Itsukushima - a world heritage site in Japan

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Just call me Tom
Jan 12, 2008
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Kyushu, Japan; warm temperate/subtropical climate
Been busy lately, hence I've not been around ST for a while. That ends now. Last week we had a holiday in Japan so my wife and I took a quick overnight trip to Hiroshima City, about an hour away by Shinkansen (bullet train). We visited Miyajima, an island just off the coast in the inland sea. Here is a famous seaside shrine, Itsukushima, and its huge torii gate that is out in the bay by about 200 meters. This shrine complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


This is a bronze statue of a mythical lion-dog known as Komainu. There are always two and their job is to guard the shrine. One is called a and the other un, symbolizing form and no form, and taken together is the sound of the universe "ahh-unnn" or more commonly known as Om in the west.


There is a five tiered Pagoda on a hill just above the main shrine buildings. Like the rest of the shrine, it is bright orange, and is a hybrid of both Japanese and Chinese styles.


The shrine area is literally overrun with sika deer which are completely domesticated at this point. The reason is simple, people feed them. They are considered sacred, and must not be harmed under both spiritual and secular law, since they are said to be emissaries of the gods. From what I could see they weren't interested in giving away secret knowledge, but were rather more interested in people's ice cream cones.


At the center of Miyajima is a sacred mountain, Mt. Misen, which is home to more shrines and a lovely virgin forest. You can take a rope way part of the way and then walk another 30 minutes to the top (elevation 535 meters). Here is a lovely ginkgo tree at the top in early fall color with the Seto Inland Sea and mainland in the distance. At one of the shrine buildings near the summit there is a fire that has been kept burning for the last 1200 years, nonstop - "the eternal flame".


A fantastically beautiful tree you can see only at the very top of the mountain is the Japanese hemlock, Tsuga sieboldii, a fairly common tree at higher altitudes in southern Japan where primary forest has been left alone.


The views over the inland sea and sea islands are breath-taking. This immense sea and the islands within are part of Setonaikai National Park.


The giant torii gate is this shrine's signature feature. It is HUGE, standing over 16 meters tall and nearly 25 meters across. The main pillars are made of Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) and the smaller ones of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). You can walk out to it at low tide, as you can see! Torii symbolize the boundary between this world and the one of the spirits.


And another picture of it near sunset.


We returned to the mainland by ferry (and of course got there that way too). Stay tuned for part two - a famous garden in Hiroshima City's center, almost at the epicenter of where the atomic bomb exploded.
Beautiful, Tom. I've been there when I was a little kid, but I still remember there. Giving food to the deer was the highlight for me as a little boy.

I learned a new thing about Japan; I didn't know that there are a-un in the lion dogs. I thought that a-un was for Kongou-rikishi (the two warriors in some shrines), but you are right! So the one in your photo is "a"-form because it has the open mouth.

Did you eat something yummy? Okonomiyaki? Oyster?
Absolutely beautiful and fascinating. Thank you. We are planting a Gingko tree on our front lawn next year. I think they are the most interesting trees.
Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful places!

Be aware before planting a Gingko - fairly quick growing when young - of the smell. I do like it - but most people don't!
Male trees are ok; it's the female fruit that stinks. (But then again, you can't tell until they reach maturity)

Truly stinky, but the seeds inside taste really good roasted.

I used to just crush them outside with my feet ( shoes on) and then wash the rest. Dry in the sun and break open with hammer and roast the inside.
I knows it sounds like a lot of work. lol
Absolutely beautiful and fascinating. Thank you. We are planting a Gingko tree on our front lawn next year. I think they are the most interesting trees.

They turn beautiful yellow in the fall.
Aren't they considered fossil plant? Amazing how they survived for so many years.
Awesome tour. Thanks Tom. We hope to visit one day within the next couple of years. i just don't know who would take care of the neos while we are away.