Saturday, August 30, 2008
Miyajima: The Gate
When going to Fukuoka, I only booked a one way bus ticket. I ended up visiting Hiroshima on a whim and because I procrastinated on buying a bus ticket back to Tokyo. By the time I tried to purchase a direct bus ticket from Fukuoka to Tokyo, they were all sold out. This actually worked out for the best because I decided to take a bus to Hiroshima and then to Tokyo, with a 2 day stay in Hiroshima. Not only did this plan give me time to visit one of the places on my must visit list, but it was actually cheaper to take a bus to Hiroshima and then to Tokyo than it was to take a direct bus from Fukuoka. I also got lucky with the hostel I stayed at. It had just opened that week and I received a special 'we just opened' discount.

So why is this post titled Miyajima and not Hiroshima? Well, after getting into Hiroshima late I ate some okonomiyaki for dinner, grabbed a 2 day free travel pass from the hostel desk, and got some shut eye. The first thing I did in Hiroshima when I woke up the next morning was leave it to check out Miyajima. Miyajima, otherwise known as Itsukushima or Shrine Island is located in the Hiroshima Prefecture and is only about an hour or two away from the city of Hiroshima via train and ferry. The island is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine which is a UNESCO world Heritage site and is one of the most photographed icons of Japan, right behind Fuji and the geisha. It's also famous for it's maple trees, maple leaf shaped custard snacks, deer, and wooden rice spoons.

They day started out well. I hopped on the train and headed to the port. From there I took a ferry over to the island, taking quite a few pictures as I went along. The travel pass I got the night before covered the cost of both the train and ferry. It was really convenient. This was also the first time I really traveled anywhere in Japan by myself. Yeah, I did some things alone in Fukuoka, but I knew I had friends nearby. I didn't know anyone in the Hiroshima area. But it was very easy to figure things out and a very easy city to see by oneself.

After getting off the ferry, I grabbed a map and headed to the shrine. I passed a ton of deer along the way, many of which were hassling various visitors. I even saw one deer grab onto this guys shirt and wouldn't let go. It was hilarious (for me at least, he did not seem to pleased). I got to the shrine at high tide and got some really nice pictures of the famous red gate and in the shrine itself, they were performing some type of ceremony that was interesting to watch. After that, I wasn't quite sure what to do next, so I let the map be my guide.

Eventually I decided to climb Mount Misen, which is the highest point on the island. There is a rope way that will take you close to the top and from there it's about a 30 minute hike to reach the summit. The rope way is pretty spectacular in itself. You get a really nice view of the Seto Inland Sea. After making it to the top and hanging out with all the deer, I headed back into town.

By this time, it was low tide and you could actually walk out and touch the red gate, so I did. The gate close up is pretty cool. There are a bunch of rocks placed on the support beams and also a ton of 1 yen coins stuck into various cracks in the wood.

After that I did some shopping and watched various machines make these maple shaped snacks filled with custard. I actually don't like them, but it's fun to watch the machine that makes them. Then I headed back on the ferry. On the train ride back. I hopped off at the Hiroshima Dome exit and took a few pictures of, well, the Hiroshima Dome. Its the site where the atomic bomb dropped. At that point, the weather went a bit south and it started raining, so I headed back to the hostel.

My plan was to just bum around for the rest of the night, but I ended up making friends with two of the girls staying in my room and one of them suggested we all go hang out with her and one of her friends staying at a different hostel later that night. I had no reason to say no, so off we went. We started with some dinner at an okonomiyaki place at the station. It was amazing, but so huge that I couldn't finish.

After that we wandered around for a bit and decided to go bowling at a local gaming center. The wait for a lane was a little over an hour so we hit up a local combini for some chuhis and drank the wait away. At the combini I found the most amazing drink ever! A melon soda chuhi. If I had the space, I would have bought them all and taken them back to Yamanashi with me, because, of course, I have yet to see a melon soda chuhi here.

Once we finally paid for our lane, we were really confused because we couldn't figure out where to get our bowling shoes, but eventually the Japanese girl who was with us figured out that we were supposed to get them out of these locker looking machines. Strange! Bowling was fun. While it was my turn though, the bowling alley went all crazy with the lights flashing. None of us knew what was going on. Later we found out that the crazy lights signaled the start of a mini game that we had won. So while they were taking our picture to put up on the wall and giving us a mini prize (a box that you pressed a button and it would make weird noises) they explained the game. Basically, the score of the bowler after the crazy lights thing happened is compared to all the other bowlers at the alley and whoever has the highest score is the 'winner'. And the guy who bowled right after me got a strike!

After that, we all headed back to the hostel and shared contact info. Over the course of the evening I made plans with another girl to go to the Peace Park and museum. We made plans to meet up the next morning for some breakfast and then hit the sack.

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