2008/12/16

Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part III

Continued from Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part II Please click on pictures for more detail.

We had an excellent breakfast at Sera Bekkan ryokan at 7 am and then we were off for Miyajima. As we had passes, we took the streetcar to the ferry landing. That was mistake as there were so many stops that it turned into a 65 minute ride. Also, this was the day that our streetcar was involved in a minor traffic mishap, adding even more time. A better move would have been to take a train from Hiroshima station which would have cost a few hundred yen but would have knocked 40 minutes off of the trip.

The ferries take only ten minutes to cross the narrow channel to Miyajima. I don't care for sitting inside and would rather stand by the rail to enjoy the views and fresh air.

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Tip of the hat to Martin, by the way, who suggested that I look up the tide tables ahead of time so as to assure a view of the famous Itsukushima Shrine at high tide when it appears to be floating - not just the torii, but the entire shrine. As it happened we were there long enough to see it near both high and low tides, but it's a very good suggestion none the less.

About mid-crossing, a big ShinMaywa US-1A STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) Air Sea Rescue Amphibian flew over. It was the first time I'd seen one. I mentioned it in the post "The 2nd Raid on Pearl Harbor" and wrote about its relationship to the WWII flying boat H8K2 "Emily".

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Soon we grew closer to the torii of Itsukushima Shrine.

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It was close to high tide when we arrived. We entered Itsukushima Shrine, which rests atop pilings in a shallow bay. Here you can see the Goju-no-To (five storied pagoda) which was erected in 1407 and stands 29.3 meters high (96 feet).

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Next to the pagoda is another shrine - Houkoku-jinja. The building is called "Senjokaku (Hall of One Thousand Mats)" for it's large size. It was built as a Buddhist temple by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the 16th century daimyo who unified Japan. Construction was started in 1587, but it was never completed.

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Abroad, Miyajima is perhaps most famous for its shrine. But it is also considered to be one of the three most scenic areas in Japan. Though I had done my homework, I was surprised and delighted to find, in addition to shrines and temples, a jewel of an island with stunning white sand beaches, evergreen covered mountains with streams, unusual rock formations, and sweeping vistas over the Sea of Japan to surrounding islands. The forest is protected from logging and apple and cherry trees offer beautiful displays of color in fall and spring. Graceful deer and monkeys - Japanese macaques that look and act way too much like people I know - inhabit Miyajima. In earlier times, there were wild boar as well. Deer, of course, are sacred in the Shinto religion, being messengers from the gods. [In fact, our town's name, Kashima, translates to "deer island", which is why our football team -soccer for you American readers- is called "The Antlers".]

A picture is worth... so I'll let pictures do more of the talking.

As we walked through Itsukushima-jinja we heard the drone of the cicadas. Then there was another sound. Music. Someone was playing the ancient Japanese double reed instrument called "hichiriki". Under its spell, one is seemingly transported back to another time to experience this place with different eyes and ears.



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A stage for performing Noh musical dramas

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Gate at the entrance to Daigan-ji (temple). Daigan-ji used to be in charge of maintaining Itsukushima-jinja.


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K is saying a prayer at Kiyomori Shrine. It was Taira no Kiyomori, a 12th century general of the Taira clan, who built Itsukushima-jinja about 1148 CE.

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A view overlooking Ituskushima. Note how big Senjokaku (hall of a thousand mats) is, to left of the pagoda.

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Riding the first of two ropeways to the top of Misen-san with Hiroshima in the distance on the far right.

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The next leg up uses bigger cars.

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A container ship threads its way between Miyajima and a small islet. Oyster beds can be seen everywhere one looks.

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The edge of Hiroshima City is to the left. The large island in the center is called Ninoshima (which is known for the Mt. Fuji like shape on its main peak) and was used for an emergency treatment hospital after the bomb for some 10,000 victims. To the right, out of view, is an officer training camp which some say was a legitimate target. Except it was NOT the target. The bombing was not about military targets, but about destroying a city in order to test a weapon and show the world what the US could do.

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A mother macaque nursing her young.

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Ah, sailing...


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Meanwhile, back down the mountain, something had changed. The tide was out.


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The torii was high and dry.


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People's hopes were scrawled on the backs of "ema", the wooden slat that represents the ancient times offering by making a donation of a horse to the shrine. High minded wishes might be found there, such as "world peace", or personal cares like "good health" for a family member, or just a crass request to the gods for good grades or money.


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A shrine maiden collects "omikuji", paper oracles. If one likes what the oracle says, one takes it home. But if one would like to try for a better result later, it is tied to a tree - or in this case rods - to send back to the gods.

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Itsukushima Jinja at low tide - the green areas are not grass, but wakame "seaweed" which is commonly used in miso soup dishes and (dry) in salad.

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K (with parasol) waves from the torii at low tide.

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A photographer uses pliers to preen his "pet" deer which obediently poses with guests for a photograph when he takes the picture, but will run off if others try to use him for free. The deer seemed to enjoy it.

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Looking back at the torii at low tide as we leave Miyajima

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A magical place. We hardly scratched the surface. One more destination we must return to some day.

