Adventures of the 2016 Deaf Sakura Tour: Miyajima, an island where people and gods live together

Miyajima is a small island in Hiroshima.  It is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and the giant vermillion torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water.  Miyajima is one of Japan’s top three scenic spots. The island is also known among Japanese as the islands of Gods.  It is a sacred Shinto religious site.

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Muriel and David pose in heavy rain with umbrella and the famous tori gate

On the day of our tour to this island was rainy dogs and cats.  Two Japanese locals joined us as guides.  They were always smiling despite the huge downpour.   And it was to our amazement that the trip was one of our best memories.  Perhaps because we were soaked wet that we remembered everything but instead of bad, we loved everything we saw, smelled, tasted, felt and learned (heard).  Some of our best photos were taken in Miyajima and of course with an umbrella and a wet background.  And just come to think of this, how often do we make a photo of ourselves with umbrella and rain.

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Deer greeted us at the ferry pier

The island was just fascinating.  Upon arrival at the ferry pier, some deer greeted us.  There were a lot of deer roaming around freely.  We learned that deer are thought of as sacred in Japanese Shinto religion. They are considered messengers of the gods.  The further we walked into the island more deer came up to meet us, a few beg for food, stole our maps and there was one that was constantly bothering or maybe flirting with Peggy who was trying to make photos of each traveler before the vermillion red tori gate standing in the water.

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Peggy, our tour guide, and her deer

The Itsukushima Shrine has a history of more than 1400 years and is registered as World Heritage Site. The huge red color torii gate is described as the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds.  Everything about the Itsukushima shrine and the gate is truly lovely to gaze at. They are built over water and seemingly floating in the sea.  At low tide, you see them standing on pillars from the bottom of the sea.  The shrine consists of multiple buildings, a prayer hall, the main hall and the world’s only Noh stage that is uniquely set in the open with the sea as the backdrop.  Each building is connected by boardwalks that are supported by bright red pillars from above the sea.  We were fascinated by the beauty as we walked on the boardwalk to different halls.  We stopped at various corners to gaze out at the sea with the water drawing out and lowering till we can see the pillars of the tori gate on the sand.  Everything around the shrine, the vermilion colored pillars, and rails, the black hanging iron lanterns, bridges, halls with tatami mats and sliding doors made with some paper were pleasant.  We wonder if the open and spacious sense had made us appreciate the Japanese design of this shrine even more.  it was a total flawless beauty even with the rain.

Miyajima has an abundance of floral nature, marine life and animals living on the island.  Lots of flowers, cherry blossom, and maple trees can be found as well as animals like the deer, monkeys, cats, crabs and oysters at the sea.  And guaranteed, when walking around the island you will meet more than one deer.

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a close up of a tiny crab at the shrine

By the time we were finished with the shrine, we hurried to Omotesando, with a walkway corridor and a roof.   Under this roof, we were kept dry from the rain.  And as walked through the corridor and saw a variety of Miyajima foods cooked at small shacks with some that were a part of a restaurant or store.  And oh, one can’t miss the sight and smell of grilled oysters.  Miyajima has really tasty fat oysters that go great with Japanese beer. Persons who like oysters must try Miyajima oysters.  An interesting history about the oysters is that they are farmed and farming oysters go back to some 300 years ago.  It was a way of life of people who lived on or near Miyajima island.  Some of us bought grilled oyster and some beer.  The warmth of the oyster and some great Japanese beer against the rain turned everything to heaven. The oysters and combination of beer were delicious.  Also, the Momiji Manju, a maple leaf shaped snack cakes, that smelled like grilled pancakes, was a popular sweet treat that one can find made in some stores inside walkway of Omotesando.  We nibbled on some Momiji Manju samples.

And by lunch time found an okonomiyaki shop that was nice and warm.  It was the place where we could dry up before we catch the ferry back to mainland Japan.  And there we tried some okonomiyaki for the first time.  Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety food indigents. You picked the kinds of savory food you like, such as meats, fish, vegetables and mix it in a batter.  Then you pour your batter mix onto an iron cast and let it grill until done.  There are a variety of condiments that you can choose from as topping for your okonomiyaki.  All of us liked okonomiyaki.   YUM! 

We had a grand time despite the rain.  Thumbs up to Miyajima.