After leaving Tomonoura at about 4pm, I got to Hiroshima at 7pm, and met up with Sharifa in a hostel close to the station. She had travelled straight down from Nagoya, leaving at 6am, which gave her time to stop in Kyoto for a few hours sightseeing. Like me, I think she was happy to get off the train! This was my first experience of staying in a hostel, and because it was busy we ended up having to get beds in a shared room – not an experience I have any desire to repeat! One of the girls in our room had an alarm clock that sounded like the hatch buzzer from Lost, thus making us wake with a start thinking that the world was about to end ;)
Anyhow, despite a less than ideal first nights sleep, we rose early to visit Miyajima, an island off the coast of Hiroshima which is famed for it’s large red tori in the sea:
Just going to interject with a little nihongo (Japanese) lesson here… Shima actually means “island”, and jima is just an altered form of the same word – sometimes shi is changed to ji in words, depending on somewhat arbitrary factors, like how they sound or what letters preceed it. Hiroshima is written 広島 (広 means “wide” or “spacious”, 島 means “island”) and Miyajima is written 宮島, where 宮 is the kanji to denote a Shinto shrine.
The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is mainly covered by forest and shrines, and inhabited by deer (although there is also a school and a couple of roads for the small number of humans that live there). Here is one of the deer:
There are lots of shrines to visit, many of which are surrounded by lush gardens with lots of statues:
The main thing to do, apart from visiting the red tori, is to go up Mount Misen, which is a 535 metre mountain, accessible via three different hiking trails, or by cable car. Now, like me, you might just have read that and said “535 metres? A mountain?! That’s not a bloody mountain – it’s just a hill!” and thought climbing it would be a nice afternoons walk. Well, let me tell you now that’s entirely wrong. It is a monstrous climb – imagine spending two hours in 37 degree heat going up stairs. And not ordinary evenly-spaced and height steps, but big stone steps set into a steep slope, interspersed with short sections of rocky track. It was horrendous. By the time we reached the top we were exhausted, although we were rewarded with some amazing views over the surrounding sea and islands, and an enormous sense of satisfaction :)
Right at the top was a deer, to which Sharifa gave a piece of donut which she had carried up with her. Funnily enough, the deer loved the donut and wanted more. To demonstrate this fact he jumped up at her and made funny noises, then made to follow us down, but thankfully gave up.
After making the descent, which took about a quarter of the time it did to go up, we wandered around the gift shops (most of which are hideously over-priced) then jumped on the ferry for the return trip. Here are a couple of views from the way home: