Japan #07 - Naoshima, Hiroshima, Miyjima

August 05, 2023  •  5 Comments

Apr 2023

Japan Apr 2023 - #07 Naoshima, Hiroshima, Miyajima

This travel-blog is for a 3 week trip we took to Japan at the beginning of April 2023.  We started out staying in Hachioji (edge of Tokyo) with our son and his family but then spent 10 days on a National Geographic Expeditions tour covering an area on the southern side of Japan to the west of Tokyo more or less between Kyoto and Hiroshima.

Entire Trip map
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This installment continues our stay on the Naoshima Art Island, then takes us on the bullet train down to Hiroshima where we visited the A-Bomb peace park and the next day went over to Miyajima Island with its picturesque temple literally in the bay.

Naoshima, Hiroshima and Miyajama route map
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Naoshima Art Island

In the last posting in this travel series I provided a bit of the history of the Naoshima Art Island including some information on the Benesse Art Site and the Naoshima Art House Project in the Honmura District. So there is no need to repeat that here.

Naoshima Island Route Map
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Benesse Art Site

The Benesse Art Site is a rather large land area with several museums, a couple of hotels and all sorts of art work scattered around the landscape. 

On one of our days on Naoshima Island we visited the Benesse House Museum (where our “laundry” experience was from the last chapter).  This building houses both a museum and also a rather exclusive hotel.  Tadao Ando (the Architect) designed this building on the concept of “coexistence of nature, art, and architecture”.  Unlike most museums which block light from the outside for various reasons, this one embraces outdoor light as well as the interaction of this natural light along with the landscape visible through the many large glass walls.  Through these windows we can see the tranquil Seto Inland Sea, the blue or grey of the sky, and the green of forested hills which are all used to interplay with the displayed artwork.  Much of the art is “site specific” and uses the surrounding landscape as part of the art.

We started our visit here with yet another traditional Japanese lunch delivered in lacquer boxes.  But lunch aside, this is an ultra modern unfinished concrete building where each section of the building is done in a different geometric concept.  For example there is a circular section about 3 stories tall, all open inside with open light coming in from above. Another area is a large square enclosure, two stories tall with no roof.  And then there are rooms that are more like hallways, and others just big enough to contain a single piece of art.  And in some cases the building itself displays what could be considered as contemporary art.  It is all done in an industrial, unfinished concrete style with minimalist lines and fixtures.

Sometimes the building itself appears as contemporary art
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One interesting art installation called “Three Chattering Men” by Jonathan Borofsky consisted of 3 life size men whose jaws were motorized to move up and down.  This was accompanied with a sound track of multiple people all talking at the same time such that none could actually be understood.  I neglected to get my own photo of this, but here is one from the internet.

Three Chattering Men by Jonathan Borofsky
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(Above image from Facebook page “Benesse Art Site Naoshima” posted by “The Art Trotter”)


I found the piece “Yellow and Black Boat” by Jennifer Bartlett quite interesting.  This starts out with a couple of small physical boats on the floor.  Behind these two boats is a painting which seems to be a reflection of the two boats in a mirror except that instead of the background being the museum room it is a beach scene.  But then if you turn around and look out the large glass windows, way down the hill you can see a small cove with a beach and there again are the two boats actually on the beach in the same positions.

Yellow and Black Boats – Jennifer Bartlet
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Another art work is a tall square concrete room open to the sky.  Inside are two large marble pillows for lounging.  Depending on the time of day, and where the sun and shade is, one is warm, and the other is cool.  Once positioned on one of these two pillows, your gaze is limited to just a small square of the sky causing a sense of almost being connected to the sky.

The secret of the sky by Kan Yasuda
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The piece “Counter Circle #18” consisting of plastic toy soldiers lined up in a circular pattern with mirrors on the walls next to the piece on two sides has a room all to itself.

