Friday, May 17, 2013

Japan - Miyajima

After the intensity of Hiroshima it was helpful to see something as serene and beautiful as the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima. Although ‘on’ Miyajima isn’t quite right as the shrine is built out in the ocean. 

Shintoism and Buddhism are the two major religions in Japan and shrines dot the country side and cities in abundance. But some, like the Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima, are more breathtaking than others. 

The day we arrived at Miyajima began in Kyoto. There was a parade from the Imperial Palace where people in traditional dress marched through the centre of the city. The outfits and flowers were wonderful and it was stunning to see the old agains the backdrop of such a vibrant city. 

From there we went to Hiroshima and the peace park, which was an extremely emotional experience and one that has only reinforced the significance of the destruction war causes and the absolute waste that it is. 

Arriving in Miyajima to find that the view from the hotel looked out at the shrine was yet another moving experience. The tide was low so we caught the ferry across right away (For free thanks to the JR pass) and walked down to touch the barnacle covered arch. As in Nara, wild deer wandered the streets, coming up to people to see if they had treats. The rolling hills, the wildlife and the shops all reminded me of Banff, if Banff were by the sea and slightly tropical. 

But the shrine was nothing like anything I’ve ever seen in North America or Europe. A stunning monument jutting out of the sand, the sun setting behind it only adding to the serenity of the place. 

I think the thing I love the best about Japanese shrines is the simplicity of the design. Elegant lines with minimal adornment, just enough to make a statement without becoming garish. Like so many things in Japan, stated boldly and beautifully. 

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