Monday, May 4, 2009

Hiroshima Day 3 - Miyajima

(Back dated to 4 May 2009)

Again, I'd planned to get an early start--9am at the Hiroshima Museum of Art and/o
r the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art--but I once again slept in. In the end, I nixed the art museums and just headed for the Miyajima.

It was about an hour-long streetcar ride, but since I got on fairly early on the l
ine, I was thankfully able to get a seat. I slept off and on during the ride, but when I was awake, I was impressed by the scenery. Particularly towards the southwest side (as we got closer to the Miyajimaguchi ferry terminal) there was a lot of green and the houses looked very old, with the tile roofing. It was kind of how I'd expected Kyoto to look--with the "ahh this is Japan" feeling.

I guess I was still kind of sleepy when I got off the streetcar, since I got into line for the wrong ferry at first! The streetcar/ferry one-day pass I'd bought was good for the Matsudai ferry, but I nearly tried to go on a JR ferry!! ^^;;

Anyway, it was a quick 10-minute ferry ride to the island. Right out of the station, I immediately saw some deer roaming about. I'd known about the deer beforehand, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see them on the streets, walking fearlessly among all the people. I'd heard that Nara deer were kind of scary (lik
e they'd come after you if you had food), but these ones didn't really bother people; they were just milling around.

My first stop was the Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center. I considered making momiji manju, but decided not to, so it was a quick, 2-minute stop. Then I made my way down Omotesandano (front approach), heading towards Itsukushima Shrine. It was around 11 o'clock, so I stopped along the way to eat anago man (broiled conger eel steamed bun) , and an oyster cream croquette. I also passed by the world's biggest rice scoop (shakushi). It is 7.7 meters long and weighs 2.5 tons!

Finally I made it to the famed Otorii! I spent a LONG time taking pictures from various distances and angles. Since it was still low tide, I was able to walk
right up to it! Once I finished taking pictures of the Otorii, I went through the (UNESCO World Heritage Site) Itsukushima Shrine and spent a long time taking pictures there, too--including more pictures of the Otorii!

Upon exiting the shrine, I made my way to the Miyajima Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan (Museum of History and Folklore). It was pretty interesting to see all the intricately carved wood pieces (trays, tobacco boxes, etc.) and also to read a pictorial history of the Ouchi clan and the conflict between Sue Harukata and Mori Motonari . The gardens are also quite lovely.

Next was the Tahoto Pagoda and Treasure Hall. I took a quick walk through the Takikoji Alley on my way to Momijidani Park. Unfortunately I was too more than a little late for cherry blossoms, and way too early for fall foliage, but it was still a nice walk. (Not as pretty as Oirase G
orge, but...) I thought once I reached the ropeway I'd be tired and want to take the free bus back to the park entrance, but it was such a quick walk, I almost didn't even realize I'd made it to the ropeway! At first, I thought I was at the park entrance bus stop (I thought I'd been traveling westward along the mountain, rather than up it) rather than the Mt. Misen Ropeway Station! So I had no problem walking back down the mountain.

I'd worked up a bit of an appetite walking around the mountain/park, so I bought some fried oysters from a street vendor. Then I found a restaurant that had tasty-looking shaved ice, so I overcame my embarrassment over asking for a table for one and took a short break. It wasn't quite the parfait I'd been craving, but it was very tasty!

Finally I went up to get photos of the Gojunoto (five-storied pagoda). Of course, it was pretty much the same as the one in Kyoto (but smaller), but since I was there... I debated going into the Toyokuni Shrine, but I figured it probably wasn't all that different from other shrines I'd seen in Kyoto, so I decided to save myself the admission cost.

When I came down from the Gojunoto, the tide had already started coming in, so I was able to take more pictures of the Otorii Gate. High tide was scheduled for about 6:30pm, and I'd originally planned to stay until after high tide, but the water level at about 4pm made for a nice enough picture, so I decided to buy my omiyage and head back.

Before the omiyage, though, I had to have some grilled oysters! I've never been a huge oyster fan, and it wasn't exactly prime oyster season, but they were nonetheless very good! Finally I went off to buy omiyage.

It took me quite a while to decide what to buy--there were just too many different shops with the same products and roughly the same prices! In the end, I went with the shop that had the nicest packaging. I bought koshi an (red bean paste) momiji manju for the students, and the slightly more expensive tsubo an (whole bean red bean paste) momiji manju for the teachers and office. I also bought boxes of assorted flavours for friends, and a box (of all five flavours) to split between myself and the Master-san from Sankanou. I ended up spending about 10,000 yen (a little over $100 with the current exchange rate), so the shop clerk gave me two koshi an manju for free. =P

The bags were pretty heavy, so I was more than ready to take the ferry back. I did stop on the way for a fried anko (red bean paste) momiji manju, though! I got to the ferry terminal just in time for the next departing one, and in short order was on the streetcar (managed to get a seat this time, too!) heading back to the hotel.

After dropping the bags off at the hotel (and packing up the omiyage for Sanka
nou's Master-san), I went back down towards the park. Before the park, though, I walked around one of the main shopping streets, hitting Okonomimura (Okonomiyaki Village) and Hondori (again)--just passing through for pictures, really.

Then it was back to the Peace Park to take pictures of the candle displays! It was really quite beautiful, and I spent more time than I intended wandering around. Making good use of my streetcar pass, I took the streetcar to Hiroshima Station (we caught so many red lights, though, it was only marginally faster than walking!) and went back to Sankanou.

The Master-san was quite pleased to see me again (apparently he and the other customers had talked about how they regretted not asking my name when I was there on the Saturday), and I had a good time talking with him and the other customers. He (Master-san) even gave me a bunch of snacks (Giant Pocky and Collon) as presents, plus a Lupin (Zenigata) figure!! And that was before I'd given him my Miyajima omiyage!

This time I tried the udon nikutama okonomiyaki (although they know that Hiroshima style okonomiyaki uses soba, apparently udon in okonomiyaki is completely unheard of in Osaka). The guy next to me had cheese mochi okonomiyaki, though, and it looked really tasty. Even though I was pretty satisfied with my udon okonomi, I really wanted to try it, so I ended up ordering it!

The guy next to me, Okubo(?)-san and the Master-san were pretty amused that I was going for another one! (Okubo-san even said he'd have let me try some of his if he'd known I'd wanted to!) I managed three quarters without any difficulty, but really thought the last quarter would be impossible. It didn't seem worth it to get a doggy bag for that small amount, though, so I persevered, and gamely managed to finish it all off.

By the time I finished, though, it was nearly 11pm (closing time!), so after final farewells, I waddled off back to the hotel.

I've got to say, finding Sankanou is probably what made the trip for me. The Peace Memorial Park and Museum, as well as the Flower Festival and Miyajima were totally awesome, but at the end of day, what I looked forward to the most all throughout the Monday (and even the Sunday) was going back to Sankanou.

My biggest worry about traveling by myself was feeling lonely/awkward eating out on my own. At Sankanou, though, it was totally cool because I could talk with the Master-san and other customers. Even if I was just listening, I never felt excluded from the conversations. And even without the Master-san saying so (although he did say it explicitly), you could totally tell that he enjoyed the work and talking with all sorts of different people--regulars and visitors alike. I'd say he's truly a person gifted with hospitality--the ability to make people feel comfortable and at home!

Even if it's just to eat at Sankanou again, I really want to go back to Hiroshima sometime before I leave Japan for good!

Facebook Albums for Day 3:
Miyajima Part I
Miyajima Part II
Miyajima Part III

Peace Memorial Park - Flower Festival (night photos)