Counter Circle #18 by Tatsuo Mayijima
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After visiting the museum we took a bit of a walk-around outside.  Throughout the grounds of this large parcel of land are various outdoor art pieces from just as many different artists.  In some areas, like near the hotel, the art is placed in a meadow in plain sight.  But in other areas of the property, as you wander around things just appear in the forest or on a beach as the only art piece in sight.  Below are some examples from around the site:

Frog & Cat (Karel Appel, 1990)
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Pumpkin (Yayoi 2022) 2nd version. 1st one was washed out to sea in a storm)
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The 3 squares below oscillate back and forth imperceptibly slowly.  You can’t really see them move but if you come back an hour or two later they are in different orientations.

Three Squares Vertrical Diagonal (George Rickey, 1972-82)
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Mondrian’ Glass Teahouse (Hiroshi Sugimoto, 2022)
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Naoshima Art House Project

The Art House Project is in the Honmura district (town) on the island.  It too was initiated by the Benesse Corporation in collaboration with the same architect, Tadao Ando.  The idea here is to take abandoned traditional homes and buildings, revitalize them and then let artists transform them into unconventional art spaces that blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment. 

Quite a concept that solved a couple of problems.  First it brings in tourists (and their money) and second, it keeps the community from having to deal with dilapidated abandoned houses.  Each artist is given creative freedom to design and construct their unique installations within the existing structures.  So not only do you get to wander around a picturesque little town, you can grab some artistic culture along the way.

Steps leading up to a shrine
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Looking over the wall into the Hachiman Shrine
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The Art House Project blurs the line between art and architecture, as the artists often utilize the existing structures and spaces within the houses to create their installations. The artworks can range from sculptures and installations to light and sound-based artworks, each providing a thought-provoking and engaging experience.

As an example, Kadoya House was the first building in the Art House Project to be completed. The house was constructed roughly 200 years ago, and it was restored to its original appearance with a stucco finish, smoked cedar boards, and traditional roof tiles. The townspeople of Naoshima participated in the creation of the work Sea of Time '98 by Tatsuo Miyajima.  Inside are a couple of rooms with “time” based artwork.  In the photo below, the colored lights are at the bottom of a shallow pool of water and each one is a digital clock. 

Sea of Time '98 by Tatsuo Miyajima
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The art in each of these rescued houses is quite different from the art found in other houses.  One of these was the Dark House.  In this one you move around inside the building in complete darkness making your way by touch only and bumping into walls as well as bumping into other people as you go.  Along the way you find all sorts of different textures and forms, which your brain tries to figure out.  Guess what?  No photos for obvious reasons, such as no light.

We visited several of these houses and wandered around the boat filled harbor and through some very nice little streets before heading back to the hotel.

The Art House Project has played a significant role in transforming Naoshima into an international art destination that attracts visitors from around the world who come to explore the island's unique blend of contemporary art, traditional architecture, and breathtaking landscapes. The project continues to evolve, with new installations and artworks being added periodically to enhance the artistic landscape of Naoshima.

The following day we headed down to the port to catch a ferry back to the mainland where we were provided one last piece of art to send us on our way.

Red Pumpkin (Yayoi Kusama, 2006)
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We then took a short ferry ride with our bus back over to the main Japanese island of Honshu, where we drove up to Okayama to catch a bullet train to Hiroshima.  You’ll remember we talked about the bullet trains (“Shinkansen”) before, so I won’t repeat that here.

The train station in Hiroshima is attached to two luxury hotels, one of which was our accommodation.  This was good planning as we left the bus in Okayama when we hopped on the bullet train, so having our hotel in the train station was excellent.  Our luggage was coming down from Okayama by truck and as trucks don’t go as fast as bullet trains, it wouldn’t arrive till later in the day. 

So, instead of going to our hotel (Sheraton Grand) we walked on over to the other hotel (Hotel Granvia) for a nice buffet lunch.  This was one of the better lunches on our trip.  In addition to some traditional Japanese dishes they also had a variety of more western