WHEN IN ROME
Documenting my travels across the globe
My heart is so full. Miyajima is a magical place to spend the evening and I wish I had more time there! It’s a small island near Hiroshima that is home to the famous “floating” shrine. I had no expectations, other than I knew the town would be less crowded than the other places I had been, and I was grateful for some peace and quiet. It is quite crowded during the day when all the tourists ferry in to see the shrine at low tide, but this little town really does shut down around 6:00 pm when the last ferry leaves and the tourists are gone. The streets become silent, aside from a few shops here and there that stay open late.
On Miyajima, I stayed at this in the Japanese-style guest house, Miyajima Guest House Mikuniya. It’s run by a lovely old Japanese man and his friendly cat. I cannot say enough how much I loved staying here. The man was so kind and generous. He had free cereal, ramen, bread, and jam in the kitchen and an honor system for the items that cost a few yen, like fancier ramen and beer. “Just put the money in the box over there,” he said, pointing to a small box by the door. I found that most places in Miyajima were like this. At the temples, people like to buy omamori, which are an ornament or small piece of jewelry thought to give protection or good luck. Most of the temples also had a box to pay for these omamori. The island is the perfect example of how beautiful Japanese culture truly is.
Aside from the peace and quiet surrounding the shrine in the evening, my favorite part of Miyajima is Mount Misen. We took the cable car up part of the mountain and hiked the last thirty minutes to the top. At the top, there’s a beautiful view of other Japanese islands and mainland Japan in the distance. We hiked down the mountain back to our hotel and passed through several shrines along the way. I soaked in the crisp mountain air, the beautiful fall foliage, and the peacefulness of the uncrowded shrines. At sunset, the island plays music and we could hear it from our trek down the mountain. As it began, we turned a corner and saw the floating shrine begin to light up through the trees.
While staying overnight on the island, I seized the opportunity to photograph the floating shrine at high tide both at night and the next morning before the floods of tourists came in by ferry. Hardly anyone stays on the island, so it is very peaceful to visit the sites at these times. I was only accompanied by a couple other photographers and some of the free-roaming deer. Like Nara farther North in Japan, the deer on Miyajima are considered sacred, so they roam free. They live in harmony with the people and are not scared away by our presence. A few of them startled me at night because I did not notice them lurking in the shadows, but I loved seeing them roam around the shrine freely.
That morning, I also visited the Daishoin temple before the crowds came by. It’s a beautiful temple, set in the forest on the mountainside with a river running beside it. The temple is home to over 500 Rakan sculptures, a fairly new feature at certain temples. They are tiny sculptures of Buddhist monks with all sorts of expressions and are often seen with knit caps on them. I became enamored with them and spent almost an hour walking around the temple’s grounds, admiring their differences.
When I took a taxi to the ferry on the island, my taxi driver handed me three beautiful paper cranes with my change. She explained their meaning of peace and hope to me, not realizing how much this small gesture meant to me after visiting Hiroshima the day before. I still have the cranes with me and will cherish them, as they remind me of my time spent at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the lovely island of Miyajima.
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When In Rome
Two of my most cherished hobbies go hand-in-hand. Writing is my favorite way to reflect after traveling to a new country. I have kept this blog ever since I studied in Rome to share my travels with families and friends. I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences and getting a sense for my writing skills. If you have any questions, please reach out!