Japan – Day 6

Greetings from Miyajima, just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. I’m staying at undoubtedly the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in Japan, Miyajima Morinyado. It’s part of something called “Japanese Inn Group” – a conglomeration of traditional ryokan subsidized to offer the best of traditional Japanese inns at an affordable cost. Normally most of them (this one included) sell out months in advance, but I was able to take advantage of the flight of foreign tourists to snag a room. I’m including a picture of the amazing in-room kaiseki dinner below – they also have a beautiful public bath, sit right next to a shrine and even had a very solid jazz quartet playing in the lobby tonight.

Yes, that is Random Curiosity

I’m sorry I didn’t have more time for Hiroshima – given it’s obvious historical importance and the fact that it seems a pleasant and livable place I would have liked to have had a day to explore. But I’ve been pointing towards Miyajima for years and it was one of those magical Japanese places that exceeded expectations. It’s best known for the famous torii gate out on the Seto Inland Sea, which seems to float on the water – it’s one of the best-known images of Japan and considered one of the “three best views” (the Japanese love to rank the three best of everything for some reason). But there’s a lot more to the place, small as it is – basically one small village and a lot of nature. In fact, it’s such a holy place in Shinto that for centuries no one was allowed on the island at all. Itsukushima shrine was founded in 593, then greatly expanded by Taira Kiyomori in the 12th Century.

Well, the shrine is more than the torii – it’s one of the most important in Japan and has extensive holdings, both in terms of buildings and artistic treasures. And Miko – Miko, I tell you! They were everywhere – and anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a thing for Miko. Those white and vermillion outfits, the brooms, oh my…

The island also has wonderful sakura, thousands of maples (momiji) that are supposedly amazing in November, a huge herd of completely tame deer that will follow you around looking for food, and an amazing holy mountain called Mt. Misen. I took the harrowing ropeway to the “top” – they say the top but it’s actually another KM straight up and walked back down. The monastery at the top features a holy flame continuously burning since being lit by Kobo Daishi (remember him from Koysan?) 1204 years ago. There’s also supposedly Japan’s only shrine to oni and some of the most amazing 360 views of the Inland Sea you could imagine. It’s that peculiar mix of Shinto and Buddhism so common here, but Miyajima is dominated by the older beliefs – even the Daisho-in temple has tengu and kappa statues.

The town is lovely – incredibly atmospheric, especially after the hordes of tourists have boarded the last ferry. Walking the streets at night, lit only by a half-moon and the yellowed lanterns is an amazing experience. I also lucked out in that I was able to catch a low tide and walk out to the torii over the damp sand. That certainly brought a different perspective on that amazing object, so remote as it stared back from the sea but now something I could walk out and touch. After, I retired to my hotel for a long bath and listened to some jazz. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Before
After

Canal, Deer, Sakura

Kobo Daishi’s flame on Mt. Misen

Miyajima Morinyado

5-storied pagoda

The Ogre Temple

Kappa!

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4 comments

  1. S

    It's so lovely! I checked the map, it's so far from Osaka, I guess I have to leave it for my next trip. Just wondering how much did you pay for the room? I checked the web site it's 9555yen/person; I was just wondering if you paid full price or they give you a bit discount?

  2. I paid 11400 yen, including dinner and breakfast. Terrific dinner, too.

    It's not so far as long as there's the Shinkansen. From Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima is only about 85 minutes – from there, it's about 25 minutes via JR to the ferry terminal. Well worth it!

  3. C

    How nice! I went to Miyajima a few years ago, but didn't stay over. I would love to in the future.

    I live in the Bay Area too, and would really like to be able to go visit Japan again right now (I've only been there once). Unfortunately, in order to spend my tourist dollars there, I'd have to have tourist dollars to spend …

    But thank you for posting all of this; I hope you've encouraged some other people to go.

  4. Thanks – me too! We're lucky to live here – with the huge Japanese population and influence it's as close to Japan as you can probably get living in America. But it sure isn't the same…

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