On July 15th, Aja and I set out for Miyajima. Our goal was to experience as much as we could during our short trip. I mainly hoped to try oysters and see the Itsukushima shrine. Once we headed out, we took a boat that had a screen with facts about the landmarks we were passing. We found out about the way oysters are harvested and about a very small island with an ancient legend attached to it. Once we got there, the staff was very helpful and gave us a map to start exploring. We immediately saw deer, which was an amusing part of the experience.
We had decided to eat oysters first. I have had oysters before but never like this. The shop we went to gave us an opportunity to practice our Japanese. We ordered some regular and some miso oysters. They were much larger than any I’ve had back in the states which really proves they’re a staple at Miyajima. We were both very impressed with the way it looked and tasted.
We then tried Momiji Manju at another shop. We tried both the classic type and a small type with dipping sauce. I ordered matcha dip forgetting that Aja dislikes matcha. Nevertheless, we both enjoyed it and are glad we got to try it.
After we had crossed the food we wanted to try off of the list, we walked around for a moment and came across a very large staircase leading up to a small shrine. We took on the challenge and climbed all the way to the top. We were out of breath by the time we got up but felt victorious. We paid our respects to the shrine and took a moment to enjoy the view. Aja had some trouble coming down the steps because it is admittingly scarier to come down than to climb up.
At this point, we headed to the main shrine and saw the gate. The tide was all the way down so we got to walk across. After looking down I realized how many small sea creatures were under my feet. I felt bad for stepping on them but I assume they are unharmed because of their hard shells. Despite the gate is under construction, the whole sight was so surreal I will never forget it. Once we entered the main shrine, I saw many things I did not fully understand. We found out that the different small shrines represent different deities of different specialties. The entire shrine was very beautiful and I was grateful to see a style of architecture I very rarely have the privilege to see in real life. We even pulled for fortune cards. We couldn’t read them at the moment but took a picture for later translation.
We walked around more and saw many more statues and smaller shrines. Some had donation boxes and some had incense. I know the basics of how people pray at shrines so it was interesting to see people do it in real life. I feel I have gotten to witness a key part of Japanese culture that has been around for a very long time. Although brief, I’m glad I caught a glimpse of the spiritual side of Japanese culture during my internship.
The final activity we did was a short hike up Mount Misen. We could not go very far up but we saw several beautiful areas. We came across an open area full of relaxing deer. I have never seen so many deer, and calm ones at that. It added to the surreal nature of the island. We saw gorgeous forestry and streams that I really appreciated. We even came across a small koi bond that I loved. We ran out of time so we only made it up to a sign that warned against recklessness or hiking too late. We took that as our sign to turn around and head back.
Finally, I bought some souvenirs before boarding the boat again. I regret not studying further up on the island and the shrine. I would have liked to know more about the history of it and what deities were being represented there. Nevertheless, seeing the island was an irreplaceable experience and I hope to hike higher up Mount Misen one day.