Climb your way to enlightenment.
Enveloped by verdant greenery and crystalline waters, Mt. Misen rises 500 metres over the Seto Inland Sea on the scenic, spiritual island of Miyajima, just minutes away from Hiroshima City by ferry. If you’re lucky enough to reach the summit when the sky is clear, you can catch the faint silhouette of Hiroshima in the distance.
Currently, there are two ways to reach the summit: one is by foot from the base of the mountain, while the other involves taking the ropeway up. The three hiking trails – the Momijidani, the Daisho-in, and the Omoto courses – all vary in difficulty and time required to complete the hike. The Daisho-in course arguably boasts the best views of them all, while the Momijidani course, albeit the most strenuous, will allow you to reach the peak in 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Still, don’t think you’re off the hook if you plan on taking the ropeway – the summit lies approximately a kilometer away from the drop-off point.
This mountain is particularly well known amongst practicing Buddhists as it’s believed to be the first place that Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, frequented in his pilgrimages. You can see vestiges of this on your way up to the summit, near which you’ll encounter the Misen Main Hall and the Reikado. The Reikado acts as a sanctuary for a sacred flame that Daishi allegedly lit himself when he worshiped atop the mountain more than 1200 years ago. Known as the Eternal Flame, it’s been burning ever since.
The area abounds with treasures, aptly named the Seven Wonders of Misen. One of them is the Eternal Flame lit by Daishi; it is said that water boiled by the heat of the fire can heal any ailments from which a person may be suffering. Another is the Shakujo Ume Tree, which sprouted from a root that Daishi had left behind. During years of war or poverty, the ume (plum) tree will not bear any fruit.
Other wonders include the Mandaraiwa (now closed off to the public), the Kanmaniwa, the Hyoshigi no Oto – the sound of a Tengu’s wooden clappers which locals believe brings bad luck, and the Shigurezakura and Ryuoto no Segi, both legendary trees that were cut down.
Mount Misen also has a special place for couples where they can make momiji manju – a Hiroshima sweet favourite – together in a cooking workshop at the ropeway station. They can also stand at the Fire of Oath and metaphorically light the fire that ignites their love for each other.