The first sight of Miyajima (the Shrine Island) , is the Torii Gate, one of the most recognizable scene of Japan. It took a 6 hour train ride from Takayama to Hiroshima, then a very short ferry ride (about 10 minutes) to Miyajima Island. We were greeted warmly by a group of deer. They came up to all the tourist, nudging for handouts and ready to be petted. This small island is only 12 square miles and very walkable. Miyajima is sacred to both Shintoism and Buddhism. The Itsukushima Shrine was initially constructed in 593 AD and expanded in later years. The temple complex was built without any nails and gaps were purposely left between the floor slabs to allow water to flow through at high tide. The temple would appear floating on the sea during high tide and at low tide we just walked right up to the Otorii Gate, watching locals digging for clams in the shallow sandbar. Large groups of tourist arrive every morning by ferry from Hiroshima to visit the Shrine. There were several Noh (musical drama performances) played on the stage, a daily routine since 14th century. Noh actors wear masks and elaborated costumes. They, supported
by a choirs sitting behind, sing and dance. The dance is nothing one would imaging since the movement is very minimum and slow. I included a video clip here. It was definitely a new experience for us.
In addition to Noh drama, we were very fortunate to witness a Shinto wedding. We met the newlywed on their way to the shrine. Their traditional wedding probably went viral since there were many tourists clinking away during their ceremony.
Most of the tourists come to Miyajima for a day trip, very few people actually stay on the island. We found Sakuraya on booking.com. This place is only a 5 minute walk from the ferry and the shrine. It has a spacious tatami room, even with a painting in the alcove plus two hot spring pools in the basement. After sunset when all the tourist left, Miyajima became very quite and magical. The only problem was most of the island restaurants also close at sunset. I was quite surprise since Miyajima is considered a top tourist attraction in Japan. At lunch time, we could enjoy the best Okomotori (a substantial omelet with grilled oysters) or any restaurant we desired.
But in the evening, the few restaurants that did stay open were packed full of tourists. Japanese, unlike Chinese, are not out there hustle for tourist dollars.
The ferry and local train ride to Hiroshima station were all free for JR pass holders. We got on a city touring bus that stoped at all the main attractions in Hiroshima. Our first stop was the Peace Memorial Museum. Even though we knew what to expect it was still emotional when you realize that 140,000 people died in Hiroshima when only a single atomic bomb was detonate.The museum showed how the US evaluated many potential targets and finally decided on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other towns, including Kyoto, were not touched. People living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at the wrong place and wrong time, became collateral damage for the war. There were touching stories in letters and poems written by the families of the victims. Their lifes were also forever altered by the atomic bomb. Even though, as a Chinese, I remember seeing the atrocities done to 300,000 Chinese people during the Nanking massacres. Nevertheless, given the powerful destructive force of the nuclear bomb, and the fact that there are 70,000 nuclear
warheads in the world, who wouldn't worry that some idiot leaders could easily wipe out the whole human race in one crazy moment. Let’s hope we will never get there. There is an eternal flame, a memorial for the victims and a special memorial for the children who died in the destruction. We saw many Japanese students paying respect and presented origami cranes as a prayer for peace. I hope the future generations learn the lessons at Hiroshima and are smarter and more compassionate than the last generation and never start wars again. We also visited Hiroshima Castle but it wasn't as educational as the Nagoya one but we got a picture of Ray dressed as a Samurai.
We spent our last day on the island hiking up the sacred mountain Misen. It is only 535 m tall but it took us 2 hours to walk up the steep path but what a view it afforded us! On top of the mountain, there is a temple 'Hall of the Spiritual Flame', which was lit by Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) in 800 AD. The flame has been burning ever since and was used to light the Flame of Peace
in Hiroshima's Peace Park. Coming down was a lot easier by riding a cable car. Before we left Miyajima, we took our walk one last time toward the shrine and enjoy the beautiful sunset view of Otorii Gate. If we ever come back again, we still prefer to stay at the tranquil and calm Miyajima island instead of the big city of Hiroshima.
In 1603, a Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For 250 years this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture. Fol...more history
Hsiao-Mae, these photos brought back such happy memories of my trip to Japan with my son, Ben, and my daughter, Kathryn, in 2005. Ben was then working in Hiroshima and we spent time in Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nagasaki, Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka. It looks like you are having a wonderful trip. Thanks for the memories.