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Miyajima island. Image: K Mishina

Miyajima island. Image via K Mishina

If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, Japan has SO much to offer. It’s a measly 10-hour flight (nothin’ on that brutal European honeymoon trek) and is bursting with history, beautiful food, kind-hearted people, excellent hospitality and incredible culture.

Mrs Houndstooth and I travelled to Japan recently, and it’s safe to say we have fallen head over heels. But travelling to such an intricate country with many amazing destinations can make it difficult to know where to go. I’ve already spelt out one of the obvious ones, Kyoto, but there’s another spot I think will turn your Japanese honeymoon from great to magnificent.

Located a short ferry ride from the mainland (just near Hiroshima), Miyajima Island is one of the most scenic spots in Japan. It’s regarded as an Island of Gods, steeped in so much culture, beauty and romance that it’s almost overwhelming. Most people take the ferry out from Hiroshima to do a day trip to taste the delicious food the island has to offer, pet the wild (but tame) deer that roam the island freely and get a close look at the stunning Itsukushima Shrine – a World Heritage site. What many of the tourists don’t know, is that you can also stay on the island and experience peace and beauty for days on end.

It’s one thing to do a day trip, it’s another to feel like you’re among the only people on the island once those tourists jump back on the ferry and head for the mainland.

Momiji Manju. Image via Mr Houndstooth

Momiji Manju. Image via Mr Houndstooth

Where to stay

Stepping off the ferry onto Miyajima, there’s a certain touristy feel to it – it’s hard to ignore given the number of people on the ferry. However, beyond that you immediately feel that this place is steeped in history. The Miyajima Arimoto Grand Hotel is no exception. The hotel has been in operation on the land of Miyajima since the early Edo period. The more than 400-year-old retreat is the closest hotel to the world-famous Itsukushima Shrine – but more on that later. The hotel has a mix of western and Japanese rooms and I cannot recommend highly enough forking out the bit extra for the beautifully crafted traditional room.

We’re talking tea poured for you on arrival and your own open-air bath carved from cypress wood. The hotel also has an on-site onsen (natural hot spring spas) so you can kick back after a long day of sight-seeing. Fair warning, most onsens require nude bathing and are naturally, separated into genders, so you won’t be bathing with your bride. It’s a great experience, but it’s also very handy having that personal open-air bath back at your room for a bit of ‘together time’.

Fun fact: We went full tourist when we arrived and almost called reception to ask where the bedroom was. Turns out, the furniture in the ‘lounge’ area is pushed to the side and a mattress bed is unfurled for you on the floor while you eat dinner. Speaking of dinner, the hotel also has an incredible restaurant. It’s a traditional Japanese seafood extravaganza, sourced from the Seto Inland Sea and served in a private room with that incredible Japanese hospitality we know and love.

What to eat

Miyajima is famous for its oysters. Oyster farming goes back about 450 years in Hiroshima, and about 330 years in Miyajima. Oysters farmed in the Seto Inland Sea are renowned for their flavour and texture. There is even an oyster festival every February.

It doesn’t matter where you turn, you can see oysters for sale everywhere on Miyajima. Whether you like them fresh, fried, grilled, marinated or battered, there is sure to be an option for everyone. I just have to mention the Momiji Manju too – a maple leaf-shaped snack cake. It’s one for the sweet tooth and the delicious smell wafts across the island. Grab some oysters for lunch and Momiji for dessert and you’re laughing.

Miyajima Brewery's Caramel Blond. Image via Mr Houndstooth

Miyajima Brewery’s Caramel Blond. Image via Mr Houndstooth

What to drink

All this walking can be thirsty business and the Miyajima Brewery has your name written all over it. We’re talking top-class hospitality, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Seto Inland Sea and of course, a Japanese beer paddle to do Australia proud. I personally recommend the Caramel Blond. The brewery also caters for the non-beer lovers with spirits and sake. It is the perfect people watching spot after a long day of sight-seeing.

Deer on Miyajima island. Image via Pen Ash

Deer on Miyajima island. Image via Pen Ash

How to be romantic

Miyajima is a sacred place regarded as an object of worship and this is epitomized by the magnificent ‘floating’ tori gates of the Itsukushima Shrine. You’ve probably seen a picture of this gate before without even realising what it was or where it was located. It looks particularly spectacular during high tide, like it is floating on the sea. The tori gates – very common in Japan – are a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.

