Sunrise on Miyajima Island, Mount Misen

It was an idea discussed over an amazing sushi feast at the hotel. To climb Mount Misen for sunrise would mean an early start and a climb of 535 metres, over 2 and half kilometres. Staying at the Iwaso Ryokan Miyajima meant we were only a 10-minute walk from the cable car station or 7 minutes if we ran (a helpful sign by the hotel informed us.)

We left at 4am, woefully equipped with only the light of the screens on the back of our cameras to guide us and headed over the small bridge and onto the trail up to the peak. The forest was muggy under the foliage; frequent breaks in the canopy were provided by a series of small concrete walls, set in the gully between the two peaks. Walking out along these it was possible to see Hiroshima bay and the rest of the city of Hatsukaichi, a ten-minute ferry crossing away on the mainland.

Trekking up Mount Misen

The sky was beginning to lighten by the time we neared the top and the forest had begun to wake, with a dawn chorus from various birds in the maple tree canopy. The trees turn the island crimson in the autumn and most souvenirs bear the maple leaf symbol of the island. Arriving on the ridge at the top of the gully, the tree line began to thin, allowing glimpses out on to the Inland Sea of Japan as we wound the last few metres to the top.

A plaque on the rather dishevelled viewing platform, a rarity in itself in Japan, dutifully explained that we would be some of the last visitors to this particular spot, as the viewing station was due for renovation in a few days. But for the time being we were able to enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view from the top of the mountain and watch the sun finally climb above the mountains and flood the bay with light. The night’s low lying clouds collected in the valleys allowing us to see fishing boats leaving the harbours and heading out to sea, while a cool sea breeze whistled over the mountaintop.

Cable car on Mt Misen

It is also possible to get the cable car up to the viewing station on Mount Mizen. The journey takes 30 minutes with the first cable car leaving at 9am. The views from the top, which ever way you do it, are not to be missed on what is for the Japanese the “island of the gods”. After watching the sunrise from its highest peak I was inclined to agree.

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