We took the 10:30 ferry and arrived at Miyajima a little before 11. The island is home to many tame deer that we said hello to as we trundled over to our ryokan. It took us a little while to find it, but eventually we got our luggage dropped off and went off sight-seeing.
The big thing on Miyajima is O-Torii, a great big gate out on the water. (You have probably seen a picture of it.) At low tide, you can walk right out to it, and at high tide it looks like it's floating. Low tide was getting pretty close, so we ventured out onto the sand and said hello up close and personal.
Afterward we wandered along the shopping arcade, which Jerry wanted to see since he came to Miyajima in the off-season ten years ago and it was mostly closed. It was definitely busy this time of year! Lots of tourist-y shops and lots of oysters.
Then we took ourselves off to Daishoin temple on the east end of town. I found it pleasingly eclectic; it appealed to my hoarding genes. Some neat statues, beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the main temple building, a garden of little statues of saints all wearing knitted hats, and a whole bunch of prayer wheels on the handrail of the stairs. There was also an unlit underground passage with a whole bunch of icons on glass lit from behind with colored auras. It was weird and disorienting and really cool.
We had a late lunch, then went back to the ryokan and checked in. Then we made our way to the "ropeway": a two-part gondola / tramway that takes you up to the top of the island. When Jerry was here before, he took a wrong turn ended up accidentally hiking 3 hours all the way up to the top looking for it. We avoided that and just rode up. It's a very picturesque ride (though a little vertiginous if you spend too much time looking down), and the view at the top is amazing. It doesn't take you to the very top, but to a secondary peak; to get to the actual peak and the shrine near it is an additional hike, which we didn't have the time (or legs, on my part) for. But it was still worth going up.
By now the tide had come in, so we took another look at O-Torii and walked along the beach for a bit. Repaired to the ryokan to rest for a little, then went to get dinner. By 5:30, all the tourists have left on the last ferry and the town just shuts down. There was only one restaurant open after 6:30, but it had good food, so that was fine.
We didn't see any monkeys or peril-snakes (the warning signs about snakes all had the kanji for "peril!" all over them) while we were up on the mountain, but we did see a lot of other wildlife. In addition to the deer, we saw (living) barnacles on O-Torii, a little tiny crab, some isopods (aka sea slaters / wharf roaches / beach louses, which we'd also seen walking around the hotel island the day before), great big koi, a big fat hover-fly pretending to be a bumblebee, a couple doggies, lots of little tiny fishies, some cranes, and a great big spider in the ryokan. Like, the size of the palm of your hand. (We chased him outside after we realized it was an actual spider and not some kind of plastic model.)