Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We started the day with breakfast at Beit Shalom. Rev. Toru showed us to a small dining room where a very beautiful breakfast was elegantly arranged for the four of us. We took a posed for him to photograph of us with the breakfast table, and then were left alone to eat breakfast.

The evening before Rev. Toru told us that the best way to reach our destination today is via a bus. He took us this morning to the bus station to make sure we got on the right bus, and he also wrote a note for the driver asking him to announce our station (which unlike the ones in Kyoto, we would have missed without the announcement). The bus dropped us next to a train station, and we took a local line south along the shore. After few stops we reached our destination. We left the train and walked two blocks to the ferry terminal and took the JR ferry to the Miyajima Island.

Although it was before 10am, it was already very hot and humid. We hoped that on the island it will be better. The short ferry trip took us across a very tranquil channel.

There were many wooden rafts along the channel, and we wondered what they were. Later at night Rev. Toru explained that these were oyster farms - from each raft there are many dangling ropes on which oysters are grown. Oysters were indeed very prominent in all the restaurants we saw on the island later on.

The icon of Miyajima is the large orange Torii (gate) standing in the water in front of Itsukushima Shrine. In pictures it always seen as though it is far from land. The ferry made a pass to allow us to see the gate. However, we came at low tide, and saw it standing on the see floor. It looked much closer to land than expected.

The ferry reached the terminal and we walked onto the island. Contrary to our hopes, it was as hot here as on the main land, and even more humid.

We started walking along the shoreline toward the big gate.

We reached the gate and could see the crowd of tourists walking up close to it. Similarly to Nara, there were wild deer hanging around and pestering the tourists. The guidebook warned that they can eat paper, shirts, and even train tickets. Indeed, as we arrived we saw one of them eat up in a matter of two minutes a large island map.

Since it was hot, Yael and the kids stayed in a shady lookout while I walked over to the gate.
The ground was covered with sea-weed and there were streams of water from the mouth of the stream that created the small bay in which the temple was nestled.

Up close the size and mass of the gate is more tangible.

The local guides said that this is the eight gate since the original was erected. Every 100+ years or so a new one is built to replace the older one.

Next to the gate various sea birds were searching for food among the sea-weeds (there were lots of little crabs about). They provided a great photo-op.

On top of the gate a big falcon (or another predetory bird) was sitting.

Every few minutes it would give a cry and would be answered from somewhere around. I suspect this was an adolescent bird that was waiting for its parents. Once in a while it would fly for a round or two around the area and then land on the same perch again.

By the time I returned from photography exercise, I was dripping sweat all over. We decided to try to take the cable car to the to top of the mountain with the hope that it would be a bit cooler there.

The cable car was a strange operation. The first car was a ski-like lift with rotating capsules, each holding 4 people.

Then we disembarked and climbed a stairway to reach the next one which was a large car that could hold more than 20 people. When enough have arrived the operator started the car going to its destination.

We reached the top station which was air-conditioned, which gave us a short reprieve from the heat. When we felt revived, we went outside to an observation point. From here we could see the surrounding area of the "inner sea", a body of water between two of Japan's larger islands that contains many small islands. Some of them were just a small hill in the water, and others were much larger.

From the observation point we started a hike through the forest. The forest here was very dense and gave the impression of rain forest in the tropics. Everything was green. At different turning points we would see views of the sea below us.

The signs in the observatory warned of monkeys (macaques) that can steal food and belongings. We hoped to see some of these mischievous monkeys, but we didn't encounter any of them.

After few hundred meters the path started to climb toward the main peak of the mountain. This was a hard climb, with many stairs. The oppressive heat did not make it any better.

We reached a small shrine. Next to it was a hut that contain a big metal pot that was supposed to be simmering on a continuous fire for several hundred years since a great master started the fire. The hut did not have ventilation and thus was full of smoke and we decided not to explore it further.

We sat in the shade on the stairs of the temple to regain some of our wind and enjoy the breeze. After this rest we started on the trail that would lead it us down to main town. This was supposed to be one of the best easy hikes in Japan. However, the heat made it very hard on all of us.

Throughout the trail we run into small shrines along the trail.

At some point the trail started going along the banks of a stream. From the shape of the mountain side and the fortifications later on, we deduced that in the winter this stream can host powerful currents.

When we got to the base of the trail at the foot of Daisho-in temple, we were all exhausted.

The kids and me decided we have enough energy to climb the 130 stairs up to Daisho-in (but who counts?).

It was a very nice collection of building with a large collection of shrines.

A distinguishing feature was the large number of small cartoonish buddha figures that were in every corner, each in different pose.

We connected back with Yael, and sat across from the Torii and watched how it looks as the tide came in.

We walked over to the local craft center. It was surprisingly small. We learned that the island is known for rice spoons. A monk few hundred years ago decided that the local population need a specialization, and so taught few craftman to make rice spoon. This became a local tradition. In addition, there is a tradition here of hanging rice spoon in temples.

From the craft center we took the ferry back to the mainland and the train to Hiroshima station, where we searched for a place to eat a late lunch (or early dinner) and buy some some supplied. We next took the two trains to Beit Shalom.

Here is a good place to digress on something that every visitor to Japan comes across --- the toilet seat. Unlike most places in the west, in Japan a toilet seat is a complex device with its own control panel next to the seat.


One of the most sophisticated one we met was in the Beit Shalom. It had remote control panel on the wall to allow for easier access.
It also had an attachment that served as a small sink for washing hands. The flow of water to refill the tank was could be used for hand washing, saving space and water.

No comments: