After a restroom and prayer break, it was time to round up and head for lunch. But not before most of the group got themselves ice-cream, because ice-cream before lunch is the correct way to go about planning dessert. You cannot ever leave dessert for after a meal because there’s never any tummy space left! Except of course if you’re blessed with two separate tummies, one for food and one for dessert ^^ It was a much needed ice-cream to be honest, because it had suddenly become rather warm, and despite the overcast skies, there was a glaring sun following us as we walked to a halal Turkish lunch at Karsiyaka (which incidentally also offers belly dancing shows). The food was great and it felt good to finally not be split up in to an awkward number of tables, because it allowed us to enjoy some fun lunch conversations and get to know our tour buddies some more. I ended up meeting someone who loves cooking and was fascinated by the soft warm bread we’d been served and also shares my love for Korean. After a filling lunch followed by hot tea and a prayer break, we were ready to board the bus for a long scenic drive to the ferry terminal so we could go to Miyajima.
We missed our scheduled ferry (oops) despite a mad dash, and had a short wait before the next ferry arrived. The trip takes only about 10 minutes, but it reminded me so much of our first ferry ride in New Zealand to Waiheke. We chose to spend our ten minutes not in the comfort of the air conditioning, but outside watching the tree covered island approach us. The sky was filled with clouds, which meant that the water looked varying shades of grey, only blue when the sun would break through the cloud cover for a brief cameo. From up on the deck we began to see the familiar vermilion of the Great Torii Gate of the Itsukushima Shrine grow brighter as we approached.
The ferry docked and as we trooped out, we were surprised to find so many deer on the island. It was a sight I only expected to see in Nara, but unlike Nara, the deer here are wild and people have been explicitly told not to feed or approach them. We couldn’t do much about the deer that approached us, though, except admire them and acknowledge that the creators of Bambi had done a really good job. The deer were lazing around on the hot and humid summer day, along the path that wound around the island, the Mikasanohama beach on one side and tiny shops with beautiful storefronts on the other.
The high humidity coupled with the still weather meant it was a slow walk up to the stone Torii on the way to the Shrine, but from there we got our first good view of the 60 ton Great Torii Gate majestically rising out of the water.
I was amazed to learn that the pillars of the gate aren’t embedded in the ground at all; rather, the Torii stands in the sea by merit of its weight only. It is a structural wonder and it’s amazing that the salt water hasn’t worn out the columns over the years. While the tide was’t high, it was also not low enough for us to walk to the gate- enough for a shallow swim, maybe. I would have loved to walk up to the gate to see the columns up close. Imagine standing under the torii, the blue of the sea on one side and the green tree covered mountains framed on the other.
We continued on towards the shrine, walking up the wooden pier to the Hitasaki lantern, aligned perfectly with the Great Torii Gate. We lingered there, unable to take our eyes off the 16m structure rising from the sea. It had once been considered disrespectful to build structures on the island (considered the dwelling place of Gods), which is why the shrine lies on the beach and the Torii in the water, but now, custom has given way to commerce.
We were now pressed for time, and found ourselves rushing through the corridors connecting various buildings that comprise the shrine, lined with barrels of sake, reminiscent of the walk up to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo.
We had no time to stop at the beautiful red five storey Pagoda that contrasts so beautifully with the deep green of the trees and no time to look for souvenirs. We had just enough time to stop at a vending machine to pick up a cold grape Fanta before rushing back to the ferry terminal. By this time, the weather had turned unbearably stuffy. Sweat dripping down our shirts we gathered at the terminal, which unfortunately for us had no air conditioning which meant we had to resort to our trusted hand fans and towels soaked in cold water to keep us cool. The weather seemed to have suddenly turned as hot as the day we had visited Nagoya Castle back in 2015, when my face had turned varying shades of tomato thanks to the suppressive heat. I do not like feeling and looking like an oven-baked tomato. We had to wait longer than we expected, as some people had understandably taken the wrong path back. Luckily for us, there was enough space in the air-conditioned cabin on the ferry to recover from our sprint and from there we finally emerged to watch the shores of the green island recede in our wake and the ferry approach the shore of the mainland.
There was a much needed ice-cream break at this point, but not being able to have milk, I would much rather have taken ma and gone for a much needed foot massage at the foot spa we discovered next to the bus stop.
It was an hour long ride back to the Hiroshima Station, during which most of us collapsed into a coma. We made just one stop and that was to collect our halal bento boxes from WaO Bento for an exciting dinner on the Shinkansen. We pulled up to the station and the distribution of bentos began before we headed inside. We were well ahead of time, which meant there was enough time to explore the shops before going up to the platform. Ma was visibly exhausted, and while there were no seats to be found in the waiting room, we managed to find some empty seats at the platform so she could rest her feet. The Shinkansen pulled in and we all collapsed in our seats, grateful for a long and restful ride. Despite our exhaustion, we all had a great time with our bento boxes. Our guide had explained as we were waiting on the platform, that the bento boxes were self-heating, which meant we’d be having a nice hot dinner on the train. We opened up our boxes, removed the plastic wrapping and pulled the cord to start the heating process, while we read the menu.
I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetables with the rice and even the chicken tasted good. Though I couldn’t experiment with much else, it was a filling enough meal. Ma didn’t even venture to open her bento (even with her reduced sense of smell, she couldn’t take the smell of the chicken) and so we had an unopened bento left. We kept forgetting that with our appetites, we should only ever have one meal and share it between the two of us, rather than waste all that good food.
Finally back in Osaka, we purchased our tickets for our connecting train back to the hotel and by 10pm we were finally home, well and truly exhausted. Luckily, the next day we’d be in Osaka
Missed Day 3 Part 1 in Hiroshima?
Check out Day 4 in Osaka!