They are said to mark the transition from the mundane to the sacred – and the Tori gate at Miyajima is one of the most famous in the world. During low tide, you can walk to the foot of the gate to see it up close, but we recommend sticking around until dusk when the Torii gates stand out against the beautiful golden sky. As the sun sets behind the giant gate and you’re surrounded by cute wandering deer, it becomes very clear that this is truly a romantic bucket list item.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the deer! Second only to the island’s gate as the most popular attraction, the island is filled with wild (but friendly) deer. They wander the streets without a care in the world, but be warned they’ve got a pretty epic nose for sniffing out food and they can get a little too friendly when they smell something good!

Don’t forget to also check out New York, Kyoto, The Whitsundays and Lake Louise, Canada if you’re mid-planning of a honeymoon!

Ms Zebra Says: This sounds like such a magical and wonderful experience. To taste the culinary delights, explore and of course, pet the deer, sounds like a truly romantic holiday! Thanks Mr Houndstooth – and we’re so glad you enjoyed your sojourn over there!!

About Mr Houndstooth: I am a happily married man. I enjoy a fine whisky, a new suit and swashbuckling around town with my beautiful bride. Looking back on my wedding day always makes me smile, even though it began to rain just as I said ‘I do’.

Polka Dot Honeymoons Directory Mid Banner

European summer is upon us and that usually means our Instagram feeds will be making us feel extra envious of those lapping up the sunshine whilst we snuggle up, braving the cold. It’s the perfect time to escape and celebrate your honeymoon in style or should we say celebrate your honeymoon ‘Italian style.’ Come with us as we uncover one of the summer celebrity hotspots.

The Location

Tucked away in the Italian Riviera is the small fishing village of Portofino, where you’ll find Belmond Hotel Splendido and Belmond Splendido Mare. Frequented by the rich and famous, Portofino is a picture-perfect location to add to your Italian honeymoon hit list.

You can reach Portofino by ferry or via car/bus from Santa Margherita. Both are very quick journey’s making it easy to commute between the two.

Do note, after some storms in late 2018, the road into Portofino was damaged and extensive work is underway to repair it. Though this does mean there is some disruption to travel. If you’re planning a visit sooner rather than later, make sure you check with your travel agent to ensure your access to the town is not affected.

About that photo

Yes, this does look like the prettiest garden to explore, but what you might not have noticed is this picture is featuring the restaurant La Terrazza. La Terrazza is one of the prettiest places to eat in Portofino with clear views of the marina.

You’ll be eating fresh local produce as you sample authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, so make sure to book a table (particularly during the busier months of summer).

About the accommodation

Belmond Hotel Splendido and Belmond Splendido Mare offer a unique Italian escape. You can certainly see why Elizabeth Taylor was known to holiday here! Enjoy views of the sea or the surrounding gardens in either hotel.

Between the hotels there are three restaurants, a wellness centre, a heated outdoor pool, water sports, gym and a complimentary shuttle to take you to and from both locations so you can enjoy all each has to offer.

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Portofino is the perfect location for a honeymoon. There is plenty to see and do like visit Castello Brown (the best view of Portofino can be found here), tempt your tastebuds at any of the pretty coloured restaurants by the marina or take the ferry to visit San Fruttuoso Abbey.

All images via Belmond Hotel Splendido

Other activities that the Belmond Hotel Splendido could assist in organising are detailed on their website. This includes wine tastings, experiencing a secret underground grotto, visiting a local Wellness Farm or travel a little further and organise a trip to the famous Cinque Terre.

We hope your stay in Portofino is nothing less than fabulous and don’t forget to keep your eye out for an A-lister – you might even see George Clooney enjoying some gelato!

Ms Zebra Says: There’s nothing better than enjoying a gelato whilst holidaying like an a-lister! Or at least I can imagine!!! This sounds like the best place to splurge if you’re enjoying your honeymoon on the coast of Italy!

Melinda & Andrew

There are few things more guaranteed to get everyone into a celebratory mood than a beachside holiday and for Melinda and Andrew, with the bride from Germany and the groom from Australia, there seemed to be no better occasion for their family and friends to come together, than for a destination wedding by the sea where the dress code was strictly “”No suits, ties or shoes”. With Maria Shiriaeva Photography capturing every moment, all you need to do is kick off your own shoes, grab a cocktail and settle in for the story!

