our story thus far

I suppose it’s a good sign (well, I know it’s a good sign) that I’ve been too busy having fun to do regular updates…so here’s a bit of a catch-up on my whirlwind tour of Japan.

kids taking pictures at hiroshimaWhen last we met, I was just leaving Hikone for Hiroshima.  It was a beautiful day and I spent the afternoon wandering around the lovely park that was built at Ground Zero (they call it the “hypocenter”).  Peace Memorial Park was full of kids on school trips and it was a distinctly weird experience to visit the site as an american.  It’s not a place I’ve ever had a burning desire to see, but now that I’ve been there I’m glad I did.

rukan statues at miyajima island From Hiroshima I took a train and then a ferry to Miyajima Island.  I spent two nights there and the highlight was climbing Mt. Misen to see the 1200-year-old Buddhist temples at the top.  Well, there were two highlights, really.  The second one was getting up early and wandering around the town and the Itsukushima Shrine, a shinto temple that is built out over a small harbor so that it appears to float on the water when the high tide is up.  In the early morning I shared the place with monks and cranes and a handful of deer and no one else.  My hotel was a ryokan, a traditional style of Japanese hotel, complete with an onsen (hot springs bath) and exquisite food. OK, there were three highlights…

matsuyama castleAfter two very pleasant days on Miyajima Island another couple of ferry rides (high speed ones this time) brought me to Matsuyama, site of two interesting things.  The first is Matsuyama castle, which sits at the top of a high hill in the town and which commands a most impressive view over the surrounding countryside.  The other cool thing is the Dogo Onsen, a Meiji restoration-era communal bath house built over a natural hotspring and believed to be the inspiration for the bath house in Spirited Away.  It is expansive and ornate and the only bath house in the country to have a separate suite of rooms for the emperor’s personal use.  After taking a lovely long hot bath and taking tea and biscuits in the lounge area after, we were given a tour of the emperor’s wing of the onsen.  Hell yes, it’s good to be king.

I didn’t get as far as I’d like with this, but it’s time for another delicious breakfast before I head out to explore Nara some more before we leave for Koyasan.  The mornings are the best here…it’s wonderful to be able to wander around the temples without there being a million people around.

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~ by gun street girl on November 6, 2010.

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