Miyajima Island, Japan

We met around 8:15 AM for our morning breakfast hunt. Since the tea at the café the night before was so good, we went back for some ham and egg sandwiches and coffee. It was so yummy!

My parents wanted to go back to the hotel and brush their teeth so Ryan and I split to go find some Advil and decongestant since my mom and Ryan were feeling under the weather. Ryan downloaded this insanely great app called Payke to help ID products at the drug store. He just scanned the bar code of each box and the app gave him a detailed description in English of the uses of the product and reviews from people who tired it. SO HELPFUL! We were able to find just what we needed outside of cough drops. I typed “do you have cough candies for sore throats” into my Google translate app and showed the Japanese text to the shop clerk. She quickly nodded and brought me to the cough drop area! It was so easy to communicate! With our meds in hand, we walked back to the hotel, met up with my family, and headed off to the ferry for Miyajama island.


We got a bit of a late start to the island and it took about an hour to get there via train and then ferry. Thankfully, all of that transport was covered by our JR Pass. While the 14 day pass cost us roughly $450 each, it was totally worth it. We were able to travel so easily and so far!

Miyajama Island is known for its giant Torii gate in the middle of the ocean. At high tide, it floats above the water. At low tide, you can walk out to it on the sand and get a full view of how massive it is. The locals believe that God resides in the island itself.

There is also a floating temple to walk through on the island. While slightly crowded with tourists, it was all very beautiful and serene. There were even a bunch of deer walking around and unabashedly taking food from all of the tourists – even digging through their bags when unsupervised!

It was pretty cold and about time for lunch so we found a little spot up on a side street and devoured some very tasty food. There are a ton of oyster farms all around the island so mom and Ryan both tired fried oysters in various forms that were scrumptious! I had beef udon with eel rice – again, so good and warming.

After lunch, it was time to hike up to the top peek. There was a 2 hour each way hike to the top of the mountain, but we opted to take the cable car up and then do the 30 minute hike from there. The views from the cable car were great…But just a preview of the views from the top!

The hike was pretty strenuous, especially since were were moving at a fast pace to ensure we made the last cable car back down the mountain.

About half way up, there are a few shines. One that had a flame, called the “Eternal Flame”, that has been going for over 1,200 years! It also used to light the Flame of Peace in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City. There were also some very cute little figures around the temple.

We continued upwards and got to this amazing rocky area. The views of Hiroshima from the peak were just unbelievable. The city is so huge!

The decent back down was much easier than up and we were back in 15 minutes. It took some time to get through the lines for the cable car since the number of people that can ride at a time is somewhat limited.

We finally got back down the mountain, walked to the ferry, got across the channel and to the train station, rode back to Hiroshima and then had to wait 20 minutes for the bus back to our hotel area. We finally arrived around 6:30 PM! What a long, but totally worth it, journey!

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Since it was relatively cold and only going to get colder throughout the rest of this trip, Ryan wanted to grab a matching puffer jacket to the one I got from Uniqlo in Tokyo. My mom had been wanting to shop for the past 1.5 days in Hiroshima and wasn’t too impressed that Ryan got to shop first! Ha!

After grabbing a jacket, we met my parents and sister at a sushi place for dinner. My parents had discovered it the night before and couldn’t stop raving about how delicious it was. We waited about 30 minutes (just enough time to run to Starbucks for a potty break) before being seated.

We tried somewhat successfully to order a bunch of sushi and tempura and boy, were my parents right about how good it was! The Unagi just melted in our mouths and the raw crab and tuna was the freshest I have ever had. It was the best sushi of my life and we just kept ordering more and more! What a dinner for the books.

Our waiter was in his early 20s and studying English. He was so helpful and nice! I tried to thank him by writing “thank you so much” on my napkin in Japanese letters based on Google’s translation. He said I did a pretty good job!

After dinner, Ryan and Julia wanted another crepe but, since it was a Sunday night and past 9PM, everything was closed. Instead, we opted to go to Don Quijote, the most overwhelming store I’ve ever been in, and get a bunch of snacks. There were some really odd snacks in there too, (like dried bugs and sea creatures), but we kept it safe with chocolates and gummy candy.

We went back to the hotel and enjoyed our haul while getting ready for bed.

Hiroshima

We had a 5:45 AM wake up time this morning to go watch the monks during their morning prayer at Koyasan Onsen Fuchin. We were taken into the main hall and sat Indian style in lines behind this very ornate, golden wall. We faced the central area where the monks worked. There were 4 of them that vocalized a mix of chant-singing for about 50 minutes. It was so cold in the temple that we could see our breath as we sat and watched, but it was immensely tranquil. I tried to meditate a little as I listened to their soothing voices. Again, our stay in Mt. Koya was very unique and special experience that won’t be found anywhere else.

After the prayer, we went back to our meal room for our vegetarian, monk-style breakfast. It was… different. Again, we were not a big fan of the gelatin like consistency of some of the food, but the flavors were well put together and it felt good to eat veggies after so many carbs.

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Once we finished up breakfast, grabbed our bags, and headed down the street to hop on the bus, then the rail car, then to the train, pit stopped for lunch in one of the interim stations. We tried to book seat reservations on the next JR train but it was sold out so, instead of trying to rush to the unreserved section and pray for a seat on the 1.5 hour trip, we opted for the later train and took a longer lunch in between to relax. It gave us all a sense of relief since we had plenty of time to enjoy and then get to the front of the unreserved line.

Overall, Ryan, my sister, and I have had plenty of luck getting 3 seats together in the unreserved areas, but my parents bought the upgraded passes and their cars have been harder to get seats together in advance. If you get to the train station 15 to 20 minutes prior to the train, you should not have a problem getting an unreserved seat on the JR lines. Just book in advance if you have the priority train car tickets.

Finally, we arrived at Hiroshima station. Hiroshima was bustling but not nearly as crowded as the other cities we visited. Our JR passes covered the quick bus ride to our hotel stop and we were checked into the Hiroshima Washington Hotel quickly and easily. The hotel was quite nice and my sister Julia had her own room this time since I couldn’t find a 3 person room. Ryan and I got some much needed alone time. It is amazing how valuable alone time gets for decompression when you are traveling in a group for a long period of time!

We decided to spend the day at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. We walked through a very cool shopping area and into the Memorial park. Being in Hiroshima brought on some weird feelings, especially as the sky was full of sunlight but it was raining lightly.

We found our way to the entrance of the Museum and headed in. Watching videos of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing survivors talk about that day and the impacts of the radiation on their bodies or those of their friends was so incredibly sad. For context, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 5th 1945 and then another one on Nagasaki three days later in the hopes of ending the war. Japan did surrender, but the impact of those bombs lasted long after the war was over. The bombs wiped out both cities with only a few buildings remaining. One of those buildings is called the Atomic Bomb Dome, and you can see it within the park.

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Outside of the building destruction, the bombs killed hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. Entire family lineages were gone in an instant. Those who survives were badly hurt and the radiation from the bombs had a whole host of terrible side effects including cancer later on in life. Overall, it was a very humbling museum and greatly reinforced that nuclear war cannot occur moving forward.

Our moods were solemn as we exited the museum and walked through the rest of the park to the Children’s Memorial. While the bombings were done in the name of war to end even more potential loss of life, it was hard to rationalize why two bombs were needed and how they was justified.

It was getting late, so we opted to find some food through the long streets of the shopping area. My sister, Ryan, and I split off from my parents and got Okonomiyaki seafood pancakes. After enjoying them so much in Tokyo with our guide Misa, we wanted to have them one more time before the end of the trip. They were OK at the place we chose but helped us end our craving for them in future.

After dinner, we walked through some shops and then got some crapes for desert. Mine was strawberry ice cream with bananas and strawberries. Sooo good!

Ice cream crepe in Hiroshima, Japan

We met some Marines from the US while we were eating the crapes and they told us they had been turned away from some restaurants that were pretty empty. After seeing what we did at the museums, it makes sense that there would still be some animosity towards Americans in Hiroshima. You really can’t blame them for it.

It was pretty cold out so we found a café over looking the street and had some tea to wind down the night. I got traditional tea, but Julia and Ryan opted for this orange marmalade tea which was scrumptious!

After our tea, it was back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.