Things I Have Learned in Myajima, Japan
“To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world’s goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.” Yukitaka Yamamoto
The most famous site in Japan are the floating Torii gates of the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Myajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Actually the real name of the island is Itsukushima but people will know what you mean by Myajima (shrine island).
To get to Myajima you take a ferry from Hiroshima. Anago (sea eel) is one of the famous regional foods of the Hiroshima area. It’s especially prominent around the area of Miyajima, and if you go to Miyajima-guchi where you catch the ferry to Miyajima Island, you’ll find several competing restaurants featuring anago.
I am not the only one taking pictures on the ferry as the Tori gates come into view.
Miyajima is believed to be the island where God dwells. It is said that Itsukushima Shrine is built on the coast because the whole island is God’s body and is sanctified. Itsukushima Shrine was built at the end of sixth century and modified to the present building by Kiyomori Taira, who came into power for the first time as a warrior in 1168. It is located in the sea and has a bold structure because the shape changes by the rising and falling tide. The orange lacquered shrine building, green forest and blue sea symbolizes the Japanese sense of beauty.
The island itself has been considered sacred. In order to keep up its purity, commoners were not allowed to set foot on Miyajima through much of its history. In order to allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land. It existed in a state between the sacred and the ? Not sacred? Damned? Ordinary? Others?
The shrine’s signature orange entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for the same reason. Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine. When the tide is low, you can walk to it.
Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near the shrine. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to go the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are terminally ill or the very elderly who are near death. Burials on the island are still forbidden. I’m not sure how they control the birth and death thing.
It is both a Unesco World Heritage site and a Japanese National Treasure site.
Omote-Sando is the main street from the port to Itsukushima Shrine. There are a lot of souvenir shops on both sides of the street. You can enjoy souvenir shopping for artwork such as Shamoji, a rice scoop, wooden spoons, well-known Momiji manju, a bun with a bean-jam filling made from maple leaves, and other crafts.
The deer on Myajima are not shy about asking for food and water and just as cute as the ones in Nara Park.
There are many other temples and Buddha statues on Myajima. If you visit these spots you can really feel that Miyajima has been the object of worship for Japanese people throughout time.
Yo I sorano tabi o,