Sunday, February 7, 2016

Exploring Miyajima (Itsukushima) with the family

We decided to spend our final day in Southern Japan exploring Miyajima (officially named Itsukushima).  I was pretty excited to get my feet onto this island, but I didn't realize just how much I would love exploring this place!  *Warning:  MANY MANY pictures! :) *
This island is just outside of Hiroshima.  It took us less than an hour to get there from Iwakuni.  Once there we parked in the lot just behind the ferry station and then made our way into the station to get our ferry tickets.  
The ride across the water was beautiful!  Looking forward to the island we could just start to see the giant torii.  Looking back we could see the city flanked by many hills.  

There it is!  Otorii!  We have seen this gate before, on Little Einsteins ... one of Mackenzie's favorite shows when she was 4ish.

Once on the island, we walked out of the station and then to the right, towards the Otorii.  We were immediately greeted by deer relaxing in the morning sun.  I could see the question forming in Boy's mind before he even spoke the words: Momma, can I get closer? Of course you can.  :)

And, he did!

He didn't want to leave this spot.

We all got in on the act.  Well, except Mackenzie.  She was ok just standing back and watching us all pet the deer.

We slowly made our way around the sidewalk...well, Kris, Morgan and I stuck to the sidewalk.  Mackenzie and Garytt just HAD to walk on the beach.

The water actually comes up much farther than this at the peak of high tide.

We were lucky enough to find a gentleman who offered to take a family shot of us in front of the gate.  In the first couple shots we had an extra family member.  Silly deer.

With a slight change in camera position he captured an awesome family shot!  
One of my faves since we've been here!

Every time I said, "Where is Garytt?" I would turn around and see him petting another deer.  He was having a blast surrounded by all these animals.

We made sure to get to the island as early as we could so we could see the tide up high and then see it as the tide made its way out, and hopefully catching the lowest point for the day. The highest tide was a few hours before we arrived, too early for us to make it and then be able to hang out all day and see the low tide.

Stone torii on the way to the Otorii
Here's a shot of Itsukushima Shrine as the tide is heading out.

As you can see, the shrine is built on stilts.  The shrine is built over the water, with boardwalks connecting each of the shrine's buildings.  From what I can find on various websites, the shrine was built over the water because the island was considered sacred and therefore, common people were not allowed to set foot on the actual island.  

At high tide the water reaches all the way to the back of the shrine, under all the buildings.  It's an awesome sight! (unfortunately, we had to see that through other people's pictures).

We wandered through all of the boardwalks.  There were quite a few people here so it was pretty hard getting a shot without anyone in it.  

The tide is heading out.

The five-storied pagoda in the background.  

That's a picture of the entrance (on the left) and then the Marodo Shrine is there in the front, center.

As Kris and the kids made their way around the boardwalk, Morgan and I stopped to get my book stamped and then to pull out a fortune for her.  

Put in 100 Yen

Shake out your fortune stick.  Read the number.  Then, open the drawer with the corresponding number to get your fortune.

I'm not sure I've seen one of these lion statues with such a spiky tail before.  He was one of two on either side of the Takabutai ~ elevated stage where ancient court dances were performed.  I can't find anything on the bridge, but it was hiding at the back of the shrine.  It was blocked off so we couldn't walk on it.

The Noh stage.  You would think a plain, brown building in the middle of the many bright red/orange boardwalks and pillars and buildings would be a bit boring.  Actually, amazingly stunning!  It quietly sat off towards the end of the boardwalk, sitting peacefully on a little slanted walkway off to the side.  

Here's the ditch around the back edge of the shrine.

We were all so excited to get out to that torii!!   The kids took a little time to walk out as far as they could before we started our hike up the mountain.  We still had a couple hours until the lowest point of low tide.  

We made our way through the back streets to find the hiking trail that leads up Mt. Misen.  We chose the easy route up and the first sight on the trail was the Tahoto Pagoda.  It's a pretty simple pagoda, didn't seem to be very popular...we were the only ones there for quite a while as the kids wandered up and down the hills right in the area.  There was a good view of the water below and then looking across toward Hiroshima.

This was taken part of the way up a "cool trail" ~ Boy's description ~ that turned out to be quite a stretch for my legs to make some of the steps.  At one point I told him it was getting a little too steep and we made our way back down.

As we made our way farther up the trail we found Daishoin Temple.

There were little statues everywhere!  Hiding under bushes, in bushes, behind bushes.  Everywhere!  I have a million pictures,  but these are my favorites.

I found a little silver statue.  And, on the right is a little ball that was in the folded hands of another statue.  Inside the ball was a little Buddha statue.

