I traveled to Hiroshima to attend the Atom bomb memorial service which turned out to be emotionally draining. I needed a break from the reminder of destruction and death so took the streetcar down to the ocean. From the port I took the ferry over to Miyajima Island for the day.
In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were shipped elsewhere to die, so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled; in fact, the island’s real name is Itsukushima , and Miyajima is just a popular nickname meaning “Shrine Island”.
It is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views.
It was a very hot day and within 20 minutes of walking around I was covered in sweat. I went into a little local shop to buy a fan and the owner, seeing that the heat was really getting to me, also gave me an ice pack to carry with me. This helped for a while.
The whole shopping area has white sheets hanging over the road providing some shade for shoppers. The sheer number of souvenir shops is mind-boggling. They mostly sell the same things, all sell rice scoops, miniature floating toriis, and souvenir boxes of sweets. So after walking through 2 I had seen everything there was to buy. Even Hello Kitty has her own Miyajima-themed shop and I couldn’t resist buying something here.
All over the island there are deer that roam free and some even followed me around for a while. It looked like they would eat anything from paper to towels. Deer are thought of as sacred in the native Shinto religion because they are considered messengers of the gods.
Itsukushima is a small island and I walked along the beach to the Itsukushima shrine built in the water.
Like the torii gate, the shrine’s main buildings are built over water. The whole shrine seems to be floating in the sea during high tide. I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to see this and not even the heat could keep me from the shrine.
The shrine complex consists of multiple buildings, including a prayer hall and a main hall which are connected by boardwalks and supported by pillars above the sea.
I loved walking along these paths and looking out onto the sea with the lone Torii gate out there looking a bit lost. I was very lucky to have arrived during high tide, otherwise it would have just been a Torii gate standing in mud as low tide drains all the water around the gate.