There was a certain kind of stillness as I looked out our window in the morning.
This was Miyajima before the throngs of tourists arrive....the quiet of the streets...you could almost hear the falling leaves hitting he ground, or at least you thought you could.
We had chosen a Japanese style room at our hotel, Yamaichi Bekkan. While small, the rooms were comfortable in this tiny four room hotel. One of the amenities was of course, a tea pot. We'd bought some Momiji Manju, a manju in the shape of a maple leaf, which is the local specialty. As a whole, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, this was fine.....
After some tea and manju, we headed downstairs. We told the very nice owner that we'd be coming back later for breakfast which was included in our room package.
There was one reason I booked a night on Miyajima.
And no, it wasn't to frolic with our four legged friends.....
Rather, it was to visit what is now one of the Missus's favorite sights.......the "floating torii" of Itsukushima Shrine. I had planned being here even when it wasn't "floating". You see, at low tide, you can actually walk out to the gate.
Having seen it during high tide, this seemed quite impressive in its own right......
We'd seen a large group of kids arrive the night before. They were having a fun time. We recognized an older couple. I'd tried to give them my seat on the tram from Hiroshima Station the day before. They gave us a smile and a wave. Ah yes, the island was indeed getting smaller.....
We hadn't actually visited the shrine yet....I'd kinda saved it for the morning....less crowds so we could enjoy things a bit more.
I mentioned a bit about the history of the island and shrine in my earlier post.
This is one of those places that just doesn't take a bad photo.
It was fun watching the "classes" take photos...."say cheese!!!"
We exited on the otherside of the bay. Taking a seat, we could sit and absorb the whole scene.
And do our parody of the ultimate Asian "selfie peace-sign shot".
I sent this out to friends, and "TFD" mentioned that she had never seen the Missus look so happy....
It was time to head back. We decided to cross the "bay area"....after all, this place is covered by water a good part of the day, so couldn't get nice shots like these without getting into a boat during those times.
We walked back via Omotesando Street...basically the shopping arcade which was not ready for prime time at this hour.
Here's a bit of trivia....I was told that the "Shamoji" the rice paddle was "invented" on Miyajima. According to various stories a monk named Seishin had a dream the product of which became the traditional rice scoop. And, in case you're so inclined, you can find the world's largest rice scoop here on Miyajima.
Arriving back at Yamaichi Bekkan, it was time for breakfast. We had a choice of a "Western" or "Japanese" breakfast. You know which one we chose, right?
I'd had my share of what I call Japanese breakfasts. The basic is what I would call "tamago meshi"...which we had at home. Hot, fresh, rice, natto, green onions, with a raw egg cracked over the mess. What I had at Fukagawa reminded me of growing up...before the days when you'd want to "Leggo my Eggo".
Here it was a much more formal breakfast.
And totally wiped me out. Good thing it was still early. I was able to head up back to the room and take a 20 minute nap!
Soon enough we were on the ferry, leaving Miyajima.
I could tell by the Missus's body language that She really enjoyed Her time here.
And if I were a betting man, I'd say that we'd be returning someday........
As we left Yakigaki-no-Hayashi, we could hear applause coming from the shopping arcade. It was for a wedding procession passing by.
We couldn't help but follow....drawn in by the tradition and romance of it all. It just seemed so wonderful. Until I later saw the posters and pamphlets for "theme" wedding packages.......procession and costume included. Sometimes it's better not to know.....
Oh well, we had to come past here anyway. Walking thru Momiji-dani Park to the ropeway up Mount Misen.
I was more than happy to take the ropeway up. as a matter of fact, I wanted a two-way ticket, but the Missus wasn't having any of that.
After getting out at the ropeway station, it's a rather short walk to the top of Mt Misen. The views as you can imagine, especially on this post-Typhoon Vongfong days were spectacular.
A short walk from the summit is the complex that includes Reikado (Hall of the Eternal Flame). This flame, which is said to have been lit by Kōbō-Daishi has been burning for almost 1200 years. The fire is considered holy and water boiled by this flame is said to have curative powers.
From there it was downhill all the way....literally as the Missus decided we were to do what they call the "Daisho-In course" which ended at Daisho-In
In spite of my creaky ankles and my totally out of shape quads, the uneven steps and paths downhill....I was fascinated by what we saw. There are indeed some rather eye catching sights, but it was those rather discreet and rustic looking statues that caught my eye. It had me wondering the significance of them. You'd be hiking down the path and notice a cave, or some shrubbery, and then looking closely you'd see various figures..... I wish I knew what they represented......
