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April 14th 2016
Published: April 14th 2016
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While preparing for our trip to Japan, Danny and I listened to a Japanese history podcast. The image for the series was the floating tori gate of the Itsukushima shrine so it was a special treat to see it today.

The gate stands in the Inland Sea as the entrance to the shrine on the island of Miyajima, near Hiroshima. Its foundations are sunk in the sand so it appears to float when the tide is high. The rest of the shrine, a sprawling structure of orange pillars and curved rooftops, is on the water's edge with canals lapping around it like a Shinto Venice.

Miyajima is a beautiful island. Much of it is a nature preserve and there are wild deer who try to eat anything tourists have but are otherwise docile. The island has been a sacred place since the Heian period and the temple at the top contains an eternal flame which is said to have been burning for 1200 years. The flame at Hiroshima's Peace Park was lit from this flame. We didn't make it right to the top, which requires a considerable hike, but took the cable car to the observation point, which afforded us fantastic views of the forested island and of the Inland Sea, dotted with islands. It is a little like the Hauraki Gulf but much bigger.
Walking around the shrine we had another amazing serendipitous experience. A wedding was just starting and -unlike at the Meiji Shrine where we saw lots of wedding parades- we were able to watch and even photograph the ceremony. It was a great privilege to see this window into another tradition. After a very formal ritualized process of offerings and the waving of a branch that was a bit like a lulav, the bride and groom shared a cup of sake, very like our sheva brachot.
The wedding finished just 20 minutes before we needed to catch our ferry and begin our homeward journey. What a treat to complete a fantastic trip!
We are now on the train heading back to Tokyo where we will sleep tonight before flying home tomorrow.
It's been a fantastic trip: beautiful gardens and architecture, amazing food and a real insight into another culture. We are sad it's over but looking forward to seeing you all soon.

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