A beautiful, reflective bird.

At the back of the temple grounds was Daishi-do Hall.  

The statues that greeted us as we entered the hall.

 Henjyokutsu Cave is underneath the Daishi-do Hall.  This was a dark hall kind of tucked into the mountainside.  There were so many statues inside this hall.  We walked through and looked at them all and we took turns spinning all the little wheels inside.  The 88 statues are supposed to give the same type of blessings to those who see them as it does for you to walk the pilgrimage to all the temples of the 88 images in Shikoku.
The lanterns hanging from the ceiling were a pretty awesome sight!  

Boy taking a turn spinning the wheels of wishes inside.  

We found more statues around this hall, and in the nieghboring Hakkaku Manpuku Hall where you can find the seven lucky gods.   

7 lucky gods

I think you could buy these statues and then place them around the temple.  There were many that had red hats.

It was now getting pretty close to the lowest tide for the day.  So, we decided to make our way back down toward the Otorii.  But, not before we took a few more pictures and walked through a few more buildings.  

Maniden Hall

We made a right turn at this large-nosed statue and walked up the stairs to the hall at the top of the hill.  On the way up we made sure we rattled every wheel (spinning the wheel is believed to bring blessings equal to what you would receive if you read one volume of the Heart Sutra).  This si the main prayer hall where the "Three Awesome Dieties of Mt. Misen are enshrined."

The intricate details of the woodworking up here were amazing!

A dragon and an elephant looking thing.

Finally, on our way out of the temple grounds we walked down steps and spun the wheels all the way down the steps.  Other than being noisy, they are supposed to bring anyone who turns them enormous fortunes! 

At the bottom of the stairs Kris and I took a few turns tossing coins at that bucket.  We both missed.  Darn.  Good thing we turned all those wheel-y things all over the place!

Sign at the exit of the temple grounds:  

It's time to get out and take a close up look at that Otorii!!!  I was so curious how far the water actually went out.  Time to see...

...all the waaaaaayyyyy!!!!

So massive!!  It's about 55 feet tall.  The 2 main pillars are about 33 feet around are made of camphor trees.  The 4 supporting pillars are cedar trees.

Stone bases help hold them up.

It was a little bit sunny out today.   :)  That Boy cracks me up!

Garytt was back in photographer mode.  He wanted to get a picture of the Otorii from this side "because not many people take pictures from this side."  

At this point in the day everyone was starving.  So, we decided to make our way over to where all the food was. Well, turns out, on this little island everything costs at least three times what it should cost.  I just couldn't see myself spending $30 on a small plate of curry.  So, we decided we would just jump on the ferry and make our way across to find something a little more reasonable.  The kids did have some meat on a stick and some fried chicken to tide them over until we made it back to the mainland.  Well, those cute deer turned crazy at the sight of food!  Garytt and Kris had to body block those ferocious beasts while Mackenzie and Morgan inhaled their food!  I don't believe I've ever seen Mackenzie eat so fast in her life!  We did get a little side tracked when we saw the little maple leaf shaped cakes.  OF COURSE we HAD to buy some of those!  A couple with cheese filling, a couple with chocolate filling, one with red bean filling and one maple filling.  So yummy!  I also couldn't leave the island without having what this area is famous for...oysters!  They were unbelievably delicious!  Like butta!  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that they were just pulled out of the ocean!

While we waited for my oysters to sizzle over the fire the kids each picked an ice cream flavor.  

And, with the ice cream came those hangry deer!  They were insistent on getting to their food!  And, they were coming at us from every side!  We were not thinking they were so cute now!  They were trying to grab our bags and run.  Crazy deer!  

Do you see him?  In the background?  He's noticed the food and is about to dart over to see what he can steal.  Meanwhile, Morgan shoves half an ice cream cone into her mouth.  Ice cream headache, anyone?

The ride back across the ferry was pretty.  We made it back in time to get a late lunch at Lawson's before making our way back for our final night in Iwakuni.  

Maple leaves on the sidewalks.  Also, a shot of the oyster traps we saw on the way back across.

To end this long post....a few pictures that Boy thought were interesting on the way home.  He begged for one of the phones so he could take "awesome  pictures" on our trip to Iwakuni.  Sure, why not?!

His snack after lunch.

Random house

The poor guy behind us.  There were a million pictures of him.  Garytt said the driver waved to him at one point.  I hope it was a "hello" wave and not a "DON'T TAKE MY PICTURE, KID" wave.  

A selfie and a sister shot

And a couple shots of the hotel.  Yes, the elf followed us down.  The kids were quite excited to see Jibee was able to make the trip as well.