Miyajima

Miyajima, a small island just off the coast of Hiroshima is a tourist hot spot, and with good reason. Imagine the gorgeous jungle scenery of Jurassic Park, combined with deer, monkeys, ancient temples and cute stores, and you have Miyajima pinned down.

The deer on Miyajima were a little less tame and a little more aggressive than the Nara deer. We were warned repeatedly that they eat paper, and would come after us for our tickets and souvenirs. No kidding! The second day we were there, a buck actually climbed up on me to get at my purse, and Jeff had to save me by taking my purse from me and running. Luckily, these deer are pretty short and light, so no harm done, other than hoof prints on the shirt.

“So thirsty! Little help here? I can’t reach the buttons!”

“What they got in there? Cookeez?”

“No… just a bunch of tickets… just as good!”

Our first stop on the island was Senjokaku Temple, also known as the Temple of 1000 mats, built in 1587. It’s actually a partially built temple that was meant to house the sutras from the main temple on the island, but partway through construction the benefactor died, and so it was never finished. The temple has open walls and lovely paintings all over the ceiling, and it has a great view of the ocean.

The views from the top:

Right next to the temple is the Five-Story Pagoda, named for obvious reasons:

After we came down the hill from the temple, we saw a chupacabra hanging around a small shrine. SpooOOooky…

Then we went to the island’s main claim to fame, the floating torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. We came at low tide, so it wasn’t quite as pretty as it could be, but it was neat nonetheless. While there, Jeff and I admired the wildlife of low tide, including fish, crabs and cranes.

This crane was hunting fish by hopping about in the most awkward manner. Behind it you can see the “floating” torii gate, which actually rests on the sea floor.

After the temple, we went to a folklore and craft museum that is housed in an old merchant’s mansion. The museum has many artifacts from the island’s history, including an old rickshaw, cooking utensils, furniture, jewelery, paintings, books and the preserved interior of both some rooms of the merchant’s home and a more typical Miyjima home.

Because it’s in a home, it also had a lovely garden in the center courtyard.

After touring the museum we got elevensies and saw a neat cookie making machine. The cookies it makes are actually more like sponge cake with some sort of grainy, sweet filling. They’re kind of gross. But we bought some other cookies that were delicious.

Here you can see the cookie dough being squirted into maple-leaf molds, and a dollop of filling is also added.

The cookies travel around in their molds, cooking, and then they’re picked up by a robotic arm and wrapped for sale.

After having some cookies, we started our ascent of Mount Misen, the tallest mountain on the island. First we took a gondola, and then we took a second tram. From that tram stop we had a hike to the very top of the mountain.

It was blazing hot, so even the relatively short hike up the mountain took a long time and contained a lot of grumping by me. The mountaintop is covered in shrines, which provided nice places to rest.

The mountain is also home to many monkeys, whom we were warned about various times. The tram station had free lockers to prevent the monkeys from stealing bags for food.

I accidentally stared one in the eyes, but I didn’t get attacked or turn into stone.

Aw… cross-species de-bugging:

After several hours on the mountaintop, we headed back down on the tram. Right as we boarded the tram, however, Jeff noticed that the key necklace charm he had given me was no longer on my necklace. Jeff made the silver key himself last year, and I pretty am always wearing it, so I was in tears as we rode the tram down. Poor Jeff suggested we go back to the mountaintop and look for it, so we did. Jeff asked many of the mountain staff and even ran up the mountain to look for it while I hiked slowly behind scouring the path for my key. The hike that had taken hours to complete before was suddenly much easier when we had a goal and urgency. Sadly, we never found my necklace, but at least the hike gave me some time to compose myself and get used to the loss. I was glad to lose a necklace, and not a loved one. But I’m still bummed about the necklace, don’t get me wrong.

So, we finally headed back down the mountain. Exhausted, we entered town, which is when I was attacked by the deer. My feelings were a little bruised and I almost cried over being attacked by a usually peaceful animal, but Jeff cheered me up and we got desperately needed dinner.

Miyajima is the lead producer of oysters in Japan, so Jeff got the oyster special, which came with deep-fried oysters, raw oysters and barbecued oysters in the shell. I opted for curry udon, which was delicious as well.

After a long day we headed home and I slept like a rock.