucked away in a quiet part of Arashiyama, within a breath-taking traditional Japanese style garden. The dining experience is one of its kind because you get treated to flute music, tatami mats and cooking at the table. It is a unique, relaxing dining experience, where food is leisurely served by servers in Kimonos.

Tofu “Paradise”

“Yudofu”- Tofu simmered in broth, in a clay pot at the table

The tofu “paradise” comes as a set meal, where the main course is “Yodofu.” Yodofu is tofu simmered in a light dashi broth, in a clay-pot right in front of you! There are several other small dishes, about nine of them in small bowls including deep fried tempura vegetables, rice and tsukemono pickles. Dessert and unlimited tea are also included.

Tofu hotpot
Tofu hotpot
Traveller photo submitted by cwl421 to TripAdvisor

A set meal is around 40,000 Yen which may seem pricey for a tofu-based vegetarian meal. You can get absolutely stuffed with dish after dish of tofu prepared in various ways! Moreover, it is the dining experience of having a good, clean meal in a tranquil, un-rushed setting which makes it a worthwhile experience.

How to find Yodofu Sagano

Yodofu Sagano is not an easy place to find because it is tucked away in a quaint part of Arashiyama and it what looks like a private estate. It is on the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple. You need to go around the corner, past the Shinto statues and you will find the gate to the main entrance.

Path to the tofu restaurant, Yodofu Sagano, lined with Shinto statues
Path to the tofu restaurant, Yodofu Sagano, lined with Shinto statues | Image: georgina_daniel
Just the tranquility of the zen garden within the grounds of the tofu restaurant, Yodofu Sagano.
Just the tranquility of the zen garden within the grounds of the tofu restaurant, Yodofu Sagano | Image: georgina_daniel.

If you take the address down (below) and have it on google maps, you will find it. Choose the traditional setting over the western one. An indoor experience will give you an authentic feel.

The warm interior of Yodofu Sagano
The warm interior of Yodofu Sagano | Image: georgina_daniel

The inner garden is absolutely beautiful, with moss covered grounds, bamboos and trees that provide ample shade. So make time to stroll and enjoy the tranquillity of the garden.

Moss covered grounds at Sodofu was added appeal
Moss covered grounds at Yodofu was an added appeal
The zen garden surrounding Yudofu Sagano
The garden surrounding Yudofu Sagano

Finally…

I think you know what my final say is going to be…have this restaurant on your list when you visit Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Have this address on google map so you can find Yodofu Sagano

Yudofu Sagano | 45 Sagatenryuji

Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku,

Kyoto 616-8385, Kyoto Prefecture.

Tel: +81 758716946

Website: http://www.kyoto-sagano.jp/


Is this post valuable to you for when planning your trip to Kyoto? Do let me know in comments below or via Contact Form. I would love to hear from you.

Happy discovering Kyoto!

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A simple guide to discovering the delights of Tofu at one of the best hidden gems in Arashiyama, Kyoto via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A simple guide to discovering the delights of Tofu at one of the best hidden gems in Arashiyama, Kyoto via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Hiroshima’s Soul Food – Okonomiyaki and Oysters

Hiroshima’s Soul Food – Okonomiyaki and Oysters

With an absolute craze for trying local food, my first dinner in the City of Hiroshima was to try Hiroshima’s soul foodokonomiyaki and oysters which Hiroshima is famous for. Here’s a quick guide to this famous mouth-watering dish and where you can experience an authentic okonomiyaki and oysters.

Okonomiyaki – Hiroshima’s Soul Food

Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese savoury pancake filled with a variety of ingredients such as cabbage, noodles, thinly sliced meat (usually pork) and eggs. You can add optional ingredients such as oysters, scallops, squids, shrimps or cheese. Topped generously with okonomiyaki sauce. Toppings and batter vary according to region, such as in Kansai region. Okonomiyaki is thought to have originated in Osaka, Kansai region.

In Hiroshima, the okonomiyaki is made with layered ingredients instead of mixed – batter, cabbage, beansprouts, pork, followed by optional ingredients of seafood such as oysters, egg and a generous topping of okonomiyaki sauce.

Best place for Hiroshima’s soul food

The best place to try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is at any-one of the restaurants on the 2nd floor of the Hiroshima Station ASSE restaurant building.

okonomiyaki, Hiroshima's soul food
The best place to try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is at any-one of the restaurants on the 2nd floor of the Hiroshima Station ASSE restaurant building | Image: georgina_daniel

This place is popular amongst the locals just as much as it is with tourists. It is packed with small, authentic okonomiyaki restaurants where there is at least one staff who speaks English. They are very welcoming, and they have menu in English as well. So, go with your instincts, choose a restaurant that looks good, grab a seat around the teppanyaki griddle and place your order. The chef creates the okonomiyaki in front of you, on the teppanyaki griddle.

Hiroshima's soul food - okonomiyaki cooked right in front of you
Grab a seat at the ‘table’ and watch how the mouth-watering and delightful Hiroshima’s Soul Food is prepared right in front of you.
Hiroshima soul food -  okonomiyaki

Hiroshima Station Building ASSE,

Minami, Hiroshima 732-0822

Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan

Opening hours: 11:00 – 23:00


Have you tried Hiroshima’s soul food? If so, do share your experience in comments below. If you are yet to, then I wish that this post is valuable to you in experiencing one of Hiroshima’s popular local dish.

Happy adventures!

March 2021, Update

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Find out the hidden gem in Hiroshima where you can experience the mouth-watering and delightfully layered okonomiyaki, popularly known as Hiroshima's Soul Food. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/Find out the hidden gem in Hiroshima where you can experience the mouth-watering and delightfully layered okonomiyaki, popularly known as Hiroshima's Soul Food. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

5 Etiquette to observe at a Shinto shrine in Japan

5 Etiquette to observe at a Shinto shrine in Japan

Travel to Japan and you are certain to come across torii gates in bright orange. Some of these torii gates are in water, sometimes singular as an entrance or there may be thousands lined-up a hill. It signifies the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The Fushimi Inari is one of the most popular shrines and touristic destinations in Kyoto. – it has ten thousand bright orange torii gates lined up a mountain! In addtion, there are many Buddhist temples in Japan. Popular ones being in Nara, Uji and Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan. Together, there are about 160,000 shrines and temples dotted around this beautiful country. You are certain to visit one of these places with a torii gate or a sanmon at a Buddhist temple.

When visiting a Shinto shrine, you may wish to observe the etiquette that goes with the culture in Japan. The 5 etiquette to observe at a Shinto shrine in this article is designed as a guide for when you visit Japan.

