Miyajima island great torii
Travel

When travel doesn’t turn out the way you planned

We’d planned go to Miyajima Island while the tide was high, get the quintessential tourist shot of the Great Torii ‘floating gate’, then head back to Hiroshima. But something else happened…


The trip almost didn’t happen at all! We overslept and woke with just 15 minutes to get to the subway. In a split second we woke, made a decision to go for it and launched out of bed!

Before we knew it, we were hurtling along at 200 kilometres an hour on the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train as it’s known to westerners, bound for Hiroshima, adding another big tick to our Japan bucket list. Those trains really are engineering masterpieces.

Arriving at Hiroshima was only the first leg of our journey, there we hopped on a local train for half an hour, before a 10-minute ferry ride to Miyajima Island.

Everything was pristine and an incredible sense of peace embraced us.

From the first crunch of the perfectly manicured gravel under our feet we were transported to another dimension. Everything was pristine and an incredible sense of peace embraced us. The hustle and bustle of Osaka was a distance memory.

We wandered around the water’s edge looking for the best vantage point to photograph the vermillion coloured Torii and before we knew it we were captivated – intrigued by what laid beyond the Great Torii.

“Let’s stay a little longer,” were words I didn’t expect my husband to say

“Let’s stay a little longer,” were words I didn’t expect my husband to say, especially since he had questioned my reasons for visiting the island in the first place. We decided to explore.

The Senjyokaku five-storied pagoda dominated the skyline, this photogenic beauty was perfectly framed by cherry blossoms.

Daisho-In Buddhist temple sat nestled in the hillside atop hundreds of stairs. We mused at the 500 beanie-clad buddhas (yes exactly 500 according to the map), spun the prayer wheels and took in the mainland view.

Then we attempted a rather ambitious walk up Mt Misen before realising we were way out of our league; time and fitness were not on our side.

As we wandered back towards the main village we had a breathtaking experience, the kind that is only possible through serendipity.

As we wandered back towards the main village we had a breathtaking experience, the kind that is only possible through serendipity. For just a moment a strong breeze blew and we were showered in thousands of tiny cherry blossom petals.

No visit would be complete without sampling some traditional Miyajima fare. Succulent oysters straight off the barbecue melted in our mouth. Momiji Manju, maple leaf shaped biscuits, were in almost every store, the cake-like treat with red bean jam filling wasn’t really to my liking. Miyajima Nigiri, white fishcakes with Bacon and Asparagus were a tasty street-food on a stick.

Deer roamed the streets freely and tagged along beside us as we explored the local village; not fazed by tourists who eagerly snapped their every move.

One of the shops had a stunning Zen garden at the back; complete with waterfall, bonsai and the biggest Koi fish I’ve ever seen.

There was time for one more stop before we had to head back to the mainland.

By now the tide was low enough now to wander out and touch the Great Torii. My bucket list had been to see it at high tide. Yet, standing in its shadow, touching it, was a surreal and moving moment. I’d admired it from afar for so long but now I could lay hands on it. I was in total appreciation of being there in that place, at that moment, touching something that was centuries old. I was touching it, and it in turn touched my heart.

Sadly, it was time to head back to Hiroshima station to get our bullet train back to Osaka.

Our day didn’t turn out anything like we had planned, we’ll explore Hiroshima on another visit, yet we weren’t disappointed. We cherished every minute of our time on Miyajima Island, it truly is a stunning gem in Japan’s extensively jeweled crown.

I love travel days like these when the best laid plans are thrown out the window and the urge to explore takes over. These are the days when real memories are made; when the well-worn path of the tourist is left behind and chance deals her best hand. These are the moments, the experiences that define a great adventure.


5 Fun facts about the great Torii

  1. A Shinto Shrine that is considered to be the gate between human and spiritual realms. The vermillion colour is said to keep the evil spirits out.
  2. Stands approximately 16.6m high and the roof spans 24.2m.
  3. Is not buried deep in the sea bed but in fact stands by its own weight. It stands on six pillars which give it stability and strength.
  4. Originally constructed in 1168 and was designated as a Specially Preserved Building in 1899.
  5. Main pillars are 500 – 600-year-old camphor trees.

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Source of fun facts: http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/spiritual-heritage-temples-shrines/le-torii-flottant.html

 

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