We took the JR train back to the station, so had a much easier and shorter trip on the return. That evening we dined at Guuguu which I had found on the internet ahead of time. Use goolge maps to find it - sort of, it is just one street off Heiwa Dori.

The 30 seat bar/restaurant features excellent food and jazz played from the owner's personal CD collection that includes greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis - and not too loud, so its easy to carry on a conversation. We were taking notes as we ate each wonderful course, prompting the staff to inquire if we were actually from a competitor and just there to check them out. They serve great shrimp, fish, Italian style, and vegetarian dishes. The ice cream desert was wonderful too. I liked the lighting. Lighting was subdued, but each table had a light that shone straight down and highlighted the meal. Here's what we had (we ordered one of each and shared):

Escargot in butter sauce with baguettes. (¥900)
Seafood bouillabaisse (¥1300)
Salmon and avocado salad (¥850)
Garlic scallops salad (850)
Cheese Cake with ice cream(¥450)
Creme Brulee (¥450)
adult beverages

The items came out one at a time and we lingered over each savoring the flavors. We weren't counting calories obviously. The kinds of dishes available will vary with the seasons. It was a wonderful end to a long and fun day.

We highly recommend this spot. You won't be disappointed in either the ambiance or the food, though it was a little hard to find even with the address, as it isn't at street level. I had brought a google map with the info, so after a couple of walks around the block, K called and we found out we were standing just a few doors down. Here's a picture we took the next day to help you find Guuguu in case you decide to check it out. First look it up on google maps, then remember what this pic looks like -

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つづく - to be continued here: Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part IV

14 comments:

❤ IceGlacial™ ❤ said...

The famous torii - That's the only thing i know about Japan, >.<

http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y135/Pandabonium/pacific/IMG_2427a.jpg

Does that translate to Lion's Cave, or Lion's Rock?

XD, thanks for this post, you and MM are my tourguides of Japan, :D.

ladybug said...

What a lovely travelogue! Of course I have seen that famous Torii gate in several classic films...seems the surrounds live up to the serene setting! Also like the serendipitous music and cidacas video...often instead of smells, sounds bring immediate connections...

Cidadas always bring me back to the south of France, Le Lavandou (1 hr outside of Toulon)...I was a "fille au pair" for a crazy rich family (fodder for an upcoming post!)..and the dry hills, the heat, the sea...amazing that one sound brought it all back.

K and S said...

beautiful photos, I had no idea you could walk out on low tide! I guess I must go back!

Pandabonium said...

Ice Glacial - Yes, shishi-iwa is Lion's Rock. I included a lot of pictures in this post precisely because so many people only see pictures of the torii - and there is so much more. Glad you enjoyed it.

Ladybug - the cicadas of Le Lavandou? - I hope you do post about that.

K & S - It was neat to see both high and low tides. Really changes the feel of the place. If I find my notebook - it's around this mess somewhere - I'll add more details of the food.

K and S said...

yummy dinner :)

Pandabonium said...

K & S - thanks for coming back to check out the grinds. Sorry I didn't have a camera with me. It was ono-licious.

The Moody Minstrel said...

The shrine and torii always look so much more beautiful when they are standing in water than in tidal sludge. (It's always nice to be able to walk up to the torii and marvel at its size, however.)

I envy your being able to go to the top of the mountain. Every time I've been to Miyajima so far was with a bunch of students on a school trip, and we were always pressed for time. It was just come in, march through the shrine, spend a little time in the souvenir shops, and then head back. There was never any chance really to appreciate it.

I actually have a hichiriki, but I haven't really learned to play it (and haven't touched it for a while. Maybe I should get it out and dink around with it some more). I've always thought it has a really eerie, otherworldly sort of sound...unless it's played really out of tune...

Pandabonium said...

Moody - the view from the mountain was wonderful. I need to lose about 10 kg and get it better shape before next time - there is a lot of walking up hill and steps just to get to the ropeway and where we got to wasn't quite the top. That was another 20 minute hike and I just wasn't up to it. That said, the ropeways are a nice trip and worth the effort and gave me a very different feel for the place.

Olivia said...

What a magical place Itsukushima shrine seems to be. I loved hearing the cicadas also, and could almost smell the water.

I am sure if I ever visit Japan's sacred sites I will become enthralled with the country. (Cities and their craziness aside, which would probably make me feel weird.)

Pandabonium said...

Olivia - cities make me feel weird too and I can only take them for a few days at a time. Places like Itsukushima Shrine (and our own Kashima Jingu) do have a magical or mystical air about them. Glad you enjoyed the video clip too.

Bear Bear said...

Beautiful place! Thanks for sharing these stunning photos!!! The video clip is awesome too! I would definitely like to visit this place next time.

Pandabonium said...

BearBear - thank you. Glad you enjoyed the pics and hope you can visit some time. I'm also happy to read that you had a good trip to Taiwan - I'd like to see it as well.

jam said...

Thanks for sharing! Some of your pictures are just awesome! I must visit these places in the near future.

Pandabonium said...

Jam - thanks. I hope you get the opportunity to see it. For that matter, I hope we get the opportunity to see it ourselves a second time.