The pair met far from the bride to be’s home, Andrew telling the story. “Melinda had only been in Sydney, Australia for one month on a working holiday visa when she joined her uncle at the 10th-anniversary party for Australian surf/motorcycle fashion brand Deus ex Machina. When I saw Melinda eating the birthday cake from a plate I cheekily asked if he could have a piece, to which, Melinda responded yes. With my first swipe of the spoon, I took all of the icing from the cake. Melinda was shocked because she was “saving the best for last” while I pontificated “but you never know if you’ll make it to the end so eat the good stuff first.”

And with that life motto in hand, it was over pizza that Andrew proposed sometime later, in Melinda’s words “While sharing pizza and wine one night in Amsterdam we discussed our beliefs on what marriage is and isn’t. We found that we didn’t need to compromise our values so agreed that at some point we should get married. Then, a week later while taking a post-dinner walk on a beach in Ericeira, Portugal we both felt that this was the moment. Andrew walked behind me sneakily trying to find a shell that could be a makeshift ring. When I stopped walking Andrew had to give up searching through the shells. He then gave me a cuddle from behind. At this moment I turned around, with some kind of telepathic knowledge of what was coming, and said: “Yes, I do want to be your wife.” And then Andrew asked me in my native German “Willst du mich Heiraten?””

Andrew customised his look, choosing to have pants made from traditional Indonesia batik fabric, purchased on the couple’s trip to Bali two years earlier.

The bride found her beautiful boho inspired Tara Lauren gown at White & Ivory Bridal. “”My dress was an ivory open back, long dress, beautiful and unique lace, waistband knotted in the back” she tells.

Melinda and Andrew married at the beautiful Puri Dajuma Resort “Bali is a special place for both of us, Melinda has family there, and it’s somewhat in between our home continents of Europe and Australia. We chose Dajuma because it was inline with our sustainability values, it gives back to the community, we could book the entire resort for at least 3 days, and the resort and area were not just gorgeous but also affordable for people who had spent a lot to travel there. People often say “don’t worry about the food, no one remembers it” but we still have guests tell us about how good the food was. But the best thing was the service.”

And there was much gushing from Melinda and Andrew about the service they received from the team, Melinda continuing “We need to emphasize how great the resort is and how wonderful all of the staff are. Rondy, the manager of the resort was so helpful and paid great attention to detail. He and his team exceeded our wishes in every way possible. The resort itself is now 17 years old but the facilities and rooms are incredible and the fully matured garden is majestical. This was only the 14th wedding they’ve hosted so all of the staff, from the management to the gardeners knew our names when we arrived. From day one, all of the Puri Dajuma wait-staff delivered the best service we’ve had anywhere in the world. They made us feel so special and knew all 70 of our guests by name.”

The bride walked down the aisle with local music, Melinda remembering “The resort suggested having some live Balinese music while guests waited. Some of the local kids were excited to be part of the ceremony so they joined Melinda in the procession.”

The newlyweds escape to the beach for photographs right after their ceremony, while guests enjoyed rum from coconuts, on the sand, these stolen moments remaining one of Melinda’s favourite memories of the day.

Of their photographer, the bride can’t rave enough. “We loved her ability to capture moments of joy, and the warmth that her photos have. She was very professional and managed to salvage what was left of the natural light before sunset.”

After dark, guests gathered for an outdoor vegetarian BBQ feast under the night sky (with plenty of twinkling lights of course!).

The holiday vibe was embraced by the guests, who adhered to the couple’s dress code of “No suits, ties, shoes. Feel comfortable, fun, and sexy”.

Andrew’s speech as one of the definite highlights of the night, not only was it backed by a soundtrack he’d sourced earlier from guests, it also included a very special guest. The couple explaining “A surprise saxophone player that had secretly been organised by some guests and brought all the way from Denpasar (3-hour drive) just to interrupt the groom’s speech. The Saxophonist appeared from the shadows playing the solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”.”

As the stars shone, a bonfire on the beach was the perfect way to keep warm. Andrew and Melinda inviting guests to write wishes for the couple or themselves on slips of paper and throw them into the fire.

The dance floor was like no other – a soul train, guests who were DJs with an amazing appetite for dancing setting the scene for a long night of dancing. Andrew remembers “Seeing 40 people shoeless on a dancefloor squatting down under the direction of the DJ then jump up as the chorus kicked in for Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” which was the final song of the night. Then the pair of us being carried off by guests to be tossed into the pool.”

A big congratulations to the newlyweds! Thank you so much for sharing the stories of your day with us! Thank you also to Maria Shiriaeva Photography for sharing today’s beautiful celebration and imagery with us!

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