Differences between a Shrine, a Temple and Shintoism in Japan – A quick overview

Initially, I found it hard to distinguish between shrines and temples as the etiquette are similar. Nevertheless, there is a slight difference in the etiquette and the rituals you need to observe. As always, it is a matter of choice for visitors to either observe these rituals or not to. You may wish to observe the etiquette, either because you simply want to or out of respect for the Japanese culture. Whatever your reasons may be, it is good to know what to do when you are at a shrine or a temple. However, this post is aimed at etiquette and rituals that relates to a Shinto shrine only.

The next paragraph gives a brief overview on the differences between a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple.

Shrine v. Temple

Briefly, shrines are associated with Shintoism and temples with Buddhism. The word for a shrine is ‘jinja’ or ‘jingu’ and for a temple is ‘o-tera’. A shrine is marked by a torii gate, mostly in bright orange, dividing the sacred ground from the outside world whereas a temple is marked by a house-like structure called a sanmon. More often than not, you will find Buddhist statutes and images in a temple but none like that in a shrine. What this means is that a shrine is a place where gods reside, and a temple is a place where Buddhas reside.

The torii gates at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, Japan
The Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha line-up the hill, Kyoto. © georgina.daniel, timelesstravelsteps
Kiyomizudera.Kyoto.
A sanmon and a pagoda resembles Buddhism | Kiyomizudera, Kyoto by Pexels
Kiyomizu Dera Temple:, Kyoto: Koyasu Pagoda - The place couples or women go to so they are blessed with easy and safe childbirth.
Kiyomizu Dera Temple:, Kyoto: Koyasu Pagoda – The place couples or women go to so they are blessed with easy and safe childbirth.

Shintoism in Japan – A simple overview

The word “Shinto” literally means the way of kami (kami = gods). Unlike other religion, the Shinto faith has no origin, meaning it has no founder or prophets. There is no coded text that outlines Shinto’s principles. With Shintoism, there is no head shrine but there are a collection of shrines honouring local deities.

Thus, the key concepts of Shintoism is based on purity, harmony, family respect and subordination of the individual before a group. Given the lack of definition, hence the resulting flexibility in its concepts may, perhaps be one reason for its longevity. It is said that the Shinto faith is so deeply rooted in Japanese history that it is the indigenous religion of Japan. It cannot therefore, be separated from Japan or the Japanese people as an independent body of thinking. The Shinto faith is of the Japanese character whether the individual claims a religious affiliation or not.

Shintoism went through some changes during the Meiji period. It was somewhat consolidated and became the state religion with the emperor as its head. Legend has it that the emperors of Japan are direct descendants of their first Emperor Jimmu Tenno, the great-grandson of Amaterasu-Omikami, who was present at the founding of Japan. All this means is that the Emperor rules Japan, as it should be because the gods want it that way! Shinto believers’ belief that the gods and spirits (kami) exists in the same world as us, so, they are all around, interacting and existing in places and objects, thus the freedom of their religion.

Tradition rather than belief

Japan is a nation of traditionalists, so praying at the temples or shrines is a matter of fulfilling a tradition rather than belief in the religion. During my stay in Japan for almost 6 months, I visited both shrines and temples and I was drawn to Shintoism. So, in this article, as mentioned, I note the etiquette at a Shinto shrine. If you follow these steps, I am sure that you will be fine.


If you are interested in finding out more on Shintoism in Japan, I have selected a few books that provides a good degree of information. You can find them here


Etiquette at a Shinto Shrine

Etiquette 1 – Bow and walk on either side

As mentioned earlier, the entrance to a Shinto shrine is marked by a torii gate, keeping the outside world from the holy ground of the gods.

When you are at the torii gate, you must first bow before entering the grounds and proceed to walk either on the left or the right. One should not walk in the middle as this is where the gods walk. Many tourists or visitors (me included!) who are unfamiliar with this etiquette do not observe this.

This is the 12 meter (40-foot) high Torii gate which marks the entrance to the Meiji Shinto Shrine. There are clear designated footpaths on the left and the right for visitors .
This is the 12 meter (40-foot) high Torii gate which marks the entrance to the Meiji Shinto Shrine, Tokyo. There are clear designated footpaths on the left and the right for visitors . Photo by Georgina_Daniel © timelesstravelsteps

When you are inside the grounds, make your way to the Shinto shrine but before you come before the gods, you need to observe the 2nd etiquette at the chozuya.

Etiquette 2 – Purify yourself with 3-step ritual at the chozuya

Just before the entrance to the Shinto shrine, you will come across a chozuya. A chozuya is a small pavilion with ladles, usually made of bamboo, which lies on a central rest. This is where you purify yourself before approaching the main shrine to pray to the gods.

Chozuya | Etiquette at a Shinto shrine
Ladles made of bamboo at a Chozuya, purification station before a Shinto shrine.
Purification station.Chozuya | Etiquette at a Shinto Shrine
A small purification station before a Shinto shrine

The etiquette at the Chozuya can be summarised into the following 3-step rituals:

i)    Using your right hand, scoop a ladle of water and pour over your left hand;

ii)   Do the same but this time over the right hand;

iii) Finally, you need to clean your mouth. To do this, using the ladle, pour some water into a cupped hand, swill it in your mouth and spit it out onto the ground.

Don’t wash your mouth directly from the ladle.

Etiquette at a Shinto shrine: Cleansing station at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Etiquette at a Shinto shrine: Cleansing station at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo | Photo by Georgina_Daniel © timelesstravelsteps

When you have completed these 3-step rituals, make your way to the shrine to observe the next etiquette – to pay your respects to the gods. Here, observe the following  7-step rituals:

Etiquette 3 – Pay your Respects with this 7-step ritual at the shrine

i)    When you reach the shrine, bow slightly;

ii)  Toss a coin into the box in front of you, the offertory box. The amount does not matter;

iii)   Ring the bell (if one is available), at least two or three times to let the gods know that you are there to pray;

Etiquette at a Shinto shrine
At the Shinto shrine, observe the etiquette to ring the bell to let the gods know you are there to pay your respects. Photo © timelesstravelsteps

Once you have rung the bell and let the gods know you are there, follow the following four simple steps.

iv)  Bow deeply (at a 90-degree angle) twice;

v)   Clap twice;

vi)  Thank the gods, pay your respects;

vii) Bow deeply, once.

After paying your respects to the gods, you may want to do Ema.

Etiquette 4 – Write your wishes on Ema

Once you have paid your respects, you may want to write your wishes on a Ema. Ema, literally means horse picture. It is a small wooden plaque, which you buy to write your wishes and to hang them to be received by the gods. You can buy Ema of various sizes.

