Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miyajima Bound

We slept well again, perhaps a bit too well. We had planned to be up and out the door early in order to be on our way to Miyajima Island before the real heat of the day set in. Early we were up, but not out. The air felt a bit cooler to the touch this morning however. A soft breeze gently flowed over our skin cooling us every so slightly. But in the end it did little to quell the heat of the day that bore down on us. We had hoped to make another early day of it on the beautiful island of Miyajima, but it was not to be. It became instead a long day on the beautiful island of Miyajima.

Logan was undecided about riding on the street car. One minute he wanted to, the next he said that he didn't want to ride the street car. But we had to take the street car across the city, where we would transfer to a train. We would then ride the train around the outskirts of the city to the sea shore. Once at the sea shore we would board a ferry boat and ride to the island. Logan was extremely excited about riding on a boat. We made it to the train and then to the ferry boat about an hour later than our original plan. The plan to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day was beginning to unravel.

We rode the ferry boat to the island. Jenny and Logan stood at the railing looking out at the ocean and the island that grew larger and larger in the distance. Jenny was slightly dismayed by all the trash in the ocean. She called me over to look at all of the little trash bags that were floating in the wake of the boat. As I came walking over to the railing from my seat, she exclaimed, "Hey they aren't bags, they are Jelly-fish." Floating in the water were hundreds of little jelly-fish. It was an omen, foreshadowing for the coming day. It would be a day of seeing new and amazing sights.

The first thing that we did upon disembarking the boat was to pick up some of the travel brochures from the information center. We brought them outside where we walked over to a nice shady spot outside to inspect and peruse the information. It was here that our pamphlets and brochures were promptly eaten. Eaten you say? I know what you are thinking, "Well, well, well...You really should give Logan a better breakfast, and then he would not eat your travel brochures." But I assure you that it was not Logan's lack of a healthy breakfast that caused him to... NO; wait a second here, Logan didn't eat them it was a sad misguided Deer. Yes it was a deer, not my healthy little boy. We still have the other half of the map that the deer ate. The best part of it was that after getting a taste of our little map he came after our little boy. The deer did not give up and came in for a second helping of "not deer food" and went after Logan. The little man had to scramble away and move up into Jenny's lap for protection. It was then that we had to go back into the visitor center to get a new map and study it indoors.

We first headed to the shrine and tori gate. The tori gate is considered to be one of the three most scenic places in Japan. When you see the pictures from Japan of the giant orange gate standing out in the ocean you are seeing the gate at Miyajima Island. The gate is so massive that it actually is standing right on the sea floor. Looking at it one thinks that the timbers but go down meters into the earth to hold it upright. That is not the case. The Gate is free standing right there on the beach. At low tide the water recedes and you can walk out and get close enough to throw a rock. At high tide water completely surrounds the gate and it seems to be floating out in the ocean. when we got there in the morning there was a group of kayakers out paddling around the gate. We wandered through the Shrine and took some time to admire the gate. We then wandered over to some temples that were on the edge of the shrine. Then it was off to the mountain.

The last time I was at Miyajima the highlight and biggest disappointment for me was the mountain. I enjoyed riding the ropeway to the top of the mountain. Once at the top I found the view breathtaking to say the least. I was a trifle disappointed that I was not able to see the monkeys that inhabit the area surrounding the observatory, but they were in the forest. I was incredibly disappointed once I reached the bottom of the ropeway, because it was here that I learned that I had not made it to the top of the mountain and I had missed everything that makes the mountain worthwhile. I was very sad and decided that next time I would go and see all the sights.

We rode the rope way all the way to the observation area. This time we were fortunate enough to see the monkeys. It was really cool to see the monkeys that were at the top of the ropeway. There were about fifteen to twenty monkeys lounging in the shade trying their best to stay out of the heat of the day. We wandered over to the observation area where we could look out and see around the entire island. Then it was off to the trail that lead to the top of the mountain. We began our hike and walked in what seemed to be hundred degree heat. The first part of the hike was rather easy and almost seemed to be going the wrong direction as the trail traveled down hill. We were planning to hike up the mountain, and here we were going down hill, but not to worry the trail soon began to climb up the mountain. We walked for what seemed like an hour, even though our guide book stated that it was an easy twenty minute walk from the observation area to the top of the mountain. That was the toughest twenty minutes of my life. There was a certain comradery that was present on that trail. We heard the word "Gambare", which means work hard, many times on that hike. People walking in our direction would smile and say hello and comment on how hot it was, and people on the return trip would tell us to hang in there and that it was not too much further.

