Casey Hawkins

Ninoshima Island is situated just 3 miles from the port of Hiroshima. Despite it’s close proximity, it’s frequently overlooked by tourists because of the highly popularized island close by known as Miyajima. The town has no need for buses, taxis or even traffic lights, as the 900 permanent residents enjoy keeping things simple. Its 10 mile circumference means it’s easy enough to see the whole island by bicycle. When you step off the ferry, you can expect to see rental bikes lined up just outside the door. The shop owners in this region speak very limited English, however they have all the time in the world to help you on your way. A handful of small shops are dotted along the streets close by the port. The restaurants seem to operate on ‘island time’ so it’s probably best you pack a lunch for the day.

Ninoshima Island

Once you’ve strolled or cycled around the old narrow streets, follow the signs to the base of the mountain. You can pick up a map at the ferry port that’ll point out other sites such as shrines and temples. Unlike the majority of Japan, the buildings are low lying so it’s pretty easy to spot significant landmarks and find your way around. The tall mountain on the island is known as Aki-no-Kofuji, meaning ‘Little Fuji’. It coined the name because of the shape of its peak, which is well defined and often admired by those visiting nearby islands.

Walking up the mountain without seeing another soul is what sets Ninoshima apart from most other islands. What the town lacks in glitz and glam it certainly makes up for in natural beauty and tranquility. I walked the mountain on a 85-degree day but the sea breeze made it manageable. The trail isn’t too steep but you will find sections where the path is rocky and the plant life has taken over. I felt adventurous and slightly nervous as we started to near the top, as the path became more untamed and animal noises became louder and more frequent. There were inserts and butterflies in abundance which became a nice distraction when we needed to stop and catch our breath. There are no man-made resting spots along the path, but there are plenty of large shady trees.

butterfly in japan

There is a clearing at the very top of the mountain which provides a stunning view out onto the ocean and surrounding islands. The area is large and breezy enough to spend some time taking photos and marveling at the plants and animals.

mountain views in japan

You can walk the mountain between morning and midday, spend the afternoon at the beach before catching an afternoon ferry back to Hiroshima. It’s not the most beautiful stretch of sand, but you may be lucky enough to meet one of the island’s most interesting characters. The Hiroshima-born business man regularly sails to the island on his ‘beach junk’ manufactured vessel. He explained once he arrives, he camps out on the beach for weeks on end to relieve stress and get back to nature. The man enjoys showing his castle off to visitors, saying the local people don’t understand. They think he is a pest but he believes without him and his ever-evolving project on site, the beach would be far less appealing.

beach junk boat in japan

Ninoshima features more often in history books than guide books, due to its association with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima City in 1945. Those who required medical attention for the months that followed were sent to Ninoshima to receive treatment or live out their last days. Survivors eventually moved back to the mainland once structures were rebuilt, leaving Ninoshima the way it was before the devastation. The sea side town has remained very traditional, which is very appealing for those who want to escape the ultra-glitzy cities Japan is so famous for. It feels real and raw, with friendly locals going about their day without feeling the need to impress or be anything other than pleasant. The people are generous with their time, which is a bonus if you’ve been busting to practise your Japanese. Don’t be surprised if they invite you into their homes or present you with some exotic fruits or small sea creatures.

local man in japan

Getting there: Walk to Hiroshima Port from Hiroshima Station. You can purchase a roundtrip ferry ticket. The last ferry leaves around 8pm.

Top three tips:

  • Visit the Hiroshima Peace Museum in Hiroshima City before you go. You’ll read several information placards mentioning Ninoshima’s involvement in the region’s rehabilitation post-war.
  • If you visit during summer make sure you pack swimmers because you’ll want to cool off at the beach after spending 2 hours on the mountain walk.
  • Learn a couple of key phrases in Japanese to make friends with the local obasan/ojisan (grandparents). Smile, say your name followed by ‘desu’, then ‘hajimemashite’ (nice to meet you).

 

Casey Hawkins grew up immersed in Australia’s sea, sun and surf culture. She first became a teacher because she was passionate about sharing ideas and experiences. Teaching has led her to explore some unique, remote locations and make friends with people from all walks of life. She is most passionate about learning and sharing their stories with others. Website: Nan’s Lucky Duck

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.