6th January 2017: Miyajima (in eleven hours) {Japan, winter 16/17}

I was, quite literally, out from sun to sun on this day, and then when it was night I came back for more. Miyajima [宮島] is a small island in Hiroshima Bay, famous for the ‘floating torii gate’, the o-torii [大鳥居], belonging to the Itsukushima Jinja [厳島神社]. About 17 metres high, it is planted on the beach in front of the shrine, and you can walk up to it in low tide. In high tide you see it in the middle of the water. The o-torii’s upper part is around 22 metres long and hollow. It is not nailed or glued, but is weighted down by fist-sized rocks stored in the hollow area. The pillars are solid.

And to the o-torii I headed off literally at dawn, after getting a warm coffee from a vending machine. The first few minutes cough half an cough hour cough were spent around the torii as it was low tide and you could walk up to it.

After I managed to peel myself off the o-torii, I headed off to the shrine it actually belongs, Itsukushima Shrine, which is the main shrine of the island. The shrine has a famous noh stage and when the tide rises it also becomes ‘floating’. It is the biggest shrine in the area. Itsukushima Shrine is dedicated to Ichikishima-hime, Tagitsu-hime and Tagori-hime, known as the Munakata goddesses, are the deities of the ocean, traffic safety, fortune and accomplishment.

After Itsukushima shrine I ducked some deer, which abound, and are always hungry for maps and so on, and I walked down the breakwater to a little shrine named Kiyomori Jinja [清盛神社].

On my way back, I stepped on the grounds of the Buddhist temple of Daigan-ji [大願寺]. It was here where I realised that there were little stamps to be collected in the island, which is always a plus.

Then I got to Itsukushima Jinja Takaramono-kan [嚴島神社 寶物館], the shrine’s Treasure Hall, where they have a few treasures and old scrolls, armours and so on. Among them they have the ‘Story of Heike’ as well as several of the Heike family Buddhist Sutras. However, no pictures allowed. I continued on my way to the Tahoto [多宝塔] three-story Pagoda (also belonging to Itsukushima Shrine), which has a characteristic shape: it is square on the lower level and has a round shape on the upper level

From there I got to Daishoin [大聖院], another of the big Buddhist temples in the area, where I decided against hiking up mount Misen (2.7 km to the summit). The temple has a few up and downs, and it was here where I ate my karepan breakfast, around 9.30 – 10 am, I am not exactly sure. I do remember that my camera battery was already down one bar out of three.

Then I headed down and then up again to another of the low hills to the Senjokaku [千畳閣] pavillion and the Pagoda of Toyokuni Jinja [豊国神社] and the five story pagoda next to the main building. Toyokuni Jinja was supposed to be a library of Buddhist sutras – however, it did not get finished (although that has its own shuin for some reason (・□・;))

At that point it was barely half-morning I wondered whether to head downtown to Hiroshima, because high tide was only at 3 pm, and I really wanted to see the half-submerged torii, but I did not really know what to do. And no idea what got into me, but at that point I changed my mind and decided to go up Misen [弥山], the “island mount”. I actually decided to take the Miyajima Ropeway [宮島ロープウェー]. I crossed Momijidani Koen [紅葉谷公園], which is full of deer, and probably amazing when it is in full red, and took the ropeway from the park to Kayadani Station [榧谷駅] first and to Shishiiwa Station [獅子岩駅] then, about half an hour away from the summit. From there I took a few pictures and then decided to make my way up.

At that point I was not really thinking about getting to the summit (535 above sea level, and we’re talking 0 to 535 metres for real), but to Misen Hondo [弥山本堂] which is the temple where the ‘eternal flame’ was originally lit by a meditating Buddhist monk hundreds of years ago. The Peace Flame from Hiroshima was lit from here. There were two secondary halls, Sankido [三鬼堂] and Dainichido [大日堂].

But after Misen Hondo, I was ‘so’ close to the summit that it would be a pity not to finish the deed. That way, I could go up one route and down another one in order to see more things. On my way up and from the summit the sights were impressive, although it was a bit tiring. And a bit means a lot…

I think that at some point I considered using the ropeway down but time-wise it was going to be the same and walking down could be cheaper and would get me to see more stuff, such as Miyama Jinja [御山神社]. And I did not break my neck on the long hour and a half of hike-down, either. A greater plus.

All right, what time do you think I made it down? Not even 3 pm just yet, but as I had seen from halfway down the mountain, the tide was already up. Therefore I was able to see the floating o-torii, which was a high moment for me. The problem was that I was almost running out of battery in my camera already, and there was sunset to come! On my way around the bay I ate a very overpriced yakitori, but I was hungry and since Miyajima is ‘World Heritage’ it really does not have convenient stores.

And thus, when I went towards the aquarium, Miyajima Suizokukan [宮島水族館]. I decided to take all my pictures with the phone over there to save camera battery for the sunset pictures. That it was awfully cold at that moment had nothing to do with my decision, of course and walking into K.A.Z. absolutely never ever crossed my mind either.

After the aquarium I was distracted by Omoto Jinja [大元神社], which was full of deer. Praying, I’m sure. There were baby deer too, being bullied cute but for some reason (probably lack of battery) the pictures did not come out.

Then I headed back to the o-torii area to watch it in the sunset and took pictures until I had no more battery on any device.

Once batteries were dead and the sun was too low, so I headed back to my ryokan to recharge – in every sense of the way, as it was after 5.30 pm. On my way back I bought a local speciality – ‘fishcake’ which in my case was shrimp because I did not dare try the oysters. It was yummy. Before going to the hotel, I got myself some groceries to recharge my own batteries and have dinner later.

I spent some time resting, charging all the devices and writing down notes on everything I had been doing during the day, and then, at around 9 pm I came back out again to take pictures of the shrines and o-torii at night.

After that, dinner, shower, bed, and early check-out the following day in order to head down to Hiroshima, after very intense 11 hours running up and down Miyajima. Take that, nine hours in Kyoto.