Day 7: Miyajima Island

Before I give a play by play recall of today. Four words sum it up: it was truly amazing.

Today I had a sleep in! I woke up at 9.30am! It was meant to be a hot day so the shorts were brought out of the suitcase! Sunscreen applied and we were off. A full day exploring Miyajima Island just on the outskirts of Hiroshima. We took the train to Miyajima-guchi station then hopped onto the ferry for 10 minutes across to the island.

Miyajima Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. It is most well known for its Torii (Shrine Gate) of Itsukushima-jinja. Many tourists flooded the main section of town just outside the ferry terminal. We decided to head west and walk the quieter roads. We ended up going up a hilly section and there was a herd of deer resting and eating. We were warned prior to getting onto the island that the deer can be cheeky and eat anything paper or cotton so don't let them near maps and cardigans!

After our deer encounter, we meandered through some small streets and found the Tokuju-Ji Temple. It is one of the most beautiful temples I've ever been to. The small garden was mesmerising and very ‘zen’. We got to the front door of the temple and a lady in a kimono appeared. She said that they have some activities that we could be interested in but to return at 1.30pm. We agreed to return so we went and had lunch for an hour at a restaurant down an alley way.

On Miyajima Island their two delicacies are oysters and eel. Considering eel isn't a favourite of mine I went for the crumbed oysters with miso soup and rice! 10/10 oysters!!

We returned to the temple, changed into our kimonos and had a tea ceremony performed in front of us then we were invited to make our own cup of tea including the correct technique for clasping the bowl and stirring the matcha. It is very right hand dominated technique (which is not my strong point).

We were then lead upstairs to the calligraphy section. We practiced how to write our names and specific words like “blossom " and “love”. Once again, right hand dominant technique and as a left hander, I couldn't get the calligraphy brush to cooperate. I conceded and used my right hand!

Back in our regular clothes, we walked through some of the streets until we came to Momiji-dani park where deer were everywhere. The park was formed to help erosion and possible flooding by discretely using concrete and not removing any trees. We visited some smaller temples and shrines before making our way to the Daisho-in temple.

The Daisho-in temple was built in the 12th century and had close links with the Imperial Family until the 19th century. One interesting precinct within the temple is the Henjyokutsu Cave that has the sand and principal Buddhist icons of the 88 temples of the prestigious pilgrimage route on Shikoku. It is dimly lit, burning incense makes the air thick and it is mysterious from the shadows it casts. Unfortunately we could not enter as it was closing time but managed to gaze in through the opened door.

There were hundreds and hundreds of Jizo Bosatsu statues lining the pathways. They are little terracotta or stone monks holding walking sticks. Some of the Jizo's had red bibs or beanies on. Parents who have lost their children take care of the Jizo's as though they were their lost children.

It was starting to become dark so it was time to head down to the Itsukushima-jinja. Thought to be originated in the 6th century (593 AD), Tairano Kiyomori remodelled it in the 12th century into its current structure over the water, beautifully framed by the mountains in the background. The shrine consists of many smaller shrines with floorboard walkways weaving on the shoreline. The shrine and the Torii gate are painted orange (Vermillion) as it is thought to keep out evil spirits. It is also effective against corrosion!

The Torii gate is the main attraction and it is recommended to visit the gate during high tide which happened to be sunset. The Torii gate is the eighth erected since the shrine was built. This particular gate has been standing since 1875. It is made of cedar and stands at 17 metres and weights 60 tonnes.

As the sun began to set, we dangled our legs over the edge of the boardwalk and waited for the Torii gate to become illuminated. Along the shoreline, limestone lanterns began to turn on and it made the moment feel that bit more special. I could have sat there all night but, it was getting a little chilly and we were both hungry.

We boarded our ferry and train back to Yokogama Station and found a Okonomiyaki restaurant. On entering we soon realised that it was a dog restaurant with many chihuahuas and toy poodles. The okonomiyaki had bacon strips and calamari mixed through it and placed on a circular bed of soba noodles that have been fried for added crunch. The chef then smothers it is okonomi sauce and Japanese mayo. It is then eaten directly off the grill so it stays warm the entire time! She was so happy to serve us and made it a fun dining experience. Delicious!

Utterly exhausted we got to our room, kicked off our shoes and relaxed.