It has been said that the kami travelled by horse and the more affluent members of society, at one time, gifted an animal to the shrine to offer them as means of transport and to pray for their coming. However, over time, the customs evolved into offering a picture of a horse instead.

After paying respects at a Shinto shrine, follow the etiquette on Ema - you buy these wooden plaque to write your wishes and hang them to be received by the gods.
After paying respects at a Shinto shrine, follow the etiquette on Ema – you buy these wooden plaque to write your wishes and hang them to be received by the gods. Picture by Georgina_Daniel © timelesstravelsteps

Ema, is a rather popular activity among older teens who are keen to wish for their education success or career prospects, couples who wish for long-term happiness and older generation who wish for good health.

After Ema, you may want to find out about what fortunes are ahead.

Etiquette 5 – Omikuji (100 Yen fortunes)

You can purchase a slip of paper for 100 yen with fortunes (or misfortunes) written on them which awaits you in all aspects of your life from career, love, health, friendship and education. These are called ‘omikuji’. You can either keep them or tie them to a rope or branches of a tree near the shrines.

Heian Shrine, Kyoto
Heian shrine, Kyoto: Omikuji – 100 Yen fortunes or misfortunes written on paper can be tied to branches of trees near the shrine. Photo by Georgina_Daniel © timelesstravelsteps

Learn more about the Top 5 in Kyoto which you would’t want to miss!


Selected books on Shintoism

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Click image above to download on Kindle £2.49

Finally…

With over 160,000 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples dotted all over Japan, I am sure that you will visit one when you are there. I learnt more of the Japanese culture and the differences between the two religions as I continued to visit as many shrines and temples as I could during my stay in Japan. For the Japanese, observing the etiquette at the Shinto shrines or the Buddhist temples was more of a habit than being religious. So, there are no strict rules to observe these etiquette and you do not have to if you do not want to.

I found observing these etiquette were fun and interesting. It broke the habit of just taking photographs! You should try them when you next visit a Shinto shrine and return here to share your experiences.


Is this post valuable to you in planning your visit to a Shinto shrine in Japan? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you. Scroll all the way down for more ideas and inspiring travel stories. Subscribe to join us at Timeless Travel Steps to receive all the latest news and events. As always,

Have an awesome time discovering Japan!

February 2021, Update


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Amsterdam graphic | Etiquette at a Shinto shrine
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Etiquette at a Shinto shrine
Etiquette at a Shinto shrine
Etiquette at a Shinto shrine

One glass of water doesn’t equal another. One may just appease the thirst, the other you may enjoy thoroughly. In Japan, people know about this difference. – Jil Sander

I look forward to connecting with each of you


5 Etiquetter to observe when visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan. A step-by-step easy to follow guide for complete beginners. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/5 Etiquetter to observe when visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan. A step-by-step easy to follow guide for complete beginners. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

The Best Ways to Get to Hiroshima City

The Best Ways to Get to Hiroshima City

The Best Ways to Get to Hiroshima City by public transport will depend on where you are travelling from in the country. Hiroshima City  is a modern city and a popular tourist attraction. It is easily accessible by trains, the Shinkansen and by bus as well as by air. Here, you will find an easy guide when travelling from the major cities on Honshu Island – Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

Best Ways to Get to Hiroshima City from:

Osaka

1 | Shinkansen – Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station

                       Mizuho or Nozomi (not covered by Japan Rail Pass)

                       9,710 Yen

                       Journey Time – 1hr 25 minutes

                       With Japan Rail Pass

                        Sakura – 1 hour 32 minutes

                        Hikari – 2 hours 13 minutes


2 | Bus Transportation – Daytime and Overnight service

                          All buses depart from Osaka Station’s JR Express Bus Terminal

                          Daytime journey is about 5 hours

                          Overnight journey: 2 services:

i | Depart at 23:00 arriving Hiroshima at 06:21

ii | Depart at 23:30 arriving Hiroshima at 05:55

For up-to-date information and fares and to make bookings directly at Japan Expressway Bus Net go to their official website here.


Kyoto

1 | Shinkansen – Shin-Kyoto to Hiroshima

                         JR Tokaido and Sanyo lines (Not covered by Japan Railway Pass)

                        (Tokaido and Sanyo are regular, quicker and direct service)

                        Nozomi trains

                        For unreserved seats, fare is 10,570 Yen

                        Reserved seats, fare is 11,500 Yen

                        Journey time is 1 hour 35 minutes

                        With Japan Rail Pass

                   Hikari and Kodama trains but you need to transfer onto a Sakura train at                              Shin-   Osaka or Shin-Kobe, adding 10 to 15 minutes to your journey.

                    Unreserved seats: 10,570 Yen

                    Reserved seats: 11,000 Yen

                    Journey time is 2 hours

2 | Bus transportation – Kyoto to Hiroshima: Daytime and Overnight Service

                                    Provided by JR Bus and Willer Express

                                    Daytime journey is 6 hours 20 minutes

                                    Overnight journey is 8 hours 40 minutes (6,100 Yen)

For up-to-date information and fares plus to make bookings directly at Japan Expressway Bus Net go to their official website here.


Tokyo

1 | Shinkansen – Tokyo to Hiroshima

                       JR Tokaido and Sanyo lines (Not covered by Japan Rail Pass)

                       Nozomi

                       4 hours

                       19,000 Yen for a reserved seat

                      With Japan Railway Pass

                      Hikari and Sakura Lines

                      5 hours with transfer at Shin-Osaka station

                      Unreserved seats: 18,040 Yen

                      Reserved seats: 18,500 Yen

2 | Bus Transportation: Tokyo to Hiroshima-Overnight service

                                Journey time is 12 hours and fares are usually 11,900 Yen

                             Discounted fares are available on Willer Express and Japan Bus. You can make online bookings directly.

3 | By Air: Tokyo to Hiroshima

i | There are several flights a day between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Hiroshima by JAL and ANA

ii | Flight duration is 90 minutes

iii | One way fare is 35,000 Yen


4 | Hiroshima Airport to Hiroshima City Centre

Hiroshima Airport is 50 minutes away from City Centre

Bus fare from Hiroshima Airport City Bus Terminal is 1,340 Yen


Japan Rail Pass

Shinkansen and Mt Fuji

Japan Rail Pass is an excellent value for money provided your stay in Japan is for 7, 14 or 21 days. I would personally recommend it for the following benefits:

  • The JR Pass offers unlimited travel around Japan on all JR Trains and bullet trains (except the Mizuho and Nozomi) for the duration of the ticket you choose to purchase.
  • You have the flexibility to choose either standard class or first class nearer to or the day of your travel;
  • The JR Pass gives you full access (with some exceptions – it does not cover express service) to public transport networks throughout the four main northern islands of Japan – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. However, the Pass does not cover Okinawa
  • The JR Pass covers Tokyo Monorail journey between Haneda Airport and Tokyo;
  • The JR Pass covers JR-West ferry service between Miyajima and Miyajimaguchi (near Hiroshima)

Was this post valuable to you to aid your travel plans to Hiroshima? If so, do let me know in comments below or via the Contact Form. I look forward to connecting with you.

