This morning saw me waking up with a bit of a head cold coming on. Stuffed sinuses, dripping nose, all the stuff you certainly don’t want while on holiday. But I decided to suck it up (literally – ew!) as Nick and I had plans to visit Miyajima Island today.
Before we could head out the door, Junichi incredibly kindly served a breakfast for us, along with Walter and Lilian, of toast, fried egg, rice, kimchi and homemade miso soup. We even had orange juice – I needed all the vitamin C I could get!
After we had finished, we said goodbye to Lilian and Walter who were continuing their journey on to another location in Japan. Shortly after, Nick and I went out to brave the local bus network and then the train station to get to Miyajima. Luckily, our wonderful hosts had created written instructions on how to get to all the tourist attractions including the kanji for the relevant stations or stops we needed to get off at (the stops in this area don’t have English translations).
It was with little effort that we ended up boarding the ferry to Miyajima island. The ferry ride was only 10 minutes long and Nick and I managed to get seats up on the top deck so we were able to see the passage clearly. Docking at Miyajima was a smooth process and it wasn’t 1 minute past the wharf that we saw our first deer!
A lot of the deer looked fairly mangy but they were bold as brass, wondering up to tourists and eating brochures. Most people ignored the signs asking people not to touch or feed the deer – Nick and I were content with just taking photographs.
One of the main attractions of the island is the “floating” torii gate which we were able to see at low tide. The torii gate belongs to Itsukushima shrine – a famous shrine on the island.
The other attraction is Mount Misen, the tallest mountain on the island. The summit of Mount Misen can be accessed by cable-car (called a ropeway) or several walking tracks. After a little fretting over whether or not I was well enough, Nick and I elected to take the walking tracks.
It is said that Buddhism was first practised on Mount Misen by Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect. Near Misen’s summit are several temples.
One of the temples we saw along the way was the Reikado (Hall of the Spiritual Flame). which protects a flame, which Kobo Daishi is said to have lit when he began worshipping on the mountain. It has been burning ever since, and was also used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima’s Peace Park (photos from yesterday!).
The walk took us about an hour to reach the summit and the way down was very steep and slow going. One really interesting thing we encountered on the way back down was a small unauthorised shrine area next to a fissure in the rock face. The fissure itself was blowing out a very cold breeze – like sitting next to an open refrigerator. As it was quite warm (I was sweating!) we decided to sit there for a while and rest before continuing down the mountain.
Along the way of our trek we ate some snacks that we brought with us, but once we were back in the town, we needed a pick-me-up. Enter Sarasvati, a hand-ground coffee and cake shop. Nick had a cheesecake and I had an apple cake and we both had refreshing ice coffees. While it was naughty, and not the healthiest lunch I will ever have in my life, I found that I could not regret the cake. Not only did it look magnificent, it tasted pretty darn good too.
We stayed on Miyajima for a short while longer to take pictures of the torii gate during high tide so it looked like it was “floating”. Then we headed back to Junichi’s place after picking up some cold and flu tablets for me as my sniffling was driving me crazy!!
At about 6:30pm, Juinichi offered to take Nick and I for “Hiroshima style” okonomiyaki at Okonomiyaki Tanokyu. As we had already had okonomiyaki before in Kyoto, I wasn’t expecting it to be much different but I was very, very wrong.
Kyoto style is to mix everything together into a batter and then to cook the okonomiyaki like a pancake – one of our fellow travellers referred to it as being similar to ‘bubble and squeak’. Hiroshima style creates a sort of ‘layered’ effect with the chefs creating a thin pancake base for the dish, and then cooking cabbage, meat and noodles in alternating layers. The result is a much lighter, much tastier meal!
Junichi asked the chefs if we could take photos of them creating the meal and they were only too happy to oblige! It was a fast paced bit of magic and the result was so tasty! I couldn’t quite eat all of mine so Nick had to help me out. He wasn’t willing to let any of it go to waste!!
After dinner, Junichi took us back to his guest house and continued to ply us with wine and ‘strange’ food. Apple and sweet potato cooked together with kimchi, green beans cooked in soy sauce and more cheese sticks amongst other weird things! His wife, Makiko joined us at around 8:30pm to share a drink. We showed her photos of the rest of our trip, our wedding, Nick’s swimming and our home renovations over which she and Junichi showed a genuine interest. They also had us try Okinowan awamori (sake) which was terribly potent. They told us that we would be drinking this when we visited Okinowa but I think that if we do we won’t leave Japan alive!
They left us to our own devices at 9:30pm with a promise of more breakfast tomorrow morning which is so very, very kind of them. While we have stayed at traditional lodgings and even in another’s person’s home during a different Airbnb in Japan, its the first time I have felt like we have interacted and been accepted as part of a person’s home.
Of course, I have tried to convey our deepest gratitude to Junichi and Makiko for this experience but they just laugh and smile and say “It makes us so happy that you are happy”. I don’t think I will ever meet a more genuine and warm couple who can be so kind to relative strangers in my lifetime again.
To thank them, Nick and I have bought them a bottle of Australian wine which we will leave tomorrow for them. I hope that they will share it with other travellers and make them feel as welcome as we have felt. I hope that Junichi never stops running his fantasticAirbnb.
Tomorrow, we head on to Kagoshima and hopefully get to see an active volcano! Thanks for reading!