Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Sacred Island, Peace and Serenity

The above quote was after returning from my trip to Japan and honestly, Brad could not have said it better, doing the low budget route through Japan made for some interesting nights and mornings on buses and in train station bathrooms.  Tuesday morning I arrived bright and early to a still sleeping Hiroshima. The station was more like a ghost town with few people coming and going on their early morning commute, not even the information booth was open.  With little to no luck in finding a map in the station I wandered to a nearby hotel lobby and took full advantage of the resources at the concierge desk.  Seeing as I had an early start to the day I decided to make my way to Miyajima island, hoping to beat the crowds.  I bought my train/ferry combination ticket and about an hour later was arriving on the island. It was still only about 8:30 so with the high tide predicted for 10:45 I decided to explore the rest of the island before heading for Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  

I started with a walk through Momiji-dani Park which sits at the base of Mt. Misen and is well known for it's beautiful fall colors.  I was a bit early for the changing of the leaves but the park was still gorgeous and provided a nice backdrop for a morning stroll.  Also popular on Miyajima island is the large number of deer roaming the streets, not that dear are something new for me but i'm definitely not used to them coming right up to you. There's a rope way which will take you to the top of Mt. Misen or you can chose from three different hiking courses.  I was considering testing out one of the trails but I wasn't really sure how long it would take and I wasn't really hiking prepared so I decided to stick to the park.  I made my way up and around then headed east to check out Daisho-in temple.

The park was super peaceful and almost deserted until I got closer to the temple.  First there was the group of men trying to get their car back on track after they almost drove it into a ditch. Really guys? I'm pretty sure that's a sign that maybe you shouldn't be driving on these paths.... Just ahead of that there was a staircase leading up to what I assumed to be a restaurant (beer advertisements were one clue), at first I wasn't going to head up there but then I realized it would provide an awesome view so I made the trek up.  As I reached the top of the stairs there were numerous picnic tables and one old man sitting among them. He quickly shoed me away yelling "no back, down, private property - my house", umm really? Yeah, I guess I have beer advertisements and picnic tables in my front yard too...

Just before leaving for Japan I was looking through my brothers pictures from his trip to Hiroshima and so I was educated on some of the random facts of this temple.  I'm not sure if it was the temple itself , the peaceful island setting or the extremely detailed brochure but this was one of my favorite temples I've visited (Korea included).  I think the temple brochure says it best "Simply standing here and being exposed to the serene atmosphere may enhance your peace of mind." 

1000 Fudo Images

Dai-hannyakyo Sutra - six hundred volumes of scripture
"It is believe that touching these sutras will bring you enormous fortune."
you better believe I touched them all
After getting my fill of peace and serenity I realized that it was already 10:30 so I made my way to the shrine, just in time for high tide.  The shrine was originally built in A.D. 593 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.  The shrine is best known for the main entrance gate, torii, which appears to be floating during high tide.  Miyajima has been considered sacred so no commoners were allowed to set foot on the island throughout much of history. The temple was built this way so that commoners would have to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine.

Fun fact - in order to retain the purity of the shine no deaths or births are permitted near the shrine. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as delivery approaches, as are the ill or very elderly whose passing has become imminent. 

Of course by this time I had to battle more crowds as I navigated my way through the shrine, I guess most tourist don't get the same 6am start I had.  After the shrine it was time for a snack so I sampled what the island is known for, Momiji-Manju which literally means maple-shaped cake. I'd previously sampled some when my brother brought them home after his trip, but I must say they were much better hot out of the oven. To follow it up, and continue with a healthy diet, I opted for some soft-serve ice cream, not a big surprise to those that know me well enough. As the afternoon drew closer and crowds became thicker I decided to make my way back to the mainland and continue with my tour of Hiroshima. 


  1. These pictures are phenomenally beautiful! This would truly be a dream vacation - looking forward to going through ALL your pictures one day. Love you

  2. I'm glad I could supplement your blog with such awe inspiring words