Happy travels,

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BEST WAYS TO GET TO HIROSHIMA
HOW TO GET TO HIROSHIMA

An easy guide on transportation to Hiroshima from major cities in Japan - by air, rail and road. Includes external links and benefits of a Japan Rail Pass via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/An easy guide on transportation to Hiroshima from major cities in Japan - by air, rail and road. Includes external links and benefits of a Japan Rail Pass via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Ultimate 2-Day Itinerary on The Best Of Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Ultimate 2-Day Itinerary on The Best Of Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Ultimate 2-Day itinerary on the best of Hiroshima and Miyajima Island is designed to give you a comprehensive guide to maximising your experiences to the historic city of Hiroshima. Although there are more than one way to experience the city and the island, this guide is more of a DIY itinerary for mature adventurers to explore the main landmarks at their own pace, combining it with cultural activities to suit for a memorable visit that will last a lifetime.

A visit to Hiroshima inevitably includes a trip to the spiritual island of Miyajima. Here is a little background to Hiroshima and the Island as well.

About Hiroshima City on a 2-day itinerary

Hiroshima is a vibrant modern city, having risen from its ashes of the past. It is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, located in the southwest of Japan’s Honshu Island. The City’s natural beauty can be seen in its impressive Chugoku Mountains to the north and the clear waters of the Seto Inland Sea in the south. GPS for Hiroshima is as follows:

Latitude: 34° 23′ 60.00″ N
Longitude: 132° 26′ 60.00″ E

Hiroshima is a tourist destination

You can Hiroshima like a Local in a city where, every year, thousands of tourists make their way to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Memorial Park stands as a grim reminder of war and a focus for prayers for world peace. Whilst this should be a “must do” itinerary for any visitor, a carefully planned itinerary will allow you to experience not just the historic sites but also the City’s culture, food and nightlife.

About Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island is a short ferry ride from Hiroshima and is easily accessible (see below on accessibility). The island is regarded sacred where the locals regard the people and the gods live together. Home to the popular floating Torii gate and the infamous Mount Misen which is associated with a legend of miracle. According to the legend, a fire lit by a Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi. have been burning for almost 1200 years.

Home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Hiroshima. One is the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the other is the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island. The Atomic Bomb Dome is an iconic structure as it was only a few meters away from the atomic bomb blast. It is symbolic as the beacon for world peace and an end to nuclear weapons.

The Ultimate 2-day itinerary on the best of Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

I spent 2 days at Hiroshima and wished that I had spent more. This beautiful city has so much to offer every visitor right from food, sake and sights. If you have the time, try and spend 3 to 4 days. I assure you, you will have plenty to do! My ultimate 2-day itinerary to the best of Hiroshima and Miyajima Island is listed below. I had so little time and so much to see and do! Come along with me and see what I got up to.

Day 1 of 2-day itinerary on Hiroshima & Miyajima Island/Itsukushima

Start your day as early as you can on Day 1. Make your way to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. There are more than one way to get to Hiroshima City.

Read next >>More than one way to get to Hiroshima City.

1 | The Atomic Bomb Dome

Hiroshima City: Atomic Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hiroshima City: Atomic Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site | Image: georgina_daniel

The first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 on the morning of August 6th 1945. The building shows the ferocity of the explosion. The skeletal remains of what used to be the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall stands as a grim reminder of that fateful day. There is a sense of sadness here but the City of Hiroshima has come a long way away from the destruction. Today, the Dome stands as a symbol of Hiroshima and as a focus for world peace.

2 | Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims

Hiroshima City: Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace.
Hiroshima City: Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace | Image: georgina_daniel

The large concrete in the shape of a saddle holds 290,000 names of all those who lost their lives when the bomb fell on Hiroshima. New names are added each year as they are discovered.

3 | Flame of Peace in Hiroshima City

The pedestal that houses the Flame of Peace is designed in the image of two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.The Flame was lit on 1st August 1964, for a world without nuclear weapons, and will continue to burn until all nuclear weapons are abolished worldwide.

4 | Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima City

Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima
Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima | Image: georgina_daniel

The Children’s Peace Monument was constructed in memory of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to the radiation of the bomb at the age of 2. She died of leukaemia about ten years later.

5 | Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: The Museum was built in the pursuit of world peace
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: The Museum was built in the pursuit of world peace | Image: georgina_daniel

The Museum was built in pursuit of world peace and a world without nuclear weapons. It was opened in 1955 and conveys the realities of the atomic bomb. The exhibits here will truly touch your soul to say the least – clothing, watches, pictures – all tell the stories of the sufferings of ordinary human lives.

6 | Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall

Hiroshima City: Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall-note the roof designed in the shape of 8:15
Hiroshima City: Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall-note the roof designed in the shape of 8:15 | Image: georgina_daniel

. It is a building dedicated to mourning, the victims of the atomic bomb and to focus on prayers for world peace. It’s structure is designed to reflect 8:15 a.m., the time when the atomic bomb was dropped.

7 | Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima City

Hiroshima City: View of the Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome from the Memorial Park
Hiroshima City: View of the Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome from the Memorial Park | Image: georgina_daniel

The Aioi Bridge was a unique structure in the shape of T and became the target point for the atomic bomb in 1945. The current bridge was built in 1983 and the old pillars bearing the marks of the bombing still preserved at the foot of the bridge.

8 | Explore the City of Hiroshima

Hiroshima Hondori in Hiroshima City
Hiroshima Hondori in Hiroshima City | Image: georgina_daniel

Walk along the City’s shops to get a feel of the town and its people. Hiroshima Hondori is a covered area with all sorts of shops, fashion, restaurants and souvenir shops.

9 | Food and drink experiences in Hiroshima City

Okonomiyaki and oysters in Hiroshima
Okonomiyaki and oysters in Hiroshima | Image: georgina_daniel

There is no better way to get to know a culture than through its food. Hiroshima is popular for its Sake and Okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is regarded as Hiroshima’s Soul Food and it is really something that you ought to try. Its soft pancake is filled with a choice of seafood or meat and its cooked right in front of you. For a soulful experience of Hiroshima food culture, you could do a Foodie Tour and/or a Bar Hopping Food tour. Both experiences gives you a flavour of Hiroshima’s food and drink culture.

