So I turned 29 today and we celebrated this with a trip to Hiroshima in the west of Japan to see the famous Floating Shrine. Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima, more popularly known as Miyajima, in the Inland Sea of Japan and it’s a World Heritage Site. The Torii (traditional gate at the entry of a Shinto shrine) only appears to be floating at high tide; when the tide is low, the gate is surrounded by mud and can be accessed by foot from the island.
The Shinkansen was so full that we couldn’t get reserved seats anymore, so we had to try and fight our way into some seats in the unreserved section. I was the only one who managed to get a seat of the four of us. There were at least twice as many people as seats, so loads of people standing in the aisle with a long trip ahead of them, including parents holding babies and elderly people. There was one family who had somehow managed to get 6 seats, for only three adults and three tiny children. Some people complained and tried to get the adults to put the children in their laps so that more people could sit down, especially a fragile looking elderly woman. We were shocked when they flat-out refused to make space for her, especially since two of those kids could have easily fit into one chair. I know us Dutchies are considered rude and the Japanese polite, so we really couldn’t believe their behavior. And of course I beckoned the old lady to come and have my seat. The reactions of the other Japanese passengers were interesting, like they were shocked a foreigner could be so nice, and some actually thanked me. What a strange experience.
From Hiroshima station we had to take another train and ferry to get to Miyajima (shrine island). After our little birthday ceremonies on the ferry and island (which wasn’t easy with the sacred and very aggressive deer freely roaming the Miyajiman streets) we headed out for our photo shoot with the legendary floating torii.
Lunch consisted of cold udon and one of the local specialties anago donburi (conger eel over rice). It was very expensive, service was really slow and the food was a bit bland, but at least Yasu taught us all how to slurp noodles the Japanese way.
After lunch we were surprised to see it was low tide and therefore possible to walk to the torii. Which of course we couldn’t resist doing ourselves, although the tiny sea creatures, thousands of crabs and other creepy crawlers almost kept me from doing it.
We were only supposed to spend an hour or two on Miyajima, but we ended up spending almost the entire afternoon there. We admired the shrine buildings, relaxed a bit with our feet in a cooling stream until the deer came to bother us, tried some local snacks and of course made loads of silly pictures.
The 16 meter high gate was one of the places I still wanted to see before leaving Japan and it was really worth traveling all the way to Hiroshima for. Although it was very very windy on the ferry back from Miyajima: