The heights and falls of Miyajima Island
Japan Times -- Jan 10
My alarm sounded at 6:45 a.m., but I quickly silenced it and rolled over in my futon. I enjoyed a fleeting moment of quietude before the thrumming of rubber soles on pavement and accompanying excited voices crescendoed, a brief multilingual hubbub that then faded away for a minute or two before rising up again. It was starting.

A stone’s throw from my hotel, the various ferries and fast boats had begun to disgorge waves of day-trippers to Miyajima Island, and these sightseers invariably made a beeline to Itsukushima Shrine and its world famous floating torii. This route took them down the crescent boulevard along the waterfront and directly beneath my rented room.

Heaving a tired sigh, I hoisted myself from the floor and looked out the window across the stretch of Hiroshima Prefecture’s Seto Inland Sea that separated me from the mainland. Each gaggle of visitors on the street below sounded larger than the one before, and I could see another ferry just coming in.

The shops and restaurants were mostly still shuttered as I made my way through town, and no one was posing for photos in front of the world’s biggest rice scoop yet. Having visited Itsukushima Shrine just before closing the previous evening, I continued to dodge the crowds by heading to neighboring Toyokuni Shrine. As I had hoped, I was among the very first visitors of the day to this 16th-century library of Buddhist sutras built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Never fully completed, the hall was converted to a Shinto shrine after Hideyoshi’s death. I took my time inspecting the dozens of peculiar paintings hanging from the rafters above, but it wasn’t too long before a mass of uniformed primary school students began to swarm the hall and I made my retreat.

I followed the signs to the ropeway up Mount Misen, which at 535 meters is Itsukushima’s tallest peak. After passing through Momijidani Park, I veered right onto a footpath that ran roughly parallel to one of the small sacred streams that empty into the Inland Sea at Itsukushima Shrine. The early morning air was bracing, but I was soon shedding layers as I wove my way through enormous boulders left behind by the landslide that wiped out the shrine below 70 years earlier.

News source: Japan Times
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