The monkey has been waiting two years for yesterday. Ever since the Kongos booked this Japanese cruise, the simple simian has been wanting to see the floating gate at the sacred island of Miyajima. This small island in Hiroshima Bay known for its temples, virgin forests, deer, and the O-torii Gate. It was the O-torri gate that Kongo wanted to see but the rest of the island is pretty wowie-zowie too.
The O-Torii Gate is a waterway entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. Visitors passing beneath the gate (like those in the boat above) are said to have all the sins cleansed. Frankly, Kongo has been to so many places on this trip to cleanse his saintly monkey soul that he figured he could skip the boat ride this time.
The shrine doesn’t actually float but at high tide, which was when Kongo visited, it appears that it does. A tori gate marks the symbolic passage from your regular, humdrum life to the sacred. Even through Kongo made it to the island by a short ferry ride, he did pass beneath a landed tori gate as he approached the famous Itsukushima Shrine. The present O-torii Gate at Miyajima is the eighth successive structure since it was first erected back in the 800s. It’s made a camphor wood and cedar.
The shrine complex, built over the water, allowed worshipers to perform their necessary rituals without actually placing their feet on the sacred island. The island is so sacred that trees there are not allowed to be cut so the beautiful forests add to the scenic beauty of the place.
Wild deer roam the island and, you guessed it, they are sacred too. They are not afraid of tourists. While it’s forbidden to feed them, you can’t stop them when they come after you. At one point the monkey had just finished eating a soft-serve waffle cone and had briefly set the paper wrapper, napkin, and a plastic spoon on the bench while he adjusted his backpack and out of nowhere, a deer gobbled it all up. Plastic spoon and all. The deer are supposed to be messengers of the gods so Kongo is still wondering what secret message this doe was sending him. After this encounter with the sacred messenger he was starting to get nervous that one of them might actually eat him!
There are shrines and temples all over the small island. There are a couple of small villages with quaint streets and alley ways. There is one elementary school on the island and at 7th grade, students must ride the ferry every day to high schools on the mainland.
The five-story pagoda above was built in 1523 and is dedicated to the medicine Buddha.
There are dozens of food vendors lining the pathways to serve hungry worshipers. Oysters are a favorite on the island and the surrounding waters are filled with oyster beds that are famous all over Japan.
Miyajima is considered one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Confusian scholars from the 1200s even wrote a book about it and said the same thing. You’ve got to put this place on your bucket list.
Travel safe. Have fun!