Sunday, July 25, 2010
Miya Jima – Itsuku-shima (Shrine Island),
We stayed at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima which was nice since the ferry to Miya Jima Island left from the hotel. It was another beautiful day and we enjoyed the short ferry ride between the outlying islands. As we approached the island we caught a glimpse of the Vermilion Torii Gate – the entire island of Miya Jima is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the torii gate which seems to float on the water at high tide, is ranked as one of the three best views of Japan. The present gate was built in 1874, but for more than seven centuries a gate has been has stood before Miyajima Island.
Miya Jima island has been a sacred spot for over 1500 years and is considered one of Japan’s holiest sites. No births or deaths have been allowed on the island and in centuries past commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and had to pass through the floating Itsukushima-jinga (shrine gate) by boat in order to reach the shrine. These American commoners landed by ferry, hit the information booth in the terminal area, got a map and some helpful hints from the attendant and set off.
After passing through the shopping district area in the little town, past the souvenir shops and small restaurants we headed up through Momijidani Park to the ropeway station. The 1-mile long ropeway will take you to the top of Mt. Misen where you can hike up to the summit and then back down the mountain which is a nice 2 hour hike. The views from the top of Mt. Misen are beautiful and while we had a hazy day, it was still a lovely view of the inland sea and the surrounding islands. The hike down was fairly easy, although by the time we arrived at the bottom we all took a break and shed our shoes and socks and soaked our feet in the icy waters by the Daishoin Temple. This had to have been my favorite part of the day … laying back on the rocks with your feet dangling in the rushing water, getting a natural foot massage, while listening to the temple bell gong and the smell of incense wafting through the air – it was a Zen moment and a lovely way to end our visit to Miyajima.
We headed back to Hiroshima via the JR ferry and train for dinner where with the help of a local we found a great Italian restaurant that was decorated in Cape Cod nautical decor, had an English menu and the food was excellent – an awesome way to end a great day. Till next time, sayonara.
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