In the island of Miyajima, Hiroshima, one finds the gigantic, floating vermilion Torii Gate which has graced the covers of many Japanese tourism magazines, books, calendars and posters. Indeed, the floating, iconic Itsukushima Shrine is a beauty. One can even walk under the gate at low tide though I much prefer viewing it at high tide, its silhouette reflected off the waters of Hiroshima bay.
We reached the island via a 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajima Station. The JR Rail Pass works here too so it’s an easy train and ferry ride from Osaka or Kyoto. It’s also an ideal tour combined with a visit to Hiroshima where a loop bus waits to take you around (free for JR Rail Passholders). On the ferry, you’d pass the majestic Torii Gate. Easy enough to know in which direction to walk as soon as you’re off the ferry.
But the island offers so much more. While a crowd gathered at a spot where the floating Torii Gate and its reflection is visible, we walked past and found a staircase towards the island’s biggest structure. Still unfinished, Sensojaku is likewise known as the Hall of 1,000 Tatami Mats. Used often in Shinto rituals, its altars and votive tablets give off a calming, meditation-inducing effect on its visitors. I like this temple so much because the open structure allowed breeze to flow in and out, and its strategic location up on a hill offers a commanding view of the bay and the rest of the island. Beside it is a striking 5-storied pagoda where the Buddha of Medicine is enshrined.
I noticed many of those who scaled the steps to reach this temple were locals. Some rituals before the Shinto altar before picking a pillar against which they rested. Others chose to sit by the “terrace” to view the rest or part of the island. In particular, my interest was drawn to the many votive tablets hanging around. Some faded, others still with striking colors. Amazing how those colors still evoke the dynamism of that age.
I’ve written an earlier blog on Miyajima but couldn’t resist writing a separate post on Sensojaku. This wooden, unfinished structure is so charming that we stayed for quite sometime just leaning our heads on the pillars and looking up on the votive tablets. And I just couldn’t end this blog without zooming in on these tablets if only to share some interesting details. Just imagine they’ve been here for 400 years. So pretty!