At the end of this downhill hike is Daishō-in, which turned out to be one of the Missus' favorite places in our visit to Japan.
You could just tell the Missus just loved the place....I think it had to do with all the various images and statues.....
There are of course those areas that were sobering; Mizukake Jizo, seven images in place to redeem the spirits of deceased and missing children, and the kind of spooky Henjokutsu Cave, lit only by lamps with the icons of the 88 temples in Shikoku.
I could tell the Missus really didn't want to leave, but it was getting pretty late in the day. It was time to head back to our hotel and actually check in.
Of course there was the requisite stop along the way.......
I swear....She could stare at that "floating torii" all day long......
And then there were the deer. Man, these guys are aggressive. This young lady thought they were so cute until they started ripping her bag apart looking for something good to eat.
This little guy almost butted the Missus into the bay when She got his way...... He then came for me. I stopped crossed my arms and went "HA......" and growled, just like I would to Sammy or Frankie. Stunned, he backed off and made a sound I never heard from a deer before "mee-mee-mee-mee-mee...." Not that I've been around a lot of deer.
We waited until the sun dropped past the mountains, went to check in, and freshened up. By this time, things had gotten really quiet, except for a group of what seemed like students who had just arrived on the island.
We wandered around the back streets, found a little market and got some fruit and other things. We tohught we'd ask him for a recommendation for a place ot have dinner as most shops were either really expensive or were closed. He gave us directions to this place.
It was actually close to the water, but the customers seemed a combination of locals, many of them having drinks and Japanese tourists.....
The unfortunate thing for me was that the only seating available was traditional floor seating. Oh man, twice in a day.....it also answered a question I had floating around....not even the locals sit this way!
Good god, the sound of my joints sounded like saplings snapping as Sasquatch stepped on them. Anyway, the menu was full of comfort style and tourist style dishes. What really cracked us up was the disclaimer "the picture is a imagination" next to every photo!
Unfortunately, the place was out of the Missus' first two choices, but the Missus did enjoy the Kaki Oyakudon.
To us, Miyajima oysters were much better after some heat was applied.
I enjoyed my Kaki Curry - Fried oysters with curry.
While the oysters weren't quite as good as lunch; they were still moist, nicely breaded, and had a decent flavor.
This wasn't a bad meal. The real challenge came post dinner as my right foot had totally fallen asleep....there was no way I'd be standing up without doing a good amount of damage to my surroundings.....it was time to order another Miyajima Pale Ale...which was not bad, light, slightly fruity, easy to drink.......
After moving my foot around for a while, I managed to restore circulation and we were able to leave the restaurant intact.
Obviously, it was time to head back and call it an early night, right? Well, not so fast Kemosabe....... There was one stop the Missus had to make. Yep, you guessed it.
Miyajima at this time of the day was very quiet. So hearing some rustling a few feet from you gets your attention. Until you realize it's those deer settling down for the night or digging around for some food.
Man, we were really tired. My body had still not gotten used to all this walking. My only consolation was that the Missus was just as tired. Our room was Japanese style, which means sleeping on the floor. Not a problem for me as I had slept on a futon on a regular basis as a teen.
Looking out the window at the street below us. One filled with tourists during the day, I couldn't help but be happy for the Missus, who had been able to visit a place She'd always wanted to visit since seeing a photograph years ago.
Over the last couple of years, I've tried to plan something a bit "different" on our trips.....while it might not be different to the adventurous traveller, for basic folks, not on a tour, without a guide or handlers....well, it might be. When we visited Istanbul-Rhodes, we did a side trip to Symi. When in Tunisia, we travelled to Ksar Ghilane and slept in a tent in the Sahara, on our trip to Portugal and Rome, we visited Malta, on our trip earlier in the year, we took the train to Poperinge, then rented bikes to get to SAint Sixtus, in search of Westvleteren 12.....I know, there's a lot of catching up to do.
I knew there were places the Missus had always dreamed of visiting.....in some cases these places were just something from a photo She had seen. There was a classic photo of Japan......that looked something like this.
The "Floating Tori"........ So when making plans, between trips to Kyoto and Osaka, I made arrangements to stay over night on Miyajima. That way we'd be able to get past all the day trips. Luck was on our side as Typhoon Vongfong hit the night before we were set to leave.
