JAPAN: the ryokan experience in Miyajima.

When in Japan, I think the ryokan is a must-have experience. It gives you just a glimpse of what traditional Japanese inns must have been like many years ago. And what better place to experience this than the island of Miyajima, just South of Hiroshima.

The short ferry trip from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima is a sweet one. You can see the island and the Itsukuhsima shrine in the distance, it’s vermillion color standing out from the lush green background. The anticipation of seeing the famous torii in the water was great and I was quite surprised to find people walking around it. As it turns out, the tides play a role in how scenic the gate is.

But before I tell you about the gate and the tides, let me tell you about ryokan Iwaso. The service is impeccable and the experience one I will never forget.

Our room, or should I say our house, was basically two big tatami rooms. One with a dinning table and one nicely decorated but very minimalistic. The latter connected to a small sun room with a couch and coffee table.

The dinning room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

The dinning room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

The room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

The room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

The sun room as seen from the dinning room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

The sun room as seen from the dinning room at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

Upon arrival we were served matcha tea along with a Momiji Manjū. It’s a small confection made of flour, rice powder, buckwheat and maple syrup. It is traditionally filled with anko (red bean paste).

Matcha tea and Momiji Manjū at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

Matcha tea and Momiji Manjū at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

Wait, there’s more. In typical ryokan fashion, our meals — dinner and breakfast — were served in the room. We had our own hostess for lack of a better word. For dinner, we were served a massive 7-course Japanese meal that included sashimi, eel on rice, sea urchin, scallops, beef and many more things. You can see all the dishes in the picture below except for the beef which I forgot to photograph.

7-course dinner at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

7-course dinner at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

It was a feast and everything was delicious. After our dinner we took a short stroll to the Ituskushima torii while our hostess laid out the futons in the room. Back from our walk, we took advantage of the ryokan’s public bath. We slid into our yukatas (light kimonos) and walked to the bath rooms. The Japanese don’t bathe the way we Westerners do. They wash thoroughly before entering the bath and then just relax in the very hot water often provided by an onsen (hot spring).

After a beautiful night, we were gently woken up by our hostess skidding around the tatami setting up our breakfast. It was, again, an absolute delight. Fresh raw fish, miso soup, egg, cooked fish, pickled plum, etc. The below photo taken with my iphone does not do this breakfast justice.

Breakfast at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

Breakfast at ryokan Iwaso, Miyajima.

This ryokan experience was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The service was fantastic, the room just perfect and the hotel grounds absolutely stunning. It is an experience I can only recommend for anyone visiting Japan.

But Miyajima is also the place to see the famous torii. The gate is impressive and my personal favorite time to see it was sunset. I even like the fact that it was low tide and there were pools of water to reflect the burning sky.

It was also very nice at night all lit up and surrounding lights reflecting in the water.

Itsukushima torii at dusk and low tide, Miyajima.

Itsukushima torii at dusk and low tide, Miyajima.

Itsukushima torii at night and high tide, Miyajima.

Itsukushima torii at night and high tide, Miyajima.

Miyajima is also famous, which I discovered there, for its deer. They are everywhere and they are wild but so used to people they just walk among the tourists and let themselves be approached.

A whole pack of deer feeding on some greens and oranges someone dropped, Miyajima.

A whole pack of deer feeding on some greens and oranges someone dropped, Miyajima.

Like a deer caught in head lights, Miyajima.

Like a deer caught in head lights, Miyajima.

A deer and tourist heard a sound, Miyajima.

A deer and tourist heard a sound, Miyajima.

That’s it for today. We loved our stay in Miyajima and the ryokan experience made it absolutely special. I wish we could go back.

Cheers,
josh

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