The vast majority of visitors to Miyajima remain on the island for only a few short hours, a day trip from Hiroshima. Not venturing past the torii gate, paying their respects at Itsukushima, they return to the ferry terminal, stopping along the way to shop on lively Omotesando street with its restaurants, food stalls, and souvenir shops.
As if the magnificent torii wasn’t enough, Miyajima has so much more to offer. One could easily spend a couple of days or more here. It is easy to escape the tourist throngs in Miyajima, just by straying from the paths leading to the orange gate.
Spending a night, or two, on the island rewards one with quiet evenings and uninterrupted views, inaccessible but to deer and persistent hikers.
Daisho-in, a Buddhist temple, is nestled into the hills and easily missed by tourists. It features a number of interesting sights and is a welcome respite from the crowds. Among many points of historical and spiritual interest, there is the Dai-hannyakyo Sutra, 600 golden prayer wheels that are said to bring enormous fortune to anyone who touches them. Each wheel contains a sutra, a total of 600 volumes introduced from India by a Chinese monk named Sanzo. It is believed that touching these sutras will bring you enormous fortune. Try to touch all the wheels.
And, ring the bell.
Parallel to the main path leading to the temple, you will encounter a mysterious conference of little stone Buddhas, wearing little knit caps and sometimes hugging lambs or piglets. Jizo Bosatsu images are depicted differently from other Bosatsu images. Parents who have lost their children take good care of Jizo images, as though they were their lost children.
Namikiri Fudo Miyo-o, or Immovable King, is an incarnation of Dainichi Nyorai, or the Cosmic Buddha. The characteristic fierce face shows his determination to destroy evil. There are 1000 images of Fudo, donated by worshippers. There is a lot of evil in this world to destroy. Batman needs some help.
Accommodations on the island are expensive but really great street food is plentiful and very affordable.
Because the island shuts down early, it is recommended to either make arrangements at your hotel for meals or load up on snacks before heading home to rest.
Even when I was so broke I nearly had to hock my godchild for airfare, I’ve never regretted one penny spent on travel. Because the world we live in is so large, it’s unlikely we will ever return for a second visit. So, splurge to whatever degree you can, make the most with what you have. Take your time. No regrets.