And by the time we left, it was clear skies.....
Three people emailed me asking for photos of the Shinkansen......so here are a couple of the "Bullet Train" arriving at Kyoto Station.
Getting to Miyajima is a slam dunk....get to Hiroshima Station and change trains to Miyajimaguchi and catch the ferry. The only delay was when the train stopped for about 30 minutes midway. I'm thinking there were still some problems post-typhoon that were being taken care of.
The ferry takes about 10 minutes or so, and finding our hotel, which was right across the Ferry Terminal was a slam dunk. We dropped off our bags and headed off. What I didn't know was that we'd be so busy doing things we wouldn't return until nightfall!
What I really didn't anticipate were how, well, interestingly persistent these residents of the island were.
The deer here are quite, well, I'm not sure if "tame" is the right word. They are used to humans and will grab your bag or tear into your pockets looking for something to snack on. On the other hand, it was funny seeing kids tease the deer and then suddenly have the tables turned.....
There was, of course, one thing the Missus wanted to see. ....so we headed off ASAP. It wasn't hard finding the Floating Torii.
This torii is the gate to Itsukushima Shrine which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the daughters of the God of the Sea and Storms, Susanoo-no-Mikoto.
The island itself was considered sacred, so the shrine was built, out into the bay, so that pilgrims could visit without setting foot on, and defiling the island.
In fact, I've read that to this day, no deaths or births are allowed in proximity to the shrine and no burials are allowed on the island!
It seems that the island was simply created for one to marvel in the beauty of it.
It's obvious why Miyajima is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.
Photogenic sites like the 5-Story Pagoda look really beautiful, but not so much close-up.
It's much better to take a photo like this.....
And while the waterfront and the main shopping arcade are busy and full of tourists. It seems like the back streets are not. Right down the back steps from the pagoda things looked like this.
We caught the scent of coffee and found a little shop, which we later found is pretty popular named Sarasvati and had a nice cup fo coffee.
The great smell of coffee......it seems that Japan does love coffee and takes it to the next level.
It was a nice break. We sat and put together a plan for the rest of the day....which seemed quite easy at the time.
Of ocurse, everything seems simple over a nice cup of iced and non-iced coffee.
We hadn't eaten since our "Vongfong snacks" the night before so getting a bite ot eat would be the first priority.
I had received a recommendation for Miyajima from a friend. Now the trick was finding the place......addresses on Miyajima, much like other places in Japan are kind of a mystery to me. Though in terms of being a trick, it wasn't nearly as amazing as what what that pooch was doing standing on the dude's shoulders! That is one talented and well trained dog.
Anyway, bolstered by our coffee we set off....trying to find our lunch destination. One really nice thing about Miyajima, and Japan as a whole, is people are so very helpful.
As we wandered the back streets, we'd ask people for directions and they were so helpful.
The place was actually located in the main shopping arcade, duh. Here's a photo of the front of shop later in the day.
When we arrived, there was a line outside the restaurant and that oyster grill was going full tilt. Unfortunately, there were only "tatami style seating available. So, there I was....when was the last time I sat this way? I could hear my joints, making a sound like twigs snapping in a windstorm as I tried to sit correctly. My left foot immediately fell asleep and I had the mental picture of trying to get up and falling over on another table and impaling myself on one of those little replicas of the Floating Torii that accompanied the raw oysters.
It was oyster season, so guess what we ordered......
The Nama-Gaki, oysters on the half-shell, really didn't make much of an impression.
While very meaty, they lacked any real, distinct flavor, that would make an imprint in my mind. Very mild, lacking in any great aftertaste, really not impressed. This would be great for the "oyster gringo", you know, the guy who hits the raw bar and says, "gimme the biggest oysters you got.....".
The anago really didn't impress me as well.
Things turned on the kaki-furai....the fried oysters seemed to highlite the best of the local bivalve.
My goodness, the initial crisp texture, followed by the meaty follow-up...something happens when you apply heat to these oysters; the briney-beefy flavor is magnified. This was quite delicious.
The crescendo peaked with the grilled oysters.....
The smoke from the grill just added an additional layer of flavor which took these meaty morsels to the next level. Now I understood what the deal was with Miyajima Oysters......
Life was good. I managed to get up after our meal without falling over onto another table.
The Missus had made Her plans for the day and now it was all about surviving it.
Yakigaki No Hayashi 505-1 Hatsukaichi Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan