Day 2: Miyajima and Hiroshima

Early morning, Miyajima

I woke early in Miyajima and had a couple of hours to spend while Mom and Dad slept.  I went on a walk to the Mt. Misen ropeway station.  It was so quiet and serene in the early morning.  Momijidani park along the way was beautiful.  I walked along the little river and sat in my new mental relaxation spot- you know, the one you picture when you have to think of a happy place?  Yes, that was it!  There were beautiful old houses/inn rooms, maple trees and a small waterfall.

I went back to the hotel to wake up the two sleeping beauties.  I felt really badly because I could tell they were in deep sleep, but it was time for breakfast!  We ate in a tatami room downstairs.  Mom and Dad had the Western breakfast while I had the Japanese tray.  It was pretty good although we established Mom and Dad are not “fish for breakfast” people.

Views from Itsukushima

We walked through the Itsukushima Shrine, which had been closed the previous day.  The orange hallways were above sand this time since the tide was very low.  The connected rooms and shrines were beautiful.  On exiting the Shrine, we walked straight ahead to the Zen temple Daiganji, which was built in 1201-1203.  The temple was in charge of the maintenance of several Shinto shrines on the island until the Shinto-Buddhism separation of 1868 in the Meiji Era.  The shinbutsu bunri was a nationalistic policy to separate the two traditions since the Shinto religion was regarded as truly Japanese, while Buddhism was foreign.  A lot of Buddhist temples were closed or converted but ultimately, Buddhism survived since Buddhism was the tradition most used for funerals and graves.  (Please note, this is only a small snippet of historical explanation courtesy of the internet.  One thing this trip has inspired me to do is learn more about Japanese history!).

Right: Five-storied pagoda Left: Senjokaku

Then, we walked uphill and up several stairs (this was to be a recurring theme of the vacation) to admire the five-storied pagoda up close and the Toyokuni Shrine (Senjokaku), the hall of 1000 tatami maps which is incomplete.  The shrine was going to be a Buddhist library for the monthly chanting of sutra, but the sponsoring warlord died before construction was complete.

Okonomiyaki!

We walked along the (flat!) shopping main street and stopped in at an okomomiyaki shop where Mom and ate over 5 years ago (sagoy!).  It was delicious and it was nice to refuel after all our walking.  Perish the thought of a calorie deficit, ha ha!

Atomic Peace Park

Next, we took the ferry back to the mainland and headed to Hiroshima.  We locked our bags in the station and tried to go to a Carp baseball game.  No luck, sold out!  Boo.  So, we went to the Hiroshima Peace Park.  We saw the Atomic dome, the Cenotaph that holds the names of the victims, the Peace Flame and the epicenter marker, which is actually outside the Peace Park.  Before heading into the museum, we stopped for a quick refreshment at Cafe Ponte.  The museum exhibits were extremely powerful.  While it wasn’t a cheerful visit, all of us were so glad that we went.

Walking through the Peace Park

Once we finished going through the museum, we headed back to the train station and made our way up to Kyoto.  We checked into the Mitsui Garden Hotel Sanjo, which was a great hotel!  It was clean and comfortable, although maybe a touch small for Western tastes when sharing a room.  I had a room to myself so I reveled in the space in my special hotel pajamas provided!

Oyasuminasai!

Day 1: Arrival and Miyajima

I woke up early to pick up Mom and Dad from Narita.  I was running a little late and they landed early so we initially missed each other.  Mom, being the savvy traveller she is, had hurried to the JR pass line to turn in their vouchers for their coveted JR pass.  We met up and caught the Narita Express they had reservations for so no time was lost by our initial missed connection.

That day, we travelled a lot because we were on our way to Miyajima!  That’s quite a trip, but we were pretty excited to stay in a ryokan, the Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto.  It was a beautiful, serene place and we stayed in one of the larger rooms with a nice-sized tatami room.  Before dinner, we walked down to the shore to admire the floating torii gate at sunset.  The gate is part of the Itsukushima shrine, a Shinto shrine on the sacred island.  The shrine floats over water, originally designed to prevent  ordinary people from stepping on the pure land.  Now that rule is much more relaxed since many tourists make their way over but even still, there are no hospitals or cemeteries on the island.
Entrance to the hotel

We returned to the hotel and I went down for a quick hot tub dip.  I showered off, as one should, and hopped in the tub.  There was one indoor and two small outdoor tubes.  I liked the upper outdoor one since it was a small, round wooden tub in a beautiful garden setting and it was the deepest of the three.  It was very hot and it was a good thing my bath time was short!

Dinner was an amazing, multi-course kaiseki meal.  The dress code was yakata robes and as you can see, we all complied!  We went down to the dining room and our places were already set with several amuse-boche size bites of food, including a small glass of liqueur.   After the small dishes, they brought hot pots over and lit the fire.  We had had the choice of oyster and eel and we all went with oyster.  It was incredibly good.  The broth was so savory and delicious and the oysters were huge.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the night.  
We also had a huge sashimi tray brought over with snapper, salmon, little fishies, conch and a big fish head which we left alone. Next, we had grilled oysters that were awesome.  We had a egg custard soup, which I normally love but didn’t quite enjoy as much there.  There was a small broth-y soup (dashi?) that was tasty.  Mom and Dad got a beef plate next while I had fried fish.  This dish was incredibly small which was a good thing since there were so many courses.  Next, mixed rice was brought to the table.  It was good but we ate very little since we were starting to get pretty full.  We ended with a fruit cocktail dessert that was good but nothing exceptional.  My top dishes of the night were the grilled oysters, hot pot and the super-fresh sashimi.  
We rolled ourselves upstairs (hard to do, ha ha) and our futons were laid out.  We all went to bed and slept well.  The next day, we had plans to see more of the Itsukushima shrine and other temples of the island.  Oyasuminasai!