Lost In Japan: Day 4 – Miyajima

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

It’s our last day based in Hiroshima and at the moment I am wondering if anything on this trip is going to beat it in terms of sheer beauty.

So where to begin. I guess on a cramped train between Hirsohima and Miyajimaguchi, where I was getting progressively more and more angry at a Swiss family. Why? One thing I found out today about trains in Japan is that people queue for the doors. It isn’t like the rest of the world where you just pile on in, you actually queue for a particular door. Unlike this Swiss family that just piled on into the train and took the last four seats. Ugh things like that make my blood boil.

Anyway, so after a 25 minute train ride it was onto the ferry to Miyajima Island (might I say, I am in love with the JR rail pass that we got; the all you can ride JR rail travel (with some restrictions) for a week for about £100 is amazing). We were stood at the front of the ferry to make sure I could see our destination. And there it was coming into view, the tori of the Itsukushima Shrine.

As soon as we docked we immediately made for vantage point to take some pictures, but not before snapping some pictures of the local wildlife. Yes, there are a lot of wild deer roaming the town that surrounds the shrine. It is absolutely adorable, especially when a particularly hungry one kept following us to try and break into hubbies lunch.

 List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books
Food items: Lotus root and Dashimaki Tamago

Speaking of hubbies lunch, we got some boxes of lunch from the station before we set off.

His was a lot more pretty, but I think I enjoyed my fried shrimp rice balls a lot more than him with his bounty of squid. Still, by pilfering from his food I managed to get two more things to cross off off the food lists (I am really getting s lot of things whilst I am over here). To be honest, I did not notice the taste of the lotus root too. It was crunch but there was not too much flavour to it. Unlike the shredded tamago which was sweet, eggy and delicious.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 46/100Sight: Itsukushima-Jinja gate
Location: Miyajima, Japan
Position: #258

List Item: Visit the Three Views of Japan
Progress: 1/3

When I saw little pictures of this gate I always did wonder if I would feel as taken aback as many other people were. All I can say is, yes I was. I must have taken more than 25 photos of this gate from different views and I just kept staring at it. There is something about the colour contrast of the red with the sky, the water and the trees that make it so mesmerising. Also, it is massive and yet it looks like it is just floating there.

After being prised away from the view we went through the Itsukushima Shrine itself. It was so incredibly red inside that it felt as if the entire hallway was constructed for, a large number of vibrant red-orange tori (no idea what the plural of that is). I have to say, that all of these shrines kinda make me wish that I believed in something like Shintoism. There would certainly be a lot of beauty in the shrines. Don’t worry I’m not having a religious awakening.

Also, this means that another bucket list item – the three views of Japan – has now been started. This honeymoon was not designed for that (obviously) which means that in order to complete that I have to come back again for thee other two. Probably in a spring so I can watch the Sakura bloom and get some in-season Sakura cheese.

It was getting to high sun so we knew it was shade or inside that we had to go. So we went to the Miyajima Public Aquarium to see what different species could be found in this area of the world (plus the mandatory penguins). There were so many species that I had never seen in the flesh before like a nautilus, a huge octopus, horseshoe crabs and my favourite:

I mean, how cute is he with his piggy nose!

Anyway. After managing to not buy anything in the gift shop (it got close) we went for the ropeway (read: cable car) up Mount Mizen, whose presence truly towers over the island of Miyajima. The route to the ropeway station was just the most luscious primeval (their word) woods. It made me wish we were here in a few weeks time to see the trees go fully red.


Food item: Azuki beans

We grabbed a local pudding on the way. You seem advertised all over Hiroshima. They are shaped like a maple leaf and can come with a lot of different fillings. I saw one of these with cow packaging (I am guessing it was milk flavoured… I hope) but we went for the traditional sweet bean paste with skins on, apparently that means I have covered azuki beans… and who am I to argue with another food being crossed off.

The view from the observatory at the top ropeway station was breathtaking. I hadn’t really understood that despite all the saltwater the sea in front of me was actually part of an inland sea. All you can see up there is water, islands and mountains for miles around. I tried to capture it on hubby’s iPhone using the panorama feature, but nothing can really capture it to be honest.

Since we had two hours until the final gondola down we decided to walk some of the trails up there. Our legs were still a bit sore from the 33,000 steps from the day before… but we wanted to get to the summit of the mountain. Seeing how I view myself as grossly unfit I was rather gratified that despite just the fact that I was sweating so much that sunscreen was stinging my eyes, I was still passing thin Japanese people on my way up. Ha!

Now for a weird coincidence time. When we were at the time summit of Mizen, we made for it after stopping at some of the shrines, I actually saw someone who I went to school with. At the time I reasoned out that it wasn’t him, but it turned out it was. Bloody insane! Obviously, I said nothing at the time because it was ludicrous that it would be him, but thanks to Facebook we actually worked out that were in the same place. How cool eh?

The views from the top of Mizen were even more spectacular, but we noticed it was getting close to the time of low tide, so we made our way back down. Now, one of the problems I have been noticing here in Japan is that I am too tall. Previously it was meant that I headbutt advertising in department stores, the sinks and urinals are basically at my knees and my shoulders were almost too wide for the ropeway car. Another side effect is that a lot of stairs are so shallow that I can not rest my full foot. This is an annoyance on a train station escalator, but it is fucking terrifying when climbing down fragmented stone stairs at the top of a mountain.

After getting down in one piece and, for some bizarre reason running uphill some of the way, it was back to the Itsukushima gate where we saw it during the low tide. Being able to walk right up to it was really a different type of wow factor. Utterly ridiculous considering how it was seemingly floating only six hours previously.

Food item: Ramen

By the time we got back to Hiroshima we were absolutely ravenous so I found somewhere on my Tripadvisor app to go and get some Katsu curry! Could we find this place? Hell no. It was so annoying. So we looked for another place… And still couldn’t find it. I was getting bored of this so I pointed to a nearby restaurant that smelt good called Chikara Hacchobori. Well, all I can say is that it was the best ramen that I have ever had. Roast pork, wontons, good greens, plenty of noodles and an absolutely gorgeous broth. The best part? We were the only non-Japanese people on this small place. It really made me feel like we were not just taking the easy way out, but actually try somewhere almost at random.

Progress: 746/933

Tomorrow we leave Hiroshima and arrive in Kyoto. I have really loved it here, and I am so glad that it was the city we started our honeymoon in. I feel it’s been a gentler introduction into Japanese culture than if we had started in Tokyo.

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