Read >> Hiroshima Soul Food

Getting to Miyajima Island from Hiroshima

Getting to Miyajima Island from Hiroshima could not be easier. There are two ways to get to Miyajima Island from Hiroshima via ferry rides.

Firstly, there is a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. The journey takes ten-minutes from Miyajimaguchi Pier (see below for information on How to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima). Secondly, there is also the longer route which takes about forty-five-minutes – World Heritage Sea Route by Aqua Net ferry. The World Heritage Sea Route takes off from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima.

Day 2 of 2-day itinerary on Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

Arriving in Miyajima via either of the options above and you will be met with well posted signage to various attractions on the island. All attractions are within walking distance except the mountains. You can opt for a private tour of the island by rickshaw if you prefer. You can discover more on the history of the island and Hiroshima as these two are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The following are my recommended unmissable experiences.

1 | The Itsukushima Shrine and the floating torii gate at Miyajima Island

Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island, Hiroshima
Miyajima Island: Itsukushima Shrine at low tide.

The Itsukushima Shrine is an iconic shrine and is regarded as one of the “Three Views of Japan” along with Matsushimo Island and Amanohashidate, chosen by a 15th century scholar, Nihon Sankei. It is the only shrine in the world that is built on water and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Miyajima Island: Visitors walk-up to the giant torii gate to have an up-close and personal look at this amazing structure.
Miyajima Island: Visitors walk-up to the giant torii gate to have an up-close and personal look at this amazing structure | Image; georgina_daniel
Floating torii gate at Miyajiam Island
Floating torii gate at Miyajiam Island, Hiroshima

The floating torii gate is one to be seen to be believed. An amazing craftmanship of six pillars which are not buried in the seabed. It is 16 meters tall and weighs 60 tons. The thickness of the giant legs is astounding as is the remarkable craftmanship and engineering involved to ensure the structure stays balanced in water. The two huge legs or pillars is made from 600-year-old Camphor trees. The pillars are weighted down by their own weight and tons of stones inscribed with Buddhist sutras are inserted into the loop of the cross beams that form the roof of the gate.

3 | Mount Misen in Miyajima Island

Islands dotted on Seto Inland Sea-one of the many views during my hike up Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
Islands dotted on Seto Inland Sea-one of the many views during my hike up Mount Misen, Miyajima Island

Mount Misen sits in the centre of Miyajima Island at 535m above sea level and is the highest peak in Miyajima. Mount Misen is a Must visit destination when you are in Miyajima. The mountains have a powerful effect on people and is a popular hotspot of spiritual energy. It offers amazing scenery which makes it a place hard to forget. I can assure you, you will speak of your experiences here for many times with friends and family.

4 | Reikado Hall in Mount Misen, Miyajima Island

Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: The kettle above the fire that has been burning for 1200 years. Water from this kettle is said to cure illnesses.
Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: The kettle above the fire that has been burning for 1200 years. Water from this kettle is said to cure illnesses.

About 1200 years ago, the fire in the Reikado Hall was lit by Kobo Daishi, a Buddhist monk as part of his religious training. It has been burning ever since. Nothing short of a miracle, one would say! This legend of miracle goes further – a pot of water is placed above the fire and legend has it that if you drink the boiled water, you will be cured of your illnesses. The very same fire that has been burning for 1200 years was used to light the flame at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

5 | Misen Hondo Hall

Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: Misen Hondo (Misen Main Temple), a training site used by Kobo Daishi.
Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: Misen Hondo (Misen Main Temple), a training site used by Kobo Daishi | Image: georgina_daniel

This is a holy hall built on the former training site used by Kobo Daishi. You will find this on Mount Misen, near to Reikado Hall.

6 | Main Street in Miyajima Island and foodie experience

Covered walkways in the Omotesando, Miyajima Island
Covered walkways in the Omotesando, Miyajima Island, home to many bars, restaurants, street food stalls and souvenir shops.

The main street in Miyajima Island is a market street like many others in Japan. It is 350-meter long and is dedicated to restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. It is the busiest place in the Island.

The main street offers so many choices for you – try the island’s specialities:

i | Momiji Manju

Maple-shaped Momiji-manju cakes which is a speciality to this island
Maple-shaped Momiji-manju cakes which is a speciality to Miyajima Island

The Momiji-manju are cakes shaped like maple leaf and is filled with red sweet bean (anko). There are also other varieties such as custard fillings. These Momiji-manju are found all over the island and in the shops along the main street. These cakes are made fresh and you could try them while they are warm and delicious.

ii | Yaki gaki

Yaki-gaki-grilled oysters. Open-air street food which you will find at every corner of high street in this Island.
Yaki-gaki-grilled oysters. Open-air street food which you will find at every corner of high street in this Island.

Yaki-gaki is a signature dish of Miyajima Island. You can feel the smoky air of the grilled oysters as you walk along the main street. The oysters are grilled to perfection within minutes for you. Yaki gaki is a staple dish for the local fisherman and popular amongst tourists.

7 | Five stories Pagoda – Gojunoto

Gojunoto, 5 stories pagoda on Miyajima Island
Incredible architecture of Gojunoto. five-storied pagoda in Miyajima Island, Hiroshima | Image: georgina_daniel

Renowned for its incredible architecture, this five storied pagoda is remarkable from every angle. Originally constructed in 1407, it was restored in 1533. The pagoda reflects Japanese style with Chinese influence.

8 | Sunset over Itsukushima shrine

itsukushima.shrine.2miyajima
Sunset over the floating torii, Itsukushima shire, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima
Sunset at Miyajima Island.
Sunset at Miyajima Island. Find a spot where you can watch the sunset with the torii gate in view.

No matter how busy a schedule you have, i strongly recommend setting aside some time to watch the sunset and just enjoy the island before the last ferry leaves the island.

Practical information for ultimate 2-day itinerary on the best of Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

1 | Getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima

There are 2 options to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima.

1 | Aqua Net ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima-World Heritage Sea Route (45 minutes)

2 | Railway Route: Miyajima Pier to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Atomic Bomb Dome) or vice versa

Conclusion

The experiences listed above are my recommendations for an Ultimate 2-Day itinerary on the best of Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. You can fit in more activities or less to suit your schedule and to maximise your experiences to the historic city of Hiroshima. As I mentioned in the introduction, there are more than one way to experience the city and the island, and this guide is more of a DIY itinerary for mature adventurers to explore the main landmarks at their own pace, combining it with cultural activities to suit for a memorable visit that will last a lifetime.

