I bet a few of the millions of people who read this blog on a daily basis probably think I’m making some coded reference to World War Two with my title. After all, the code phrase to start the attack on Pearl Harbor was, “Climb Mount Niitaka”. I must have dived in to some secret Japanese database and learned about how they surprised the American Navy.
Nope. I climbed a Mountain named Mount Misen.
The island is famous for some of the best views in all of Japan and is punctuated by a giant “floating” torii gate. At high tide, it looks like the torii gate (part of the Itsukushima Shrine). Pictures don’t quite do the gate justice, it is 16.6 meters tall (about 55 feet). When the tide at high tide, the torii sits quite majestically above the water. If the tide has gone out, it is surrounded by sand and you can go out to walk under it.
When I arrived to Miyajima Island, the tide was going out, but I will still about to get this view of the torii in the water.
As for the island itself, I compare this island to Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles. It’s a small island, popular with tourists (and locals). There are plenty of places to spend your money and if you’ve got a couple dimes to your name, you can spend the night on the island in a traditional ryokan. Sadly, by the time I was making reservations, everything was all booked up.
The island houses a large number of deer that roam the island freely and harass people who have food.
Mount Misen is a mountain towering over Miyajima Island. It stands at 500 meters (1600 feet) above the ocean below.
Most tourists take a cablecar up to the top and enjoy the views and hiking from up there. I am not most tourists. If there’s a tall mountain – I want to climb it!
In my infinite wisdom I chose to grab two sports drinks and set off up the shortest (and what I later found out was the steepest route).
Just Started the Hike
This isn’t too bad at all. A little uphill, but not a big deal. There’s a nice stream off to my left and it’s a bit hot – sure am glad I didn’t take the cablecar! Time to show those wimpy tourists some American muscle!
0.4km into the Hike
There’s a nice little waterfall. I bet those tourists in the cablecar aren’t getting to see that!
It’s gotten a little steeper, and it’s dang hot, but I’ve been sipping at my sports drinks and doing fine.
~1.1km up the Hill
Ok…there’s stairs are getting to be a bit much. Having to stop for a break every now and again. Still glad I didn’t take the cablecar like a normal tourist!
Who knows, who cares
I will make it up this stupid hill. I didn’t know this many stairs existed in the world. The view is nice, but every time I think the path is leveling off, I see still more stairs!
I’ve never sweated this much in my life. My shirt is probably 50% sweat 50% cotton at this point.
It’ll be worth it though. I’ll get to the top I’ll feel great – much better than those tourists that took the cablecar!
Well, I made it to the top. I didn’t think I could do it but I forced myself up this stupid hill. I notice everyone else giving me a wide birth. I am soaked in sweat and must look quite the fright. The view is quite nice however.
Very glad I didn’t take that silly cablecar…I earned this view!
This sure is a nice cablecar ride down the mountain…
One of the reasons I went to Miyajima Island on this exact date was that it was the day they were holding the Kangen-sai Festival. This festival, from what I am told, involves taking a shrine from the temple…
And moving it to a boat down this path…
Rowing around the island for a little while while singing (and, from what I could tell by watching the preparation, drinking!). Later at night when the tide has risen, they would return to the torii and move the shrine back to the temple.
I was very excited to see this – certainly a religious tradition quite different from the ones I’m used to in the States. I perched myself on the beach and did what everyone else did, took tons of pictures of the torii!
Sadly, when there was about 25 minutes to go, the skies opened up and it started pouring. While I did want to see the Festival, it was the right idea to hustle over to the ferry and come back to the mainland. It was a bummer – but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
I returned to Hiroshima and after a delicious meal at a restaurant I’d been wanting to eat at for the past two days, I took a twilight stroll around the Memorial Park one last time before I shipped off in the morning.
I leave Hiroshima with a newfound respect and love for the city. Too often, when someone mentions Hiroshima, only the most tragic event in its history is what pops to mind. After my several days here, I will now think of so much more. I hope to be able to bring some of these impressions of Hiroshima – Japan – and the Japanese people back to my students so they can have a better understanding on this mysterious country to the west.