Day 10 Japan MiyaJama October 14th, 2012
After spending a few weeks in Japan without more than a few handfuls of Europeans suddenly there are lots and lots of Europeans all over the place. And I am heading out of the city itself this morning heading for one of the most famous places in all of Japan. I get on the morning train to get to the ferry for a small island a bit outside of Hiroshima – Miyajima – it is only a short ferry ride away from the mainland.
As all the tourist travel with the ferry we soon get to see one of the most famous sights in all of the country – the Floating Torii. I am not the only one standing at the side of the boat taking lots of photo of the torii as we sail towards the harbor. Actually the torii is not the only sight en route to the island the five story pagoda is also clearly visible – ok it would have been clearly visible if it wasn’t for the fact the day was anything but clear.
The floating torii is actually the entrance to the temple. Originally common people were not allowed to set foot on the island hence they could only visit the shrine if they sailed in and going by the torii. The Itsukushima is actually not build on land but is build just off the shore and when visiting the shrine you walk across lots of wood sidewalks crossing water.
Here is some information about Miyajima:
Itsukushima Shrine (Japanese: 厳島神社 Itsukushima-jinja) is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima) in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan. The shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Japanese government has designated several buildings and possessions as National Treasures.
The shrine is dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto, Shinto deity of seas and storms and brother of the great sun deity, Amaterasu (tutelary deity of the Imperial Household). Because the island itself has been considered sacred, in order to maintain its purity commoners were not allowed to set foot on Miyajima through much of its history. In order to allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land, and therefore existed in a liminal state between the sacred and the profane. The shrine’s signature red entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for much the same reason. Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine.
Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near the shrine. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are terminally ill or the very elderly whose passing has become imminent. Burials on the island are still forbidden. So on the island there are deer all over the place. It seems the people here are not educated that it is wrong to feed wildlife. So the deer are all over looking for food. Coming into the stores and businesses in the town.
After looking at the shrine on high tide I decide I want to see it at low tide, so I wait. I go explore the town and hike around for awhile. I walk up a roadway in hopes of a long trip around the island, only to realize that I have another 10km to go, So back track to town again. From here after seeing some more shrines and temples. I get to see some ceremonies of buddist origin going on as well. I then hike up the trail that goes to the top of the mountain, a very long hike about an hour or less I did it in as I was running it. Name of the mountain is mt misen. Finally at the top it is a nice view of the surrounding area. Both very rewarding to make it this far. From here I then walk down to the cable car and take the cable car down to the town. As hiking down was too long of an option and I was tired.
Back in the town I go to the shrine and see it now at low tide. You can walk right up to it. Now you can see the big size of it all. It is a giant of a shrine. Very big. I do a walk more in the town. Look at some shops and it is getting quite busy here. I got here just in time before all the tourist groups get in. I then board the ferry and head back into town to main part of Hiroshima. This evening go for a good meal in the nearby restaurants at the mall.Some soba noodles and a mix of other things.Stay tuned for my next days in Kyoto, Japan.