Day 21 – Miyajima, Nara and Kobe

Again we had an early morning to hope to catch the morning light and get some nice shots of the floating torii gate, this time though, it would actually be appearing to float as it was no longer low tide.

The torii gate floats

We also got the chance to explore the Itsukushima shrine as it closes at night.

Entrance to the Itsukushima shrine

Inside the shrine were quite a few of these halls, not sure what actually goes on but the styling and design is very tradition and lovely to gaze at.

Room inside the Itsukushima shrine

The shrine itself sits above the sea and when the tide rises, it’s surrounded by water.

Looking into the shrine

From the shrine looking out, you can see the torii gate directly ahead (as you know, it’s not a shrine without a torii gate.

Looking out to the torii gate

There was one building in the shrine which stood out from the rest, it looked old and instead of the usual red that the place is plastered with, this one remained dark and black. It looked like it could have been some sort of performance hall or something.

Old shrine building

Looks like the monks here would have a good time with all that sake.

Sake barrels

So around the island there are heaps of shrines and temples to see, just past the Itsukushima shrine lies the Daiganji temple and various buildings and this rock thing.

Shrine in the rocks at Daiganji temple

Walking up the hill a little bit you’re presented with this oddly shaped shrine, square at the base, but a layer up it’s round, quite different to your regular pagodas.

Up the hill to the Tahoto Pagoda

What we really wanted to do here was head up the cable car, it’s good to see that the Japanese have a sense of humour and its passed down in English as well (unless the funnies were because of poor translation).

Almost at the ropeway

Halfway up we found a little shrine and a tiny vending machine that would give you one of them paper fortunes where you can then tie it to a branch. We couldn’t read any of it so we proceeded straight to tying it, Gavin’s attempt was rather fail and he somehow managed to rip it.

Tying a paper fortune to the tree

We got to the ropeway and went to the top, there was a lovely view as we went up and an even better one once we got all the way up. We also learnt that there are monkeys on the island and that they love popsicles too.

Monkies like popsicles too

Despite the overcast weather, the view from the top was still amazing, the chill up here was also amazingly cold.

View from the lookout at the top of the ropeway

There’s heaps of little statues scattered all over the pathways, including this one, I guess it’s sorta like a facepalm?

Not sure what's the deal with this statue

One of the first things we saw on this walk of ours was the Reika-do hall, it’s primary attraction in this small flame here which has said to have burnt for 1200 years from the followers of Kukai.

Reika-do eternal fire

The hall itself is decorated very nicely, the natural light coming in just shines on the decorations inside and gives it a warm glow.

Inside one of the halls
Bling bling

There were a few of the carvings/portraits around the hall as well, not sure why they all have such big noses though.

Big noses

The walk around was quite fun, going up the mountain through rock formations and various stone steps. Heaps of little things to see and you’ll never know just what’s around the corner.

Through the rocks to the Mt Misen Observatory
Odd arrangement of rocks

We finally hit another observatory, but it looked kinda run down, nonetheless, we went in and had a lovely 360 degree view from the highest point in the mountain. Simply breath taking.

Mt Misen Observatory

Little shrines were everywhere and each of them had some sort of decoration, this one had a lovely origami ball hanging down.

Pretty shrine decoration

The statues inside were also dressed up and had little hats and bibs.

Dressed up statues

Some of the shrines and temples were quite far apart and it felt like we walked for ages!

Torii gate along the path

This deer suddenly appeared out of nowhere and we were a little worried as it had horns, but it seemed gentle enough.

A wild deer has appeared

This shrine we went past was rather cool, it was heaps worn down and the vibrant red paint that probably once covered it is almost completely faded, sorta gives the feeling that there was a massive battle here and it’s been deserted.

Worn down shrine

One of the last destinations on the top of the hill was called the Okunoin Temple, the walk here was quite long and took us a while as we weren’t sure that we were going, we were quite disappointed when we got there, there really wasn’t that much to see.

Long walk to the worn down Okunoin Temple

After here, we were tossing up between two options, walk back to the ropeway, or walk down towards Daishoin Temple. We opted for the latter option, not knowing how long it would take exactly. The path down was mainly stone and seemed rather fresh although there didn’t seem to be anything in between where we were and where we were going, but it made the walk much easier.

Along the way we saw one of these dam things, and there was signage about a waterfall, I can only assume it was this and that water flows through in the spring as ice probably forms at the top or something.

Dried up creek/waterfall

As you can see, there were heaps of steps, luckily we were going down hill, an uphill walk would have been devastating.

Lots and lots of steps

We found more deer along the way, this time an adult one with its fawn, they were so cute and hung around for a while. We didn’t have any food to food them, so instead we tried for milk tea, they seemed to enjoy it and sucked it down quick.

Feeding deers milk tea
So cute!

This shelter was the first built object we saw for a while and it looked completely out of place.

Random shelter along the way

We continued on along the long steps down.

The long journey continues

We started to see homes, we knew we were getting close, they were built up sorta high, probably to avoid the risk of having the river overflow (despite it being drained when we were there).