When planning your trip, here is a simple guide to When is the best time to visit Japan

As travellers, our wellbeing is important. With this in mind and to maximise your travel experience, take a look at the 6-steps to planning and booking your trip for a stress free vacation.

Now it’s your turn 🙂 Was this post valuable to you as an aid towards planning your trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island? If so, let me know in comments below or via the Contact Form – I would love to hear from you. Contact me also if I could help you with your itinerary for Hiroshima or Japan generally.


Have a splendid time exploring, discovering and experiencing this historic city and magical island.

February 2021, Update

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hiroshima + miyajima
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Miyajima Island – 10 Ultimate Experiences not to be missed

Miyajima Island – 10 Ultimate Experiences not to be missed

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island is regarded sacred. From ancient times, every tree, rock and sand in the island was worshipped as god. It is an island often regarded by the locals as where the people and the gods live together.  It is home to the only floating Torii gate in the world, and the infamous Mount Misen. Mount Misen is associated with a legend of miracle – that a fire lit by a Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi. have been burning for almost 1200 years.

The ferry ride along Hiroshima Bay to Miyajima Island.
The ferry ride along Hiroshima Bay to Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

The Island is a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. The journey takes ten-minutes from Miyajimaguchi Pier (see below for information on How to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima). However, I took the forty-five-minute World Heritage Sea Route by Aqua Net ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima. I preferred this route as I wanted to experience the ride overlooking Hiroshima Bay.

Georgina: I visited Miyajima Island over two occassions. The first evening after exploring Hiroshima City and then the following day to explore Mount Misen. In this guide, I have combined the experiences into one for ease of planning. The ten experiences listed here is certainly doable in a day.

From a distance I could see the iconic bright orange Torii gate in the blue waters of the sea against the backdrop of green mountains-it is almost a mythical beauty and quite simply divine!

Approaching Miyajima Island, Hiroshima:
Approaching Miyajima Island, Hiroshima: The iconic bright orange Torii gate in the blue waters of the sea against the backdrop of green mountains-it is almost a mythical beauty | Image: georgina_daniel

Exiting the pier and out of the station, you will find signage to the Itsukushima Shrine and surrounding areas. You can easily walk to everywhere here.

There is much you can do but I list the 10 experiences on my visit which I highly recommend that you do for an unforgettable memory of this island.

Read >> Ultimate 1 day guide to the Best of Hiroshima City Travel

10 Ultimate experiences in Miyajima Island

1 | The Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima Island, Hiroshima

The Itsukushima Shrine is an iconic shrine and is regarded as one of the “Three Views of Japan” along with Matsushimo Island and Amanohashidate. The “Three Views of Japan” were chosen by a 15th century scholar, Nihon Sankei. It is the only shrine in the world that is built on water and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Miyajima Island: Itsukushima Shrine at low tide.
Miyajima Island: Itsukushima Shrine at low tide | Image: georgina_daniel

1.1 | A little history on Itsukushima shrine

The Itsukushima Shrine was originally built in 593, by Saeki no Kuramoto, but the unique shrine that we see today, the one on water, was erected by Taira no Kiyomon, the first samurai who became the Daijo-Daijin, (the head of the imperial government), from the late Heian period. It is said that in 1571, the Main Hall of the Shrine was renovated, and the Torii gate was reconstructed by the Mori clan in 1875.

People from all over Japan come to the Itsukushima Shrine to pray for safety of the Seto Inland Sea because of its importance to the local economy. This is a practice that had existed since the late Heian period when Taira no Kiyomori came to worship at the Shrine and pay homage. It was and still is especially popular amongst fisherman and tradesmen who sail the Seto Inland Sea.

The Main Shrine is connected by beautiful, well-crafted architecture of corridors to the Marodo Shrine, Tenjin Shrine and the Noh Theatre Stage. It is worth taking your time to observe and admire the incredible architecture of this Shrine. The high stage in front of the Main Shrine is considered as one of Japan’s “Three Big Stages” along with the “Stone Stage” at Shitenno-ji Temple and Sumiyoshi “Grand Shrine” in Osaka.

1.2 | What does “Itsukushima” mean

The name “Itsukushima” means “island of worship”. From ancient times, every tree, rock and sand in the island was worshipped as god. It is an island often regarded by the locals as where the people and the gods live together. It is home to one of the two of Hiroshima’s World Heritage Site, the Itsukushima Shrine since 1996.

2 | The Floating Torii Gate at Miyajima Island

2.1 | The first sight of the floating Torii gate at Miyajima Island

The first sight of the the floating torii gate is a magnificent view with the backdrop of the mountains. The iconic image of the huge vermilion gate, at high tide, partly in water, somewhat floating, full of elegance and style, where the tide sweeps beneath it and retreats in the distance.

This Torii gate is situated about 200 meters offshore from the Main Shrine. Seeing it from the distance, somewhat feels that the floating Shrine is perfectly balanced with its surrounding nature. There is something soothing about the waters that surrounds it.

The floating torii gate at high tide seems so fitting in the surroundings of Miyajima Island
The floating torii gate at high tide seems so fitting in the surroundings of Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

2.2 | The floating torii gate at low tide in Miyajima Island

At low tide, you can get an up-close and personal experience with the Torii gate. You can walk up to the foot of the huge legs that seems to stand freely on the seabed.

Miyajima Island: Visitors walk-up to the giant torii gate to have an up-close and personal look at this amazing structure.
Miyajima Island: Visitors walk-up to the giant torii gate to have an up-close and personal look at this amazing structure | Image: georgina_daniel

2.3 | The floating torii gate – an amazing craftmanship

Miyajima Island: | Japan: This floating torii gate floats freely, showcasing a remarkable engineering masterpiece as it is weighted down by its own weight
Miyajima Island: This floating torii gate floats freely, showcasing a remarkable engineering masterpiece as it is weighted down by its own weight – The two huge legs or pillars are made from 600-year-old Camphor trees and and tons of stones inscribed with Buddhist sutras are inserted into the loop of the cross beams that form the roof of the gate | Image: georgina_daniel

I was amazed to discover that the six pillars are also not buried in the seabed. It is 16 meters tall and weighs 60 tons. The thickness of the giant legs is astounding as is the remarkable craftmanship and engineering involved to ensure the structure stays balanced in water. The two huge legs or pillars is made from 600-year-old Camphor trees and are weighted down by their own weight and tons of stones inscribed with Buddhist sutras are inserted into the loop of the cross beams that form the roof of the gate. This is truly an amazing and remarkable structure, one that has to be seen to appreciate!

