Hiroshima Part 2: Miyajima Island And The Manga Cafe

September 26, 2010

Miyajima Island houses Itsukushima Shrine, one of the most beautiful sights in all of Japan according to every travel guide I’ve ever thumbed through. Getting to the island is a bit of a hassle…though it’s located within in the city limits of Hiroshima, it requires riding the local tram all the way to the last dot on the map before transitioning to a ferry. The tram rides tests patience, especially for those who came to Hiroshima feeling a little sick and without the ability to talk (ahem me). The brief ferry ride, though, provides some billed-as-and-true gorgeous views of Miyajima and the city.

The island itself features a very little town, consisting mostly of luxurious looking hotels and rows of shops, most seeming to sell only trinkets aimed at tourists. Plus, various huge rice spoons, which I guess were the island’s novelty. We arrived late in the day, meaning the streets wrapping around the island were basically deserted, most of the shops closed or in the process of calling it a day. Even the deer – like Nara, they roam freely on the island and interact with those walking around – seemed relatively sparse. Of course, the moment the deer detected a person holding food, they zeroed in on them relentlessly.

The main draw of the island, though, is Itsukushima Shrine, which sits a little off from the island proper. All the travel books show the main entrance gate seemingly sitting on the water, but not all tourists get lucky enough to see it in this state…if you come at the wrong time of day, the water may be low and it’ll just be another entrance gate sticking out of the ground. We lucked out, though, and saw it in all its stickin-out-of-water goodness.

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Thanks to by planning expertise, we came to Hiroshima without a hotel. Something in my head said “you’ll just find one there…it’s a big city, they gotta have somewhere to sleep!”

Nope. Turns out, coming to town the day before the biggest event of the year without lodging means no shelter.

This left one option – the manga cafe. The name both tells you everything you need to know and not nearly as much. It’s sorta like an internet cafe that also happens to have a massive collection of manga sitting out for your reading pleasure. Depending on how much you pay, you can get a cubicle with a computer, a TV, a chair and a few other doo-dads…or you can go cheap and sit in a row of desks with other people. The service doesn’t end there…you can drink all the beverages you want out of their soda fountain/coffee machine, and also play a bunch of different arcade games. I was way too tired to check out all this stuff, though I did pay the extra 200 yen to take a shower the next morning.

Lots of people do exactly what we did…buy a nine hour pass and spend the night sleeping in a chair in a tiny cubicle. It’s terribly uncomfortable…though the chair was the best option available to us…and the lights stay on the entire night. And since not everyone uses the manga cafe as an emergency hotel, you hear lots of people typing away on their computers and generally being loud. So yes…check out hotels when booking a trip gang.

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