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.
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".
Soon we grew closer to the torii of Itsukushima Shrine.
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).
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.
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.
A stage for performing Noh musical dramas
Gate at the entrance to Daigan-ji (temple). Daigan-ji used to be in charge of maintaining Itsukushima-jinja.
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.
A view overlooking Ituskushima. Note how big Senjokaku (hall of a thousand mats) is, to left of the pagoda.
Riding the first of two ropeways to the top of Misen-san with Hiroshima in the distance on the far right.
The next leg up uses bigger cars.
A container ship threads its way between Miyajima and a small islet. Oyster beds can be seen everywhere one looks.
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.
A mother macaque nursing her young.
Meanwhile, back down the mountain, something had changed. The tide was out.
The torii was high and dry.
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.
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.
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.
K (with parasol) waves from the torii at low tide.
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.
Looking back at the torii at low tide as we leave Miyajima
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)
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 -
つづく - to be continued here: Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part IV