Thursday, November 30, 2006
Miyajima (near Hiroshima)
Due to my working a Saturday to judge the junior high recitation contest, I was able to get a 3 1/2 day weekend that coincided nicely with the Thanksgiving Holidays. So, I decided to go somewhere "far"- Hiroshima and Miyajima, which involved taking the speedy Shinkansen (bullet train)!
First stop- Miyajima. It's considered one of Japan's 3 Most Beautiful Places- along with Amanohashidate (near me) and Matsushima (in the Sendai area). Definitely beautiful, but I think the spectacular cliffs of Shirahama still blow them all away. Ehh.... I guess you can't argue with Japanese tradition. Anyway, it's a small island near Hiroshima. Deer wander the streets and from the warning signs everywhere, they have eaten tourists' food, tickets, passports, etc. The island is known for the famous Itsukushima Shrine - it was so sacred that people were supposed to arrive by boat through the giant orange Otorii (Grand Gate) that stood in the middle of the sea. The sprawling shrine itself is also built in the sea, but it has stood the test of time for more than 800 years! Depending on the tide, the shrine is either surrounded by water, making it look like an impressive floating Heian Period houseboat, or surrounded by mud- where you can inspect the foundation posts and structure.
Beyond the shrine, there are countless other beautiful shrines and temples. The colors surrounding me were intense, from the bright vermillion shrines to the crystal clear greenblue sea, the deep red of the maple leaves to the green mountains beyond. I climbed the hills and steps to the Daishoin Buddhist Temple complex and then wanderd around Maple Valley, admiring the leaves and natural beauty of the crisp fall weather.
It's amazing how much the MAPLE LEAF has become a symbol of autumn in Japan. They are everywhere- printed on scarves, t-shirts, stationery, and there are even these amazingly delicious smelling maple-shaped pastries with red bean filling that are cooked on streetcorners. I can already imagine cherry blossom season!