September 29, 2012

Mt. Misen and eating in Miyajima town

In Miyajima, they have a small mountain called "Misen(弥山)", which is also included in the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage cause there are endemic species found only in the primary forest. The height is 535m and we can go to that of 450m by using two ropeways. Even so...reaching the top of Misen was not so easy for me. Though we can walk on the rout of the climb, road is up and down with many rocks. Moreover, I am afraid of heights...
A small beautiful river near the ropeway station
Ropeway ...I'm afraid of heights.
Mt. Misen from the ropeway terminal station at 450m
Mt. Misen consists of rocks.
Narrow step among rocks 
Reikado (spiritual fire) temple 
Permanent fire and sacred hot water in the Reilkado temple 
The top of Mt. Misen
The view of Seto Inland Sea from the top 
Even so, I was so satisfied with the sense of accomplishment after reaching the top. The view from the top was very nice. Calm Seto Inland Sea was also beautiful. In Mt. Misen, there are also several temples and a shrine. The most popular ones among them are Misen-hondo (弥山本堂)temple and Reika-do (霊火堂) temple just near the top. 

The both of them were established at the beginning of 9th century by Kukai (空海), a great Buddhist monk, and it is believed the fire Kukai used has been continually there since 1200 years ago. If we drink sacred water boiled by the permanent fire, we will allegedly not be ill. Definitely I drunk. He can who believes he can! 

After climbing Mt. Misen, we went down to the Miyajima town where many shops and restaurants are located. Many sold grilled oysters outside the front of shops (oyster is one of the specialty in Miyajima). It was good (with beer)!
Shops and restaurants in Miyajima town
Many customers on the street 
Storefront grilled oysters bar 
Grilled oysters at JPY400
Then, we went to "Kakiya (牡蠣屋)" whose meaning is "the oyster restaurant" to taste oyster dishes. Kakiya is a modern and stylish oyster restaurant with variety of oyster menus and alcohol that suits oysters well. Particularly, fried premier oysters were super(with dry white wine, Chablis)!! Tough it costed JPY1,500 for only three pieces, value for money. I haven't taken such a big but tasty fried oyster before.

The quality of taste and service are high. Inside was silent and we could be relaxed. Kakiya is recommendable if you like oysters. My rating is 3.7 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita! Kakiya (牡蠣屋)
Exterior of Kakiya 
Inside of Kakiya
Fried premier oysters 
Oyster rice with miso soup 
Oyster gratin 
After eating, we needed some dessert. Just next to Kakiya, I found a fried pastry shop named "Kouyo-do(紅葉堂)." They sold fried "Momiji-manjyu", a popular sweet making of flour, egg, honey (for outside) and bean jam or cream, etc. (inside). They fried one by one after customers ordered. So, we can eat just-made manjyu! Delicious! One piece is only JPY150. If you find it, please try it. 
Outside of Kouyo-do
Fried momiji manjyu
Sleepy gods' messenger....lovely:)
As you can see, Miyajima is a wonderful island with many things to see, feel and eat! I need to continue coming to this sacred island from time to time. 

September 26, 2012

Miyajima, sacred island

I visited Miyajima(宮島), an island located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. This island is famous as having the Itsukushima Shrine(厳島神社) on the sea, a National Treasure of Japan, a UESCO World Heritage and the head Shrine of 500 Itsukushima Shrines all over Japan. 

It is said the island was a subject of nature worship from ancient times and according to the record, the Itsukushima Shrine was built in the time of Emperor Suiko around 6th century. Particularly in the 12th century(Heian period), Tairano Kiyomori (平清盛), who became a government's chief minister (太政大臣) for the first time as samurai, greatly esteemed the Shrine and contributed to the development.
Torii, gate of Itsukushima Shrine

 Itsukushima Shrine on the sea
Main Shrine
Five-story Pagoda
Corridor of Itsukushima Shrine
Wooden tablets for making wishes 
A dear walking around
Whenever I visit the Itsukushima Shrine, I feel very sacred. The Shrine is protected by the sea and mountains, and mystic atmosphere is created. Japanese see gods in nature unconsciously and we somehow feel and believe the presence of invisible gods there. This time, luckily to me, there were few customers and I could fully enjoyed the visit and prayed a lot. In Miyajima, dears are seen as messenger of gods and taken well care. It is also fun to find dears walking around the island.

For seeing more Miyajima, I stayed inside the island at a Japanese-style hotel named "Arimoto(有もと)" whose history is more than 400 years. Arimoto is located just behind the Itsukushima Shrine and we can access the shrine in few minutes. Arimoto is a long-established hotel, but the building has been renewed and renovated as a modern hotel.
Shrine-side Entrance of Arimoto 
A twin room
Japanese-style living room is also attached 
Outside hot springs 
In addition, Arimoto has hot spring baths both inside and outside! Hot spring is indispensable for Japan trip. Sooo comfortable and refreshing. Overseas friends say that they can't stand taking a bath naked, but you can be used to it once you try with courage. I promise you will never regret. If you come to Japan, you can't miss it! 

Usually, when Japanese stay at a Japanese-style hotel, ryokan, we take a rest with green tea and sweets after check-in, then go to hot spring. After cleaning body, we go to dinner putting yukata, summer casual kimono. After eating, we sometimes go outside or go again to hot spring. I also followed the manner as usual. After taking a bath, dinner was started:)
Private room for dinner
Appetizer and beer
Sashimi sampler using fresh local seafood
Soup with matsutake, pine mushroom 
Hot pot with local fish
Local sake "Misen" it was good! 
Boiled okoze, local expensive white fish
Grilled oysters 
Soup of winter melon 
Local beef for grilling 
Steamed rice with mushroom and miso soup
Dessert, mango pudding and almond jelly
Arimoto sticks to using local ingredients, namely "local production for local consumption." I ate raw conger for the first time. Okoze, local expensive white fish was very delicious. All the dishes were cooked in a delicate manner and the taste was sophisticated. Moreover, service was nice. Local sake named "Misen" was also tasty, not so sweet not so dry. It was a really nice dinner.

If you stay in Miyajima, Arimoto is recommendable. Impression might be depending on which room you choose (cause it seemd some rooms are very renovated and others are not so much.), but you can be fully satisfied with the good quality of dishes, service and hot springs. My rating is 4 out of 5. Arimoto(有もと)
Entrance of Daisho-in with "Nio", Buddhist gardians
Long steps  
A lot of Buddha statues 
One of the main hall of Daisho-in
Illuminated Tri gate of Itsukushima Shrine 
After the dinner, I went to Daisho-in(大聖院) Temple which held its candle festival at that time. Same as everywhere in Japan, Shinto(神道), Japanese native religion and Buddhism(仏教) are living well together even in the gods' island, Miyajima. My understanding is that Japanese supplement some deficit of Shinto, particularly regarding after death with some concept of Buddhism. Also, as Shinto is polytheistic religion and we are maybe used to worshiping different gods. Daisho-in lighted up only by candles were so beautiful. 

Itsukushima Shrine is also illuminated until 23pm. It was...just magnificent and beautiful. The figure at night is different from that at morning. If you have time, it would be better to stay in Miyajima!