On the Road Again

Have you heard of Miyajima? It’s the one place in Hiroshima everyone should visit once. It is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and the red torii shown below!

Yesterday Natsuko and I went to the island shrine of Miyajima as one of my friends was exhibiting her work at a local gallery. We left about 11:00 Am and arrived at the JR ferry station about noon. It is a ten-minute ride over to the island and the round trip ticket is only 340 yen!

Torii Gate at Miyajima

Torii Gate at Miyajima

Gettin off the ferry, we veered the right and took a left at the first corner to go through a little tunnel. We found a  quiet little backstreet removed from the more touristy lane of souvenir shops and eateries. We went in to look around in a little old stationery and gift shop.  Natchan ended up buying this hanging bird feeder. We enjoyed poking around this shop as there were many nice things and very reasonable prices.  ( 佐々木文具店 0829-44-0273)

Sasaki Bunguten

Sasaki Bunguten

The Miyazato gallery is a family-owned cafe and gallery which was once the warehouse for shipping hand-carved rice ladles or shamoji to other areas of Japan. The original high ceilings, stairway and walls were preserved when the building was remodeled 10 years ago. I hadn’t seen the Miyazatos since then and was glad to see they are carrying on a popular cafe and colorful shop full of handmade traditional handicrafts.

DSCF7095

Gallery Miyazato is open every day but Wednesday from 10:00 to 18:30. visit their webpage for details on coming exhibits.

We enjoyed sipping iced coffee and visiting with them before we walked on toward the Itsukushima Shrine. It is a UNSESCO world heritage site and well-known for the red torii gate in the middle of the sea. The shrine itself was first built in 593 and later remodeled by Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1168. He designed it on the water with the mountains as a backdrop.

 ItsukushimaWater

After leaving the cafe we followed the narrow old street and, coming out on a wider road, we saw a newly married bride and groom strolling with an attendant. Natsuko actually chased them down to ask if this American lady can take a picture of them. (When the two of us get together, nothing stops us!) They were very obliging and we felt some of their joy radiating out to us! She is wearing the traditional shiromuku kimono and was a lovely bride!

Many weddings take place at this shrine!

Many weddings take place at this shrine!

We climbed up to see the five-storied pagoda and the Senjokaku Shrine next to it. The latter began construction in 1587 under the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a repose for the war dead but was left unfinished due to Hideyoshi’s death.

Senjokaku built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Senjokaku built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Hideyoshi is known for unifying all the warring states to create one country. He instituted a rigid class system to control the populace, confiscating all weapons from peasants in 1588. He suppressed Christianity and had 26 Christians executed  in Kyushu in 1587. We can see the statue of some of these martyrs near Nagasaki station.

Hideyoshi (Nicknamed "Little Monkey"

Hideyoshi (Nicknamed “Little Monkey”

Five-Storied Pagoda (1407) is 28 meters high.

Five-Storied Pagoda (1407) is 28 meters high.

We found ourselves at the back end of the shrine which stretches out over the water and includes a Noh stage with many halls and other shrines around it, connected by corridors. I read that the vermilion color of the shrine and torii serves to keep evil spirits away.

Natchan just made it!

Natchan just made it!

We decided to return across the ocean floor, a “no-no” that Natchan put me up to!You can see it was a race against time  to get up the stone steps on the other side before the tide came in!

At Miyatoyo Manju shop

At Miyatoyo Manju shop

Nice Selection of Fillings

Nice Selection of Fillings

Our next quest was to find the original Cheese Momiji Manju which was made by only one shop for many years. After asking several people, we found the Miyatoyo sweets shop and bought some of these tasty cakes along with a few of the usual ones filled with sweet bean paste .

It was such a hot day that we really got hungry for a crushed ice treat called kakigori. Backtracking to the main tourist street, we entered a shop that specializes in fried manju on a stick! Now that sounded strange to me! We chose our flavor of ice with a little condensed milk on top.

Strawberry Kakigori

Strawberry Kakigori

Sitting down at the back of this “machiya” style cafe, I saw a young man and woman eating the fried manju? I asked him in English “Is it good?” and he replied to me in perfect English that is was. They were visiting from Singapore and I enjoyed meeting and talking with them.

Georgina and Kenneth ( Come and visit me soon!)

Georgina and Kenneth ( Come and visit me soon!)

Fried Momiji Manju

Fried Momiji Manju

We headed home but stopped on the way to visit Natchan’s brother-in-law at Shikoo, another momiji manju shop. He has been making special bean paste for over thirty years, a ton at a time!! Now this shop will close the end of June. He served us tea and a complimentary manju cake.

Yamamoto-san at  Shiko-O Shop

Yamamoto-san at
Shiko-O Shop

The best Bean paste ever!

The best Bean paste ever!

We made pigs of ourselves!

We made pigs of ourselves!

As you can see, we really made pigs of ourselves this time out! But we enjoyed tasting many good things and talking to some interesting people. That made it a very satisfying day for us.

Sleep on my Couch!

Just wanted to add a note about our first ever Couchsurfing experience! Pietro from Matera in southern Italy stayed with us two nights. We were so glad to meet him! He has been studying at Tsingtao in China and decided to visit here before returning to home.

"Touchy-Feely" Italian!

“Touchy-Feely” Italian!

Pietro spoke five languages but Japanese wasn’t one of them so Hiroo had to dust off his rusty English and use it! Pietro is very well-read and his field is marine biology so he and Hiroo had lots to talk about.

Making sushi

Making sushi

Hiroo showed him how to make sushi on Thursday night so Pietro immediately promised to cook real Italian food for us on the next night. At the farm, he prepared an amazing meal for us with salmon, zucchini, mushrooms and cream!

Going fishing

Going fishing

When we were eating dinner, he kept touching Hiroo on the arm or back and saying, “In Italy, the more we like a person, the more we touch them!”  You could tell he was getting a kick out of that as he knew Asians don’t touch each other much!

Amazing Salmon Cream Pasta

Amazing Salmon Cream Pasta

With love from Italy!

With love from Italy!

When he left, he gave us each a real big hug…and we hugged him back. A definitely positive experience!!!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. todaysillustrationtomorrow
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 16:58:57

    What a fun journey you and Natchan went on! Love the picture of your reflections on pigs in the window!

    Also, the whole couchsurfing experience with Pietro sounds lovely!! Sushi & Salmon cream pasta!! can’t get any better than that.

    Reply

  2. Kenneth
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 15:06:02

    Hi Leah
    Your blog is wonderful. Very sincere and honest. Keep it going!
    You inspired me to start blogging again.
    P.S: Thanks for us “famous” on your blog 🙂
    Can I make you famous on my blog too? 🙂

    Reply

    • leahmama1
      Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:18:38

      Very happy to read your comment! I want to see your blog! Sure..I will be “famous” on it! Haha!Now I will go and read it!!

      Reply

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