Two of the best things about Hiroshima are its rivers and its proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Miyajima. Unfortunately, many visitors to the city take no more than a passing, sidelong glance at the rivers, and board crowded trains to the JR Miyajimaguchi station to take one of the large ferries across to Miyajima.
Don’t do that. Instead, wander over to Peace Park early in the morning, and get your fill of the place. The Peace Memorial Museum opens its doors at 8:30 in the morning. Even if you linger, and you should, you can be finished by 10:30. Look at the rest of the park, then head for the Aqua Net ferry pier, just south of bridge below the A-Bomb Dome.
The Aqua Net is a great way to get to and from Miyajima, immensely more pleasant than the train and car-ferry route that many people take. Because Hiroshima’s rivers are tidal, services are suspended when the water is either too high for the boats to pass beneath bridges or too low for safe navigation over sandbars and other obstacles. According to their website, this is most frequently the case in spring. Check the website’s timetable on the day you want to travel. Fortunately, the website is informative and easy to navigate, with English that’s just flawed enough to be charming.
But if the boats are running, this is the way to go. You can stand outside on the deck as the boat travels down the river toward the Seto Inland Sea, waving to dog-walkers and picnickers along the banks. As you enter the sea, you’ll want to go inside the cabin, where windows on all sides guarantee excellent views, near water level, of the sea, shore and islands as you’re whisked to Miyajima in 45 minutes. It makes for an enjoyable trip even before you arrive at the main attraction, which can’t honestly be said for any of the alternatives. And with boats leaving about every half hour from 8:30 in the morning, with the last return boat from the island at 17:30, it can’t be beaten for convenience and ease of travel. Yes, it’s more expensive than JR. And it’s worth it.
Aqua Net also runs a “Miyajima Light-Up Cruise” from their pier on the island. These cruises begin after Aqua Net’s last ferry has returned to Peace Park, but if you’re planning to stay on the island after dark, the 30 minute cruise aboard the Daisan Mikasamaru is a good way to get a close up look at Itsukushima Shrine’s famous Torii gate from the water, with both the Torii and Shrine beautifully illuminated. Make sure you get your reservations in at least two hours ahead of departure. The cruises typically start at 17:55, but for much of the year you’ll want to go later. The illuminations are automated and begin when sensors register that daylight has fallen below a certain level. If you’re going to buy a ticket, you might as well get the full effect.
Aqua Net Ferry from Peace Park
Access: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The ticket office and pier are down a set of stone steps from the cafe south of the A-Bomb Dome.
Hours: Departures from 8:30 to 17:10. Last return ferry from Miyajima departs at 17:30. The trip takes around 45 minutes.
Telephone: None listed.
Tickets: One-way, Adults (12 and over) 2000 JPY, children 6-11 700 JPY, one child under 6 per adult, free. Round trip, Adults (12 and over) 3600 JPY, children 6-11 1800 JPY, one child under 6 per adult, free.
Additional Info: Service may be canceled or restricted according to tidal and weather conditions. Please check the website for the day you want to travel.
Photo by author