2.4 | Don’t miss the best views of the floating torii gate in Miyajima Island

The Itsukushima Shrine is a popular tourist attraction. It is also popular with locals and school teenagers. Most arrive at high tide to view the Shrine in “floating” state which is great. They start making their way back to their hotel later in the afternoon.

Georgina suggests: Stay on a little longer for the tide to lower, so you can walk up to the Torii gate to take a close look at the incredible engineering that it presents. As well, do not forget to get some pictures when you are out here at low tide 😊 and ensure you are using appropriate footwear when walking out to the Torii gate.

3 | Mount Misen (弥山) in Miyajima Island

Mount Misen is a Must visit destination when you are in Miyajima. The mountains have a powerful effect on people and is a popular hotspot of spiritual energy. It offers amazing scenery which makes it a place hard to forget. I can assure you, you will speak of your experiences here for many times with friends and family.

3.1 | A Sacred Mountain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mount Misen sits in the centre of Miyajima Island at 535m above sea level and is the highest peak in Miyajima. A Buddhist monk, Kukai (空海), also famously known as Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) who founded the Sangaku-Shinko faith, opened the mountain as an ascetic holy mountain site along with its temple in 806. Since then, Mount Misen has been regarded as a sacred mountain, by the followers of the Sangaku-Shinko faith which basically refers to “mountain worship”. Along with Itsukushima Shrine, Mount Misen is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. There are many historical landmarks in this untouched virgin forest which beckons a visit.

3.2 | Options to reach the summit of Mount Misen in Miyajima Island

3.2.1 | Momijidani Station

To access the summit of Mount Misen, there is Momijidani Station, where you can take a ropeway and then walk to the summit, but this requires a transfer (see below: Access). It is said that the ropeway gondola gives you 360 degree panoramic view, coastal and sea view from every direction, islands dotting the Seto Inland Sea and mountain ranges fading into the distance. I can only imagine the amazing scenery this ride will project.

Alternatively, there are several hiking routes up Mount Misen which you could consider.

Georgina: You need to be reasonably fit as it is a long steep hike. If you have a knee issue, then I would recommend that you take the ropeway.

I had time to explore and opted to hike as I wanted to experience the energy which this mountain is known for and the opportunity to view the amazing beauty, observe the landmarks and the unique rocks along the way.

There are three hiking routes.

3.2.2 | Hiking routes:

1 | The Momiji Dani route

  • 5 km
  • It’s a hike along the Momiji River
  • 90 minutes to 2 hours

2 | The Daishoin route

  • 3 km
  • Has long paved path, often referred to as the “Stone pavement of Prostitutes”, of about 2000 stone steps to visit Misen.
  • 90 minutes to 2 hours

3 | The Omoto route

  • 2 km
  • It’s a hike through Omoto Park. It is said that this hike takes you through Komaga Forest, the second largest forest in Misen, where there are 100 year old large fir trees grow.
  • 5 hours

3.3 | The Daishoin Route

The Daishoin Route is one of the more popular routes. It was a steep hike of around 90 minutes, but the trails are beautiful. The stone steps certainly made it easier but it gets really steep towards the end. It offers amazing panoramic views and one can take many breaks, just to capture the surrounding awesomeness.

Islands dotted on Seto Inland Sea-one of the many views during my hike up Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
Islands dotted on Seto Inland Sea. One of the many views during the hike up Mount Misen, Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel
Funny-shaped huge stones on my hike up Mt Misen, Miyajima. These rocks have been here for centuries.
Funny-shaped huge stones on the hike up Mt Misen, Miyajima. These rocks have been here for centuries Image: georgina_daniel

During the hike, there is always someone else you pass, either they are quicker than you or are making their way back, and you do not feel alone here even if you are travelling solo. There is serenity and freshness in the air even when it was a hot day. People you pass, are friendly and we greet each other with a cheerie “konnichi-wa”. Some stop to ask if their photos be taken and some just try to keep up with you as you walk up.

4 | Summit of Mount Misen, Miyajima Island

The summit of Mount Misen itself is home to uniquely shaped rocks which are mysterious in themselves. My main attraction was the Reikado Hall, which you will find just before the summit. The summit itself is about 10 minutes climb from here, but steep.

5 | Reikado Hall in Mount Misen, Miyajima Island

The Reikado Hall is associated with a Legend of Miracle – that a fire originally lit by Kobo Daishi himself as part of his religious training have been burning ever since, now for almost 1200 years.

Reiko-do Eternal Fire Hall on Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
Reiko-do Eternal Fire Hall on Mount Misen, Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

The very same fire that has been burning for 1200 years was used to light the flame at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The water in the large kettle heated above the fire is believed to cure diseases.

Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: The kettle above the fire that has been burning for 1200 years. Water from this kettle is said to cure illnesses.
Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: The kettle above the fire that has been burning for 1200 years. Water from this kettle is said to cure illnesses.

5.1 | To drink or not to drink?

Miyajima Island - Reiko Hall
Trying out the boiled water at Reiko Hall, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima

There are plastic cups made available for you if you wish to try some. I did. The water is not clear as that of normal boiled water, but appeared and tasted more like tea. I am not sure if it has cured any of my illnesses, only time will tell 😊 You can also light a candle in respect of your wish or wishes. There are candles in various writings on them – for good health, prosperity, success or relationship. You choose the one that you want to wish for and light them.

Reikado Hall, Mt Misen, Miyajima Island
Reikado Hall, Mt Misen, Miyajima Island: Various candles are available, for prosperity, success or relationship. You light them and make a wish | Image: georgina_daniel

6 | Misen hondo Hall

Misen hondo Hall is a holy hall built on the former training site used by Kobo Daishi. You will find this on Mount Misen, near to Reikado Hall.

Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: Misen Hondo (Misen Main Temple), a training site used by Kobo Daishi.
Mount Misen, Miyajima Island: Misen Hondo (Misen Main Temple), a training site used by Kobo Daishi | Image: georgina_daniel

There were a number of climbers who did not continue on to the summit but used their time here to relax, enjoy the views and the unspoilt nature around them. I did not spend too much time here, perhaps just about half-an-hour, then the summit and off down to sea level to catch the low-tide beauty of the Itsukushima Shrine and the Torii gates and some “yaki-gaki”.

Travel tips and practical information when considering Mount Misen

  • Suitable footwear, such as good hiking boots and clothing are important. Dress for the weather.
  • The hike can take anything up to 2 hours, so take water or other fluids with you to keep you hydrated. Drink frequently but in small amounts.
  • Take time to rest frequently, not just to build up your stamina but also to wander in the picturesque scenery which you will come to.
  • The trail is bathroom free, so a visit to the bathroom before the hike is recommended.
  • Beware of snakes, after-all, this is a virgin forest!

