A Trip to Itsukushima

704711_557479384309547_1660225059_oMiyajima, also known as Itsukushima, is a beautiful island off Hiroshima Bay. It has a beautiful five-story pagoda, a huge temple, and a picture perfect torii gate.1075349_557473240976828_1377483048_oOn my first trip to Japan, I had the pleasure to take a Shinkansen, or bullet train, all the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima. The train ride was beautiful, and as the name suggests, as fast as a bullet. With only a matter of a few hours, I had passed through half of Japan. Upon exiting the train, Hiroshima was vastly different from Tokyo. Much less urban for starters, and a much more peaceful feeling. Even better than that, the lovely little mountainous island, spanning only 30.39 square kilometers and housing 2000 people, Miyajima. 1072614_557478114309674_1788268499_oMiyajima was a nice change of pace. Growing up in a city in America, and then moving to the extremely urban area of Tokyo, this island crafted by nature, and upheld by the inhabitants that wish to preserve and respect the forests, was picture perfect. 965694_557478457642973_770118141_oHaving worked in a zoo for three years, animals have always fascinated me, so one can imagine the immense feeling of joy I had when I noticed noticed all Deer and Monkeys roaming the Island immediately after I exited the ferry used to travel between the mainland and island. I was fortunate enough to pet one of the marvelous creatures. 774443_557479170976235_322984336_oSoon after I walked down a long street covered in small shops selling small toys, various omiyage (souvenirs), and Shamoji, a wooden spoon used to serve rice that was invented by the monk that lived on the island.1077611_557478790976273_1797366277_oOther than small trinkets, they sold food such as the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki, kakigori shaved ice which was great for the summer, and the islands famous momiji manju pastries that are filled with azuki jam or custard. The momiji manju is shaped as a maple leaf since the trees scattered along the island, beautiful in autumn, are all maple leaves native to the island, and are unable to be cut for lumber due to them being regarded as sacred. 1078632_557480034309482_1383646070_oItsukushima Shrine is one of the most famous parts of the island, actually being one of the National Treasures of Japan. It is a Shinto Shrine, most famous for a “floating” torii gate. The gate looks as if it is floating due to the changes of tides. Depending on if it is lowtide or hightide, one can walk out and stand beneath the 16 meter wooden torii gate. A very popular tourist spot to take a quick picture. 1072233_557481287642690_814718829_oThe shrine itself was rebuilt many times, having been destroyed due to the many battles on the island starting in the 6th century. Walking along the halls of the shrine, which gave the feeling of walking through water due to it being high tide, gave much insight to the shrine itself. It was dedicated to the daughters of Susanoo no mikoto, the god of seas and storms. The island was, and still partially is, meant to be pure. No deaths are allowed on the island, nor are births. If a women is about to deliver, they are sent to the mainland, the same for the terminally ill or elderly. At first I assumed this was an error of translation on my part, but upon walking through the island, I found this to be very true. It amazes me how sacred the island is viewed and treated by the people 15 centuries later.1074125_557482207642598_208864789_oAs you continue along the path, You can view the 5 tiered pagoda, looking up at it towering over you. Its bright scarlet coloring and pure white reflecting back at you. 976033_557482594309226_114461877_oFurther up the mountain itself is Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s senjoukaku. A nice point to just sit and relax. There are many artifacts inside. Prior to entering you are required to take off your shoes. It has historical knowledge scattered throughout, as well as a lovely place to sit and look down at Itsukushima Shrine. 1074866_557483754309110_1665276399_oSadly it took me the entire day to view only the first half of the island. I had geared up ready to explore, and found much more than I was set on finding. Perhaps my next trip will bring more discoveries, and nostalgic memories. -Writer Adam