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A trip to Itskushima & hiking up Mt. Misen

So yesterday (Saturday here) we decided to make a day trip to Miyajima to visit the Itskushima Shrine (厳島神社, Itsukushima-jinja).

This is pretty much a compulsory visit if one is in Hiroshima; the shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Japanese government has designated several buildings and possessions as National Treasures.

Per Wikipedia:

"The Itsukushima shrine is one of Japan's most popular tourist attractions. It is most famous for its dramatic gate, or torii on the outskirts of the shrine, the sacred peaks of Mount Misen, extensive forests, and its aesthetic ocean view. The shrine complex itself consists of two main buildings: the Honsha shrine and the Sessha Marodo-jinja, as well as 17 other different buildings and structures that help to distinguish it.

The famous torii gate is currently covered entirely by semi-transparent scaffolding while it is undergoing restoration works in preparation for the 2020 Olympics."

To get to the island requires taking a ferry. To get to the ferry, you can take the JR or the (much slower) streetcar. We decided to take the streetcar so we could get a cheap scenic tour of Hiroshima's outskirts.

Once on the island, we said hello to the deer (who are slightly less aggro than the deer in Nara, but only slightly) ...

We toured the shrines and paid our respects to the local deities ...

Nora did a bit of beachcombing ...

We fortified ourselves with some proper Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki (the BEST style of Okonomiyaki in Japan, it must be said) ...

And then we decided to climb a mountain.

Actually, we weren't originally intending to climb the mountain. We had hoped to take the tram to the top of Mt. Misen, but it was (according to the sign) "not operational due to poor weather, thunder and lightning." Which, I don't think was probably why it was closed, as the weather was perfect. But maybe that's the only sign they had available. But with no ropeway tram available to us, we decided, "why not climb the mountain? Surely it's not too hard!"

Well, it was pretty hard.

It was basically a couple miles (2.5k) straight up a whole bunch of very uneven (but highly scenic!) stone stairs like this.

It was harder than we expected, but it was worth it. At the top, we were able to visit an amazing mountaintop holy complex, including the Kiezu-no Reikado (Eternal Fire Hall), where a sacred fire has been burning for over 1,160 years. The fire was used to light the Flame of Peace in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and tea brewed using this fire is believed to cure all illnesses.

There were also jizo statues everywhere, some of them decked out in hats and sunglasses to protect them from the glare.

Another brief (but steep) hike up to the "Mt. Misen Observatory" brought us to even more glorious views of the Seto Inland Sea, Hiroshima, and all its surroundings. Alas, it was a bit of a hazy day, and I didn't bring the right filters for my lenses. Boo.

Nora looked great in the light, however.

By this time, it was about 4 p.m. and we were really tired. And the hike back down as almost as arduous as the hike back up, with hundreds of stairs to climb down.

By the time we got back to flat land, our knees and backs ached and we were ready to get home for some rest and hot baths. Nora was pretty tired of me taking photos.

It was a beautiful, if arduous day. Today we are relaxing, repacking our stuff, and handling some loose ends before we get ready to head to Osaka and settle in. Tomorrow, we will visit Kure, where there are a bunch of thrift stores and pawn shops we want to hit up for vintage kimono fabric. Stay tuned!

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