Access:

  • The ropeway station is a ten-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine or a 20-minute walk from the Miyajima ferry pier. The ride up the mountain takes 15 minutes and requires a transfer of ropeways along the way.
  • The Momijidani Line ride up is 10 minutes with 1-minute intervals.
  • The Shishiiwa Line ride up is 4 minutes with 5 to 15 minutes intervals.
  • From the upper station at Shishi-iwa, it is a 30 minute walk up to the summit along a steep hiking trail. The Misen Hondo and Reikado buildings are located along the trail, about 10 minutes before the summit.
  • Ropeway times: Going up – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. | Down – 8:20 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.                                     

The next experience while on the Island is the Main Street. An experience of an island life which is totally different to Hiroshima City.

7 | Main Street in Miyajima Island

7.1 | Omotesando Shopping Street

This 350-meter long main street in Miyajima Island is a market street like many others in Japan, and is dedicated to restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. It is the busiest place in the Island.

Covered walkways in the Omotesando, Miyajima Island
Covered walkways in the Omotesando, Miyajima Island, home to many bars, restaurants, street food stalls and souvenir shops | Image: georgina_daniel
Shakushi-5 meter long, world's largest rice spatula made of wood. You will find this as you walk along the Ometesando in Miyajima Island
Shakushi-5 meter long, world’s largest rice spatula made of wood. You will find this as you walk along the Ometesando in Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

There are stalls selling food to enjoy as you walk along. Miyajima is also famous for its rice spatulas made of wood, called shakushi. You will see the largest Shakushi in the world, 5 meters long here.

7.2 | Food in Miyajima Island

Miyajima is popular for its Momiji-manju cakes and its oysters, the yaki-gaki (grilled oysters).

The Momiji-manju cakes are shaped like maple leaf and is filled with red sweet bean (anko). There are also other varieties such as custard fillings. These Momiji-manju are found all over the island and in the shops along the Omotesando Street, it is made fresh. You can buy some to take back with you or just try them when they are warm and delicious.

Maple-shaped Momiji-manju cakes which is a speciality to this island
Maple-shaped Momiji-manju cakes which is a speciality to Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

It is quite acceptable here to eat your way around Miyajima as store fronts serve you with choices of meat and other delights on sticks and wrapped in paper.

The yaki-gaki, oysters are a signature dish of the island, harvested daily from its shores. They have been cultivated in Hiroshima Bay for over 400 years. They are fresh, delicious and pretty much available at all the restaurants in Miyajima Island. They come in various choices-grilled, steamed or deep fried, topped in udon dishes and okonomiyaki.

More recently, Miyajima has become popular for its yaki-gaki, amongst tourists, although it is a staple dish for the fishermen and women who put in long hours on the water.

Yaki gaki, Miyajima Island
Fresh oysters grilled by street vendors in Miyajima Island | Image: georgina_daniel

Walking along the Omotesando Street, you can feel the smoky air where the street vendors grill the oysters to perfection in a quick and easy fashion. The oysters here are small, a little sweet and has low liquid content. The low liquid content means that they do not shrink much upon cooking, therefore they need to be cooked fast, which makes them perfect for the grill on high heat. The high heat ensures that the oysters are grilled to perfection, charring the shells and giving the oysters a smoky finish. Absolutely perfect and goes well with some sake.

8 | The deer of Miyajima Island

As you may know, deer are deemed sacred in Japan. However, the island’s deer do seem a little more aggressive and authentically wild than the ones I have noted in Nara, probably because they can retreat to the mountains for natural food which requires them to use their natural instincts.

Deer is this Island are quite aggressive, so watch out for them.
Don’t let this deceptively mild looking fella deceive you! For the most part, the deer are people-friendly and harmless, just be conscious that they are around | Image: georgina_daniel

Though they are cute, be aware that they can sneak up behind you at the sight of paper or tissue. Yes, Miyajima’s deer eat paper! A deer ate the wrapper to my Momiji-manju cake when I was sitting on the bench watching the sunset!

9 | Sunset

As the day draws to late afternoon and the evening breeze sets in, you will note the crowds heading back and the place becomes quieter, especially after 5 pm.

As the sun sets into the evening, the sea-front becomes a mesmerising scene with stone lanterns lit and the Torii gate illuminated with floodlights.

Sunset at Miyajima Island.
Sunset at Miyajima Island. Find a spot where you can watch the sunset with the torii gate in view | Image: georgina_daniel.

The scene is one which you have seen in many photos. Unfortunately, I ran out of battery and I could not capture this image for you, but it has left me with a lasting memory of Miyajima Island.

10 | Quiet moments to appreciate the island vibes and the Pagoda

When you return from the mountains, have tasted some of the island’s specialities, when the crowd has dwindled down, you may want to:

10.1 | Just soak up the island vibes and watch the ferries come and go.

The island gets quieter later in the evening and it seems a quiet paradise for you to soak up the island vibes.
The island gets quieter later in the evening and it seems a quiet paradise for you to soak up the island’s vibes | Image: georgina_daniel
The island gets quieter later in the evening and it seems a quiet paradise for you to soak up the island vibes.
Miyajima Island: The island gets quieter later in the evening and it seems a quiet paradise for you to soak up the island’s positive vibes | Image: georgina_daniel
Watch the ferries come and go and the City of Hiroshima in the distance.
Watch the ferries come and go and the City of Hiroshima in the distance | Image: georgina_daniel
Miyajima Island: Watch the ferries come and go and the City of Hiroshima in the distance.
Miyajima Island: Watch the ferries come and go and the City of Hiroshima in the distance | Image: georgina_daniel

10.2 | A quick visit to the 5-storey pagoda

Miyajima Island pagoda
Miyajima Island’s Five Storey pagoda

The five-storey pagoda on Miyajima Island is a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture. Built in 1407, and sitting atop a hill, the architecture is a prime example of Zen Buddhism and admirable from all angles.

Travel tips and practical information on Miyajima Island

For Itsukushima Shrine, please click here for pricing and opening times.

i | Getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima

I shall just list two options here as I think these were the easiest, quickest and gives you the opportunity to experience more of Hiroshima.

  1. Aqua Net ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima-World Heritage Sea Route (45 minutes)

 This is the fastest and direct route to Miyajima without complicated connections.

  • The boat goes through the Motoyasu River and then into Hiroshima Bay.
  • The boat passes slowly when going through the river, giving you the opportunity to go on deck and enjoy the views of Hiroshima City
  • When the boat comes into the Bay, it picks up speed and no deck viewing is allowed.