Thursday, February 10, 2011

Japan: Miyajima Island

Before heading to Miyajima Island I had to pack up my stuff at the backpackers' hostel that I was staying at.  Here is a photo of my spot in the room.  It was traditional Japanese style, by sleeping on the floor on tatami mats.  There was a lot more padding than the places I've stayed in Korea.  Except, in Korea they heat the floors, they didn't do that in Japan...I missed that.  I only slept in this room for one night and it was a female-only room. 
Floors are a bit different from Korea.
Off for a quick lunch before heading to the island.
On the way I saw this right next to my hostel...I think it's a cemetary but I'm not sure.
The best way to get around in Hiroshima is by tram (street car).
mandoo...i think?
ramen...super duper delicious ramen!
super duper delicious and flavorful fried rice.
On the way to Miyajima Island. 
Miyajima Island is a sacred island (both Shinto and Buddhist).  The real name of the island is Itsukushima - it has been nicknamed Miyajima Island which means, "Shrine Island."  In the past no women or elderly person was allowed on the island as no one can till the land, be born, die, or be buried on the island.  To this day there are no hospitals on the island.
 
Ferry to the island.
Approaching the Otorii Gate.  A torii is a traditional Japanese gate that you will find at the entrance of Shinto (and rarely Buddhist) Temples in Japan.  The torii symbolizes walking into sacred land. 
This torii is one of the most famous because at high tide it appears as it is floating.  When we got off the ferry we were wondering why everyone was already leaving...it was only noon.  Ahhh...high tide was in the morning.
This shrine was built in 593 AD.  For a very long time, no one lived on the island.  The Otorii Gate was built on the water so that they would bot offend the Gods.
 We were greeted by several wild deer on the island.  They are native to the island and there are about 2,000 deer roaming around...unafraid of visitors.
Hello Kitty...even on sacred ground!
Another torii.  Many times you will see several.  Sometimes to signify another area of the temple that is much more sacred or sometimes when people come into good fortune with business or other matters, they donate a torii in gratitude.
The famous floating torii...at low tide...woops...should have researched the tide times!
This is what you gotta do when traveling alone!  Again, at high tide this entire place is filled with water...would have been much more beautiful if I had come at the right time.
Followers of Shinto follow a much different pattern of praying than Buddhist.  After passing though the torii gate, they wash their hands and rinse out their mouth with water.  Next, they ring a bell that hangs from a long rope in front of the offering box.  Afterwards, they bow twice, clap twice, bow once more, and then throw coins into the offering box.  The prayer is made either before or after giving the offering.  They ring the bell and clap to make sure the Shinto deity is listening.  The box in the bottom of the photo is the offering box.
Year of the rabbit!
Miyajima was a beautiful little island.
I loved that their fur on their butts looked like hearts:)
Hiroshima is famous for their oysters...so I had to try them...delicious!
You can even find oyster burgers!
Interested on knowing more about Shinto?  This is about all I know (from some super quick research!):
  • 84% of Japanese are both Buddhist and Shinto.
  • The Shinto Religion is basically only in Japan although it has slightly spread to other regions of the world.
  • Buddhism and Shinto share basic optimism of human nature and the world.  Shinto says that Buddha is another "kami" (diety).
  • Japanese usually get married by a Shinto priest but have their funerals with a Buddhist priest.
  •  Shinto doesn't have a set code of "instructions."  It basically follows the code of Confusism and its morality is based upon what is of benefit to the group.
  • Ancestors are worshipped.
  • There are four main ideas to the Shinto Religion
    • Tradition and Family
    • Love and Nature
    • Physical Cleanliness (followers often take baths, wash hands, and wash their mouths often)
    • Matsuri-worship and honor to Kami (deities) and ancestoral spirits.
**I'll add a disclaimer that I am in no way an expert on the Shinto religion.  These are only from observations and quick research.  If I am wrong, please let me know.

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