Homes close to the Daishoin Temple

Again we came across another of these statues that were decorated, this time round in a cute hat.

Cool hat

This statue below seems to have lost it head, not sure if it’s meant to be like that or not, but I’d assume not.

Where's your head at?

We finally got to the base of the temple and warm autumn leaves were everywhere.

More autumn leaves

At the entrance there were these fierce warrior statues, probably to guard the temple.

Guardian of the shrine

There were more stairs to get to the actual temple, this time round they were uphill! Along the handrail were characters inscribed into these cylindrical things that you could spin and turn. Wish I knew what it all meant as it went up the entire walk way.

Interesting walkway up to the temple

Along the left was another stairway but that one was surrounded by little statues along the whole way up! There would have been hundreds of theme.

Hundreds of little statues

There was a little room along the stair way up and inside was a warmly lit display of a few Bhudha statues and also two guardians beside it

Interesting figures in a golden lit room

When were almost at the top, I saw this little statue, it looked so familiar, not sure where from though.

This thing looks familiar

Finally got to the top!

Another gate before the main temple

There was large hall towards the right with a short stairway up with a bell on the outside.

The bell chimer

Walking through the entrance, there was a monk reading prayers and and someone kneeling down to pray.

Monk reading prayers

The hall itself isn’t huge, but it’s fairly large for the island and has nice gold highlights to it.

The temple hall

There was quite a bit to see in the temple,  heaps of little statues and figurines everywhere! It was a little like a maze and every corner you turn there something interesting to see. As we were short on time, we had to cut the exploration short and proceeded to head back to the ferry in order to make an attempt to see Kobe. Along the walk back we saw the five storey pagoda which was painted a lovely traditional red colour.

5 storey pagoda

This old man was almost complete with this beautiful painting, we hit up a small restaurant and had some more Okonomiyaki, it’s just so tasty with the noodles and that epic sauce.

Artist painting the floating torii

Despite our rush to get back, I never made it early enough to go check out the bridge near Kobe so we ended up checking in straight to our hostel at Fukushima in Osaka.

Back to Osaka by night

It was getting late and I was getting hungry, asking around for some recommendations, the guy at the hostel recommended some ‘tomato ramen’ . This was certainly unique and I had mine with cheese and it was quite tasty and the stringy cheese in the noodle was awesome.

Tomato ramen with cheese

I had split up with Gavin and I opted to travel to Kobe, not for the beef but to see around and I was quite glad when I got there, there was a massive crowd gathered in the distance and I had no idea what was going on, so obviously you go up and check it out.

Massive crowd of people

Heaps of food stalls everywhere, selling anything from corn to shellfish and okonomiyaki to takoyaki (as expected).

Mmm... Takoyaki

There was this one stall selling these awesome lollipops, each one was handmade and crafted to different cartoon figures such as Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Pikachu.

Fancy lollipops

So being Christmas there had to be a few things to do besides eat right? And indeed there was, there seemed to be some fascination with bells, you pay and get the privilege of ringing this bell. Alternatively there’s a a few other bells you can get your chance at striking, but you throw a coin instead. I’d assume it was for good luck or something, but there were just heaps of people throwing coins at these small bells to make it chime.

Ring-a-ding

The most impressive thing of all though, was this light installation, it was like a castle of lights all lit up in different colours! Absolutely spectacular and I was gobsmacked when I saw it.

Beautiful light installation

To the right of this epic light display was a whole street lined with a similar light display and it just created a whole walk way (which was closed off to traffic).

Lights go all the way down the road

As I got close to the end, out of nowhere some triumphant music played and the lights went out in a flash! Somewhat disappointing as I was hoping they’d do something funky with the lights. I decided to walk back to the center to grab try out some food. I grabbed a few bun things shaped like fish and this thing below, no idea what it was, but it was seriously yum. It was like a sticky rice kind of paste thing and had that okonomiyaki sauce with mayonnaise.

This was DELICIOUS

I continued my walk around and explored around the port, there was this interestingly designed cafe with a giant fish next to it! It seemed like you could go inside of it too, place was conveniently named Cafe fish.

Cafe Fish

Around the port there was a memorial to commemorate the Earthquake at port Kobe. There was also a building with a fascinating design, getting closer I could see it was the Kobe Maritime Museum, love the roof of it.

Kobe maratime museum

A bit further in the distance, a tall structure reaffirms my thoughts that the Japanese love their towers and Port Kobe has one of its own, dressed in purple at the bottom and an orangey-red top.

Kobe port tower

It was getting late and I didn’t want to risk missing the last train (as I discovered that becomes an expensive pain the ass) I rushed back to the train station. Along the way however I found Japan’s Chinatown, it’s got the red gate that they all have and certainly has all the decorations required.

Kobe's Chinatown

Upon getting back to the hostel, I was seriously tired, my legs were dead from the walking in Miyajima and the steps up to the 5th level were just killer, I was dreading the walk down in the morning with my backpack.

 

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