We could hear the sound of the temple bell in the early morning hours. It was still dark and somehow not yet time to get up—at least not for us—, but the sound was so peaceful that we fell asleep again soon.
Auberge Watanabe is conveniently located right in front of the entrance to the Daisho-in Temple grounds, on a quiet side street next to a stream. It’s a small family-run ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), very much designed with care. The overall structure is a traditional wooden building and the owners have managed to create a really homely atmosphere.
We traveled in a group of 4 and got assigned a double tatami room, which could be separated by traditional Japanese sliding paper doors—wonderful! The next highlight was the bathroom, as it was completely made of wood: wooden floor and walls and even the bath tub itself!
The dinner was a feast: kaiseki (Japanese course dinner) style dining with various kinds of fresh and local ingredients. First we had a beautifully laid out plate with different starters, followed by sashimi, a stewed potato and vegetable dish and some yellow tail fish in a soy-sugar sauce which was absolutely mind blowing. Last but not least, we had a small nabe, a hot pot with duck, fish and vegetables. It might sound like a lot of food—like too much food I mean—, but actually, it was just perfect, as the portions of each dish were relatively small. So there was no problem to finish it all! As a desert we enjoyed a fresh kaki with some special grapes that tasted a bit like they had been soaked in sake for a while; however, we were told that it’s a special kind of grape and that there’s no soaking necessary to develop the taste. All the food was fantastic!
After dinner we went out once again for a walk—just wearing our yukata (Japanese bathrobe)! That ‘s actually reason enough to spend the night on Miyajima (instead of doing a day trip from Hiroshima); walking around the island in your yukata, experiencing the peaceful evening mood and seeing the great illuminated Miyajima torii (shrine gate) at night is truly special.
Breakfast was typical Japanese, too: cooked fish, pickles, vegetable soup and rice. Tea was served with the breakfast; in addition we were treated with a nice coffee afterwards. I understood that the family is open to any specific meal requests; however, you should let them know beforehand, ideally when you do your booking. The younger generation of the family also speaks good English, so there is no problem in communicating.
Starting at about 15,000 Yen per person, including 2 meals, it’s not the most affordable place to stay; however, the ryokan is a real gem and for me it was definitely worth the money!