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April 08, 2006

Miyajima (宮島) and Hiroshima (広島)

Here is some more on the my holiday getaway. Like I mentioned before, I travelled down to the Hiroshima area. I spent the first day in Miyajima, about 30 minutes from Hiroshima by train and ferry, and the next day in the city itself.

I covered the high points in my last post. Miyajima is known for being very beautiful. There are also deer everywhere, which I cover below. Many people make a day trip out of it, so it is super busy during the day, but after 5pm it is almost deserted and all the shops and restaurants close down. It was SO QUIET! Also, spending more time there gives you a chance to walk around and see more of the island than you would otherwise do.

On the first day, I walked around the main street and then headed up the mountain by cable car to the Mt. Misen monkey park and some amazing views.

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I stayed at the Miyajima Hotel Kinsuiken (Annex), which is conveniently located across the street from the ferry landing, although Miyajima is so small that nothing is really far away.

On the second day, I roamed the hills above town, which is where the really good views are located. It is also where many of the cherry trees are, which undoubtedly made it nicer. Around mid-morning, I chanced upon the restaurant that I mentioned in the last post. It was awesome - you could see everything in town from there. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and one of the three beautiful Japan views was laid out on front of me. And there was no one else there...just me and the owner. I could have stayed all day, but I will settle for going back again someday. This is the view...

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My next stop after that was the Daisho-in Temple. It is named after Kobo Daishi, who appears to be some sort of super Buddhist in Japan...I am sure someone else could so a much better job of describing him, so I will leave it to you to find out more on your own. As for the temple...it was very nice. Here are a few pictures:

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Don't feed the deer
Miyajima has a reputation for its deer population. Everywhere you go, they are walking around (in the way). And you are supposed to be careful that you do not let them get a hold of any papers that you have out because they will eat them – there are signs warning visitors to be careful. And with good reason…every deer that looked at me seemed to be sizing me up (yeah, he looks weak…if I get hungry enough, I can take him). Here are the deer getting ready to attack some poor tourists (left) and what they looked like after feeding (right).

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Anyway, the “do not feed the deer your important documents” campaign has obviously worked. I did not see anyone lose their passport, guidebook or cash. But I did see a deer go after a sign in front of one of the shops. Not only did it knock the signboard over, it tore the paper that was on it off and ate it. And whilst I thought that would be the deer highlight of the day, I was wrong. Later that night at the (empty) ferry station, there were two deer having a go at the garbage cans. They would get up on the hind legs and stick their snout through the lid and see what they could find. After checking all the cans in front of the station with nothing to show for their efforts, one of them walked into the station, went over to the phone booth and ripped the phone book off its cord. As I left them, they were merrily chomping away. I wonder how many times they have to replace that phone book…

Some last pictures of Miyajima
On the left...this could be the world's largest rice spoon. It is about 10 meters long. There was no corresponding rice cooker, although it may have been SO big, I missed it. And on the right, this is a stairway off the main plaza leading to some of the trails in the hills behind town. Not easy to spot unless someone takes a picture of it so you know what to look for (you can thank me later).

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And, finally...one more picture of O-Torii Gate. I think this is my best one, so you get the extra large size...

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I have much fewer pictures from Hiroshima, I am not sure whether this is because I took so many in Miyajima or because I slept a lot more, but it is too bad because it really is a beautiful city.

In any case, I arrived from Miyajima in the afternoon and spent a few hours orienting myself, i.e. having coffee, finding the hotel and walking around. I stayed at the Hiroshima Aioi Inn, which is possibly the closest structure to the Peace Dome (原爆ドーム), as you will see below. I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which was a bit sobering, but the cherry blossoms were blooming in the Peace Park and the festive atmosphere added some cheer to offset that.

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The ryokan was fantastic and I could not recommend it more. The staff were very friendly and the food was excellent. I had the full Japanese dinner and I was so full when I finished I could not do anything. I mean it! I had planned to go for a walk on Hondori (see below) or, at the very least, go to the 7th-floor vending machines and buy a beer. Instead, I went to sleep sometime after 9pm. I think I was still full in the morning. This is my room...and the view from the room.

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Fortunately, the breakfast was smaller and I was able to get up afterwards and walk around. I wandered around Hiroshima for awhile. It is very relaxing. I stopped in a few scenic places and read for awhile. It is not a very frantic city, and it seemed OK to just stop what you were doing and hang out. I could get used to that. The pictures below include a row of cafes on one of the riverbanks...unfortunately closed (!) when I walked by, and a view from one of the places I stopped to read.

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Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the major shopping areas called Hondori (本道), which was absolutely charming and so much fun to walk around. From 12-8pm it is a pedestrian street and the whole area is covered. It ends at the peace park only 100m from my hotel and one of the shops at that end is a Choco Cro (St Marks Cafe), which only adds to the appeal. It seems like a lot of people in Hiroshima commute by bicycle and many of them use this street. It was very busy.

Posted by Kirk on April 8, 2006 01:23 PM