April 2, 2019
We missed Godzilla in Tokyo but our friend Mary Anne got a picture of him.
Beautiful sunrise over Hiroshima this morning.
And pictures from our sail in.
Today we chose to go on a tour to Miyajima. This is a beautiful island, considered one of Japan’s most scenic destinations. The main attraction is the Itsukushima Shrine with the famous large torii gate that rises up out of the Inland Seto Sea.
We boarded a bus with our guide Kuniko who said that we should call her by her English name, Kate. She held up the characters that spell out her name in Japanese.
As our other guides have been, Kate was fluent in English and very well informed.
Japan consists of 2000 islands and all together is about the size of California. 70% of Japan is covered with mountains. As I have noted and you will see again in this post, spring is cherry blossom season and they are in full bloom here even though Hiroshima got some snow last night! It is cold! Autumn is known for Maple leaves – they are most beautiful in November.
Hiroshima now gets about 4.5 million visitors a year and is, of course, most noted as the place the atom bomb destroyed near the end of WWII. We visited the peace park after Miyajima and I will add information about that near the end of this post.
The bus was well equipped with wi-fi and it was only about a 30 minute ride to get the ferry to Miyajima. Kate advised us to sit on the right and told us that it is high tide which is the best time to view the O-tori Gate rising from the sea.
While on the ferry, we noted the oyster rafts. Hiroshima is the biggest producer of oysters in Japan.
The Itsukushima Shrine was established in 593, the first year of the reign of Empress Suiko and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current torii was erected in 1875 after the original one was destroyed. We got our first sighting of the torii from the ferry and it is beautiful.
The entire shrine and surrounding area is so beautiful. There are 108 lanterns surrounding the shrine which are lit up at night. This is said to be for enlightenment.
We wanted to look for several things in the shopping area – wooden rice spoons with sayings on them made from different woods and originally designed by monks, special cakes made in the shape of maple leaves and of course, the oysters, which we don’t eat but wanted to send pictures to our brother-in-law, Mike, who loves them. But first we took in the beauty of the large and impressive shrine. The whole thing seems to be floating in the water.
Only 1400 people live on this island and there are also 500 deer which are considered sacred. We were given a map with specific instructions that warned us that deer will eat paper and cloth and to be sure to keep an eye on our belongings, especially tickets and souvenirs as the deer might eat them!
We were again fortunate enough to see a wedding procession and also part of the ceremony. The family and guests wanted to pose for us.
There was a beautiful area with lots of cherry trees in full bloom. We just can’t get enough pictures of them!
We still had a little time for shopping (would have loved to stay here longer, but had to get the ferry back). We bought and ate some of the delicious maple shaped cakes. They are filled with everything from chocolate to red bean paste – we loved the cream filled ones. There were many places to watch them being made. I did buy a wooden rice spoon. Mine says “excel mind.”
And the oysters were everywhere..
A few other pictures that were just fun.
The last picture is of a kind of honey. And who knew there would be that many kinds of soy sauce! A whole shop full. I also never saw peach Coke.
A few other facts we have learned about Japan from our lecturers and various guides.
More people are killed by lightning in the US than are killed by guns in Japan. That’s how rare it is.
There are more McDonalds in Japan than anywhere except the US.
KFC is the most popular dish at their main holiday of New Years. They don’t celebrate Christmas and are unclear about Santa, they think Col. Sanders might be Santa.
There are all kinds of animal cafes here, cat cafes, hedgehog, owl…
There are about 3.7 million vending machines, one for every 35 people. It is like grocery shopping by machine – you can get underwear, ties, clothes for your pets, etc. There is even a vending machine on top of Mt. Fuji (which we couldn’t see, rarely seen due to the clouds).
There are 300 varieties of Kit Kat bars here, Kitto Katto. Some of the types are wasabi, red bean, hot chile, sake, baked potato and ginger ale!
After our visit to the shrine, we took the ferry, then the bus back to the pier where we boarded the shuttle to see the Peace Memorial Park. The park is said to be a triumph of the human spirit, having been the site where the first nuclear weapon was used in war. On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay unleashed the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima on ground zero which today is this park. The explosion destroyed most of the city and only a few steel and concrete structures are still standing. The most prominent was once the Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall, the ruins of which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is quite the sight to see the lovely living cherry blossoms against the wreckage of this building.
The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound contains the ashes of tens of thousands of victims who were too badly burned to be identified.
This is a huge park and there were people having picnics and generally strolling around but there was an air of reverence as if it was a shrine, which in some ways, it is.
We saw the eternal flame and the Peace Watch which counts the number of days since the Hiroshima attack as well as the number of days since the last nuclear test.
Also, the cranes are made for wishes to come true. The legend from a 12 year old girl who made 1300 is that if you make more than 1000, your dreams will come true.
It was a beautiful, chilly day with a lot of interesting and sobering things to see. We were glad for sun, Kate said they had snow here yesterday. We just wished for more time and will have to return.