The Island of the Gods (Day 209)
The Island of the Gods, where peace, tranquility and many tourists are found
The sun was shining ready for us to visit one of the most scenic spots in Japan – Miyajima Island, or as it is known – the Island of Gods. This is where the iconic red O-torii Gate to the Itsukushima Shrine is located, you’ll recognise it as it’s included in most Japanese marketing.
We walked 20 minutes’ through the backstreets of Hiroshima to the train station, arrived at Miyajimaguchi station for the short walk to the ferry, and still using our JR pass, hopped on for the half an hour ferry ride, passed oyster nets with the view of the island straight ahead. Mount Misen with the frothy forest trees covering most of the island. We joined the rest of the passengers capturing photos of the Gate in the distance, and when I noticed how tiny the people looked against this gate, I realised the size of it.
We walked through the traditional Crafts centre, with the usual touristy tat, plus a giant rice scoop being displayed. Deer were wandering the streets and one tried to eat a plastic bag a young boy was holding. Luckily his Dad saved the bag and the deer. We stopped for coffee – oh, they sell cream buns here…it would be rude not too. They were delicious.
Onto the World Heritage Site with 1,400 years of history. The shrine has been through a lot during these years; It was a place of worship by the Emperor and the Imperial Court during the Heian period, continuing with the Genji clan. Fire has damaged the shrine a few times, plus a typhoon in 1325. It even fell into ruins until the mid-16th century. Since then its grandeur and popularity have been restored.
We walked around the temples, watched a short service with a couple of Buddhist monks, and chatted to a father and son from Malaysia, who, the former, kept wanting to talk about a certain religious sect taking over the world. We moved on and walked down to the beach. Now, if you know Tim well, and there is a nice sandy beach, you will know what that results in. Yes, he sneaked in making a quick sand castle. Not sure that’s quite appropriate in such a revered place!
The tide was out, which had pros and cons. We couldn’t get the famous photo of the gate in the water, however, we could walk right up to this massive O-torii Gate, 16.6m high with the main pillars made from camphor trees are 9.9m in circumference. People were trying to throw coins onto the ledge above and every now and then we could hear cheers of success.
Further out towards the sea were ladies bent over, sifting through the sand. I went to investigate and could see that they were collecting small shells, miniscule mouthfuls to feed their families. I hope they tasted good.
After visiting the Treasure Hall, being the only ones in there viewing ancient helmets, swords, gold manuscripts, paintings and gowns, it was lunchtime. We had earlier passed by a very nice oyster restaurant, and seeing it had good reviews online, went there for grilled and fried oysters (we couldn’t face having the raw ones). The island specialises in these delicacies and they are a lot cheaper here than back home.
We had enough of being with other tourists, so headed off-piste from the sightseeing specialities. It doesn’t take long to find peace and quiet, usually, just a couple of streets away does the trick. We walked along the Momijidani River, Tim hopping across stepping stones and we gradually came to a road through the forest which circumnavigated the small busy town. Stunning views peaked through the trees, we could hear birds singing and the odd deer came out to greet us. Peace, calm, tranquillity.
Soon, our journey took us back to the ferry, back onto the train, back to our Airbnb, where we draped ourselves in the colourful kimonos and a ninja costume left here for visitors to wear and did a bit more research for our next adventure.