The walk was definitely well worth the effort. We found ourselves at a complex of temples near the top of the mountain. One was even a temple where you could pray to ogres. There was even a fire that was lit by Kobo Daishi, a very important Buddhist monk, and kept burning ever since. It is this fire that was the pilot light for the fire that is burning in the eternal flame memorial in the peace park in Hiroshima. We hiked and found small shrines that are supposed to help insure safe childbirth and other good health. When we did finally reach the top of the mountain the view was unbelievable. We enjoyed some kakigori, shaved ice, at the small rest station. After resting we began the hike and ride back down the mountain. I was amazed to see some of the people coming up. There were people hiking the path in dress clothes. One woman was walking the path in a dress and high heels. I still shake my head in disbelief.

We rode the cable car back down the mountain and set off to find a temple. While we were visiting the temple at the top of the mountain one of the monks gave us a brochure for another temple on the island. We decided after looking at the pictures in the pamphlet that this would be a place to visit. We first tried to get into the folklore museum but we were denied because it was so close to closing time. It was by this time close to four thirty and places begin to close around five or five thirty here in Japan. We began to worry abut making it to the temple before it closed. I picked Logan up and we hoofed it as quickly as we could to find this temple complex that was about a five minute walk off the main sightseeing area. We completed the five minute walk in about three, and when we reached the gates my heart sank.

I looked up and saw a giant flight of stairs leading up into the temple grounds. After walking all day in the searing, scorching heat I was spent. I was not sure if my legs had any pull left in them. But we had to do it, we had to go in and see this temple after all this temple was different. All of the temples that we go to visit here are Buddhist. Usually from one of the Japanese schools of Buddhism such as Zen, or Pure Land. This temple however appeared to be more like a Tibetan Buddhist Temple. I suppose that the biggest signal that this was a Tibetan Buddhist temple was the giant portrait of the Dhali Lamma hanging above an altar. The first signal that this temple was different were the prayer wheels. All the way up the entry stairway were little wheels engraved with Buddhist sutras. As you walk up the stairs you spin the wheels and it is a form of prayer. We took our time climbing the stairs praying as we went. It made me laugh when we saw a big statue of Ampanman, the children's anime character, on the stairway. We saw many fantastic sights that day. As we climbed the entry stairway we saw a garden filled with small statues of different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We entered a room filled with small statuary and offerings. Another room that was lit by hundreds of hanging lanterns that illuminated different icons. Statues of the Chinese seven gods of luck, and ones of all the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. It was really the highlight of the trip to see this beautiful temple. We took our time to wander the grounds and absorb all of the fantastic sights.

By the time that we left the temple grounds we were utterly spend and very tired. It was around this time that I caught a glimpse of myself in a bathroom mirror. I found myself to be almost unrecognizable. Sweat poured from my face, and my shirt was soaked all the way through. When we finally made it back to our hotel Jenny commented that my shirt was stained by the salt in the sweat. It was at this point that we meandered our way out to the tori gate. The tide was on its way down and we were able to walk almost all the way out to the gate itself. We even took a chance to cool our feet in the cool water of the Pacific Ocean. The last thing that we had energy to do was to do some shopping. We were only half hearted about it and mostly did it because the shopping street was on the way back to the ferry boat. We rode the ferry back to the mainland, but the adventure did not end there.

We still had to find dinner. Riding on the ferry back to Hiroshima we discussed what we should do for dinner that night. I was in favor of returning to the okonomiyaki village and getting some more Hiroshima-yaki. Jenny however was in the mood for some pizza. We had seen a couple of pizzarias on our search for the okonomiyaki village the night before. I gave in and we staggered off to find some pizza for dinner. But pizza was not to be. We checked with both of the eateries were booked with private parties for the evening. We finally found a semi-classy joint that served curry. We were disappointed with the food that we received. The food was delicious, but the quantity was lacking. We make our own curry and load it with veggies and potatoes, tofu and sometimes meat; and when we make it, we make a huge pot and end up with leftovers. At this restaurant I ordered the beef and potato curry, there were three pieces of beef and two potatoes in my curry. I couldn't help but wonder if this was all twelve bucks could get me. I was just glad that my salad contained between seven and ten pieces of lettuce and two shreds of carrot. My stomach did a lot of grumbling that night. Where oh where was that giant pie I spent the return trip dreaming about.

After dinner we returned to the hotel but not before we stopped to take some night photographs of the A-bomb Dome and some of the peace memorials. That night was the one night of the trip where we literally fell into bed. I am pretty sure that I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. It was a exciting and eventful trip. One that I know that our family will cherish in our collective family memory. The adventure was not over however, we still had the trip home to Omihachiman.

No comments: