Sunday, October 23, 2005

Miyajima (Itsuku-shima)

Here's a tip for all you travellers in Japan: carry enough money with you EVERYWHERE! It is impossible to draw out money from other banks machines if you're from another prefecture and are with a local bank.

My impromptu shopping spree the day before left me with very little cash on hand. After checking out of the Aster I had literally only the coins in my coin purse (~$15) to last me the day. *What was I thinking?!* After desperately walking around the city and trying EVERY bank ATM that was open on a Sunday (even Resona which worked for me in Saitama), I decided to try the Popular convenience store ATM. This was a frantic last attempt as most convenience store ATMs don't accept my bank card, even in Kansai. But miraculously the little hatch opened and there was my money!

I took a train to the port (hint: take the express, the local took foreeeeeeever!) and hopped on a ferry over to Miyajima. The weather had cleared up and it was just beautiful. The wind was cool as we glided over the sparkling water to a lush green island of mountains. Miyajima is one of Japan's 3 most beautiful spots. You might be familiar with it from photos or postcards of a red and green O-torii Shinto Shrine Gate standing in the water. In reality, if you don't get there when the tide is high enough, your photo will be of the famous 'floating' torii gate standing in mud. It's meant to be one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Japan and believe me, I took plenty!

After taking photos of unsuspecting tourists and Japanese visitors under attack from the local deer (just like Nara), I headed straight to Itsukushima Shrine. This is where the O-torii Gate is. I was lucky that the tide was just right and it really was a beautiful sight. I was also lucky enough to be there when a traditional wedding was taking place. All us tourists gathered around to take photos of the ceremony, the drinking of sake from shallow bowls served by the priests(?) and the family photo in front of the shrine. There was also another couple in traditional Japanese wedding kimono taking photos there too.

I walked around trying to cover as much as I could. I went to the Kiyomori Shrine, Daiganji Temple, Treasure Hall and Daishoin Temple. When I was up some mountains taking photos of some statues, suddenly the calm silence was broken by the thundering sound of drums that rang throughout the island. They kept on going, faster and louder. What the hell was going on?

Then I realised I was on that island for Mortal Kombat where the Outworld would battle it out to the death, for the Realm of Earth. It was just like in the movie. Exactly. With thoughts of seeing Rayden (ohh Christopher Lambert), Liu Kang, Scorpion (I always used him) and Shang Tsung (played by the brilliant "if-you-ever-need-a-bad-ass-evil-asian-dude" Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), I stopped what I was doing and immediately followed the alluring drumming like a rodent (a tunnel rat to be exact) following the delightful piper's tune.

I was lead to Senjokaku (main hall of the Hokoku Shrine) and the five-storied pagoda. Alas I wasn't able to get Johnny Cage's signature but I was able to watch an amazing taiko drum performance. I love taiko drums. The deep sounds, hypnotic beat and the power and muscle that goes into playing it. It was so cool.

By then I was starving and lined up for Miyajima's famous oysters. Freshly shucked and cooked on a barbeque, with a squeeze of lemon - it was the most delicious thing ever. Ever. Definately worth the long wait for them. I also tried deep fried momiji manju on a stick, mayple leaf shaped cake with sweet filling inside, usually red bean paste. Miyajima is famous for the O-torii Gate, momiji (mayple trees), oysters and special wooden rice scoops made from Miyajima wood.

Next I took the Ropeway to the top of Mt. Misen, the highest moutain on Miyajima. The view from there was stunning. Not to mention the monkeys!! Yep, that's right. Red faced-butted monkeys. Heaps of them, just monkeying around.
There were so many other temples I didn't get to see but hopefully I'll visit again. I ferried back to the mainland, trained it back to Hiroshima, then shinkansened it back to Kobe. A really amazing weekend. I definately recommend Miyajima to be on your itinerary in Japan. It's perfect for a relaxing day trip.


At 11:17 pm, Blogger Edward said...

I'm planning on visiting Hiroshima in April. I'm going to stay one night at the ryokan on Miyajima, and I'm trying to decide whether I should spend the other night at the World Friendship Center, or at Aster. Do you have any recommendations? You can e-mail me at Thanks.


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