This view of Itsukushima Jinja is classified as one of the “Three Views of Japan”. I must confess that I have a small fetish for torii gates that float on water. I used to watch the drama “The Files of Young Kindaichi” when I was younger and that one particular scene of the torii gate on water in one of the cases is deeply imprinted in my mind. I was quite determined to see a torii gate on water in Japan and I was a little surprised that torii gate on water is not as ubiquitous as I originally thought it to be. In fact, I can’t seem to find a torii gate on water apart from Itsukushima Jinja in Miyajima. So in the end, I decided to make a small adventure to the Chugoku region to see Itsukushima Jinja.
Christina and I took the tram to the pier and from the pier, we took the ferry to Miyajima. We had the one day tram + ferry pass (840 yen) which saved us 40 yen for the round-trip to Miyajima. There are two ferry services to Miyajima: JR and Matsudai and they have similar frequencies. The one day tram+ ferry pass allowed us to take Matsudai ferry. If you hold a JR pass, the pass will cover the cost of the ferry ride but only for the JR ferries. It was a short ferry ride but we had to put up with the many, many excited students who were making school trips to Miyajima. Miyajima, the island itself, has been worshipped as a god since ancient times. Because of this the famous torii gate was built over water to avoid offending the god. Japanese believe that a torii gate separates the human world from the world of the gods. Miyajima is still considered sacred today – there are no hospitals or cemeteries on the island.
We reached Miyajima about 10.30 am and that was about mid-tide. At the entrance of the Itsukushima Jinja is an announcement of the tide times. I think most tourists want to see the Itsukushima Jinja at high tide when it really looks like it is “floating” and it was the same for us. So we sat around, had a picnic for lunch and looked at the floating torii gate for slightly more than 3 hours until the tide was high enough to satisfy our fetish. Beside the famous floating torii gate, Itsukushima Jinja actually has a temple complex too. Similar to the floating torii gate, the temple complex also looks like it is “floating” when the tide is high. It was quite relaxing to watch how the tide slowly rose and how the water slowly covered the sand. We saw flying fishes and small crabs too! We took many photos while waiting for the tide to rise too and personally, this picture of the high stage (where dances used to be performed) and the floating torii gate at the back is my favourite photo. 🙂
Not only was the land of Miyajima considered sacred, even the deers of Miyajima were considered as sacred animals. In Shinto religion, deers are considered as sacred because they are thought to be messengers of gods. These messengers of gods roamed quite freely in Miyajima and they are not afraid of tourists. Once I accidentally unzipped my bag in front of a group of deers and they quickly surrounded me because they thought I was going to feed them.
Originally I wanted to climb Mt Misen but because of the rain and poor visibility, I thought it would be safer to do other things. In the end, I went back to Hiroshima and visited Mitaki-dera (JR stop: Mitaki). There are several online reviews that said that it is the best temple to visit in Hiroshima especially on a rainy day. I remember sharing an umbrella with an old lady and trying to explain to her why I wanted to visit Mitaki-dera. I wish I knew more Japanese! Mitaki-dera was built in 809 and it is located in a steep, heavily forested valley on the side of Mt Mitaki. Mitaki-dera is quite a distance from Mitaki station and the walk to the temple is a pretty steep ascent. Anyhow, I am really happy that I visited the temple. It is nestled in the middle of a heavily forested area and it is a rather enchanting walk. I was exploring the temple all on my own at one point and it was quite a magical feeling to see the small Buddha statues standing or lying on the moss-covered rocks and hear the sounds of the waterfalls in the temple. It is a really peaceful and green place, I will definitely re-visit this enchanting temple when I visit Hiroshima again. 🙂