The sun has come out, so we decide that today we will spend the day at Miyajima Island, which is just off the coast about thirty kilometres south-west of Hiroshima. We catch the train to the port of Miyajimaguchi and then a ferry over to the island. The island is well known for its torii gate just offshore from the island‘s Itsukushima Shrine, and we’ve seen pictures of it on lots of Japanese travel posters. It’s low tide when we arrive so the base of the gate is above the water level, and lots of people are wandering around it on the sand. It is spectacular.
I’ve broken my sunglasses so we try to find another pair. It seems that sunglasses aren’t all that popular in Japan, and we go into lots of shops before we find one that sells them. We’ve read that Japanese people just aren’t all that into being in the sun. There’s a nice sandy beach here, and it’s a nice day, but we don’t see any signs of anyone even remotely thinking about swimming or even lying on the sand. Apparently pale skin is highly valued here, and Issy says she’s read that skin lightener
is more popular here than self tanning lotion is back home. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as skin lightener. I clearly have a lot to learn about cosmetics.
There are lots of deer wandering along the foreshore here. There don’t seem to be quite as many as there were wandering all around Nara, and we’re not quite sure why. There are hardly any cars here, so they would seem to be at a lot less risk of getting splattered all over the road than they were in Nara.
We go into the Itsukushima Shrine. It is built on the beach, and looks like it would be completely surrounded by water at high tide. There’s a wedding in progress and we take some happy snaps of the happy couple and their families who are all decked out in traditional dress.
We walk uphill through the forest. It is very pretty, and we see lots more deer grazing. We reach the base of the ropeway station and catch a small gondola, and then another larger one up to the Shishi-iwa observation deck, which is about three quarters of the way up the island’s highest peak,
Mount Misen. The weather is perfect, and the views back towards Hiroshima and out over the Seto Inland Sea towards the island of Shikoku are stunning.
Issy says that she’ll wait for me here while I climb to the top of Mount Misen. She then notices a Japanese man in his eighties take off up the path towards the top of the mountain, and says that that’s shamed her into giving it a go too. It seems that there’s quite a deep valley in between where we are and the peak, so we need to climb a long way down before we start climbing up again. I think that Issy may now be regretting her decision to make the climb, but we push on.
We see a man wheeling a large suitcase up the steep path. We’re pretty sure that there isn’t anywhere to stay up here, so we’re wondering why he’s doing this, and what might be in the suitcase. We’ve seen signs everywhere in Japan saying that if you see anything suspicious you should tell someone. This is suspicious, but we can’t see anyone official looking to tell. I hope that the man with the suitcase
isn’t planning to blow up the mountain.
We reach some cute looking temples. Issy sits down next to one of them and tells me that we’ve reached the summit. I’m not quite sure why she thinks this. I point out that there are steps leading further up the hill from the temples, but she says that these are only to reach the tops of the trees. I‘m struggling to follow her logic. I wonder if altitude sickness might be interfering with her brain function, but I don’t think that we’re quite high enough for that. I manage to convince her that we should press on. The views from the summit are spectacular.
We climb to the top floor of the summit’s observation deck. There are lots of Japanese people up here and they are all happily chatting away to each other. I fumble with the lens cap on my camera and nearly drop it down the side of the mountain. Issy sees this out of the corner of her eye and thinks that I’ve dropped the whole camera over the edge. She yells a well known word with four letters in it. The only time I’ve heard this
word since we left home has been in phone conversations with our offspring. The chattering around us suddenly stops and everyone stares at us. Either the four letter word that Issy used is the same in Japanese, or everyone here has just miraculously learnt English. I try to pretend that I‘m not with Issy, but I don’t think that I’ve got anyone fooled. She looks very embarrassed. She tells me that this is all my fault for making her believe that I’d dropped my camera. We decide that the best thing to do is just to move away quietly.
I stop to take some photos on the way down, and leave Issy to walk on ahead, but when I reach the top of the ropeway I can’t find her. I start to panic, and assume that she must have somehow managed to wander off the path into the forest and got lost. Issy’s mum has always feared that something like this would happen during our travels, and I wonder how I’m going to explain to her that I lost her daughter in a forest. I hope she won’t think that I did it deliberately. Our offspring mightn’t be too
happy either. Just as I’m about to approach one of the attendants about arranging a search party, Issy appears. It seems she took a wrong turn, and by the time she realised she was still going down when she should have been going up, she was halfway back down to the beach. She says that she’s a bit tired. I’m not surprised. She was initially reluctant to climb the mountain once, and has now effectively ended up climbing it twice.
We discuss what has been our favourite place in Japan so far. Issy says that Miyajima Island has now edged slightly in front of Nara. She says that this is on the basis that it has a beach. Issy thinks that beaches are very important.
We head back to Hiroshima and set out in search of somewhere to eat. We choose a place and ask for an English menu, but the waiter says that they don’t have one. The menu has pictures on it, and we think that we can even recognise what some of them are. We manage to identify pictures of a glass of beer and a bottle of whiskey easily enough, but it becomes a
bit more of a struggle when it comes to the food. We pretend that we can read the menu, but we’re pretty sure that the waiter has seen through this when he suggests that maybe it might help if we tried reading it the right way up. We order sashimi and deep fried oysters, at least that’s what we think we‘ve ordered. Whatever it is it is very nice, so we order some more. We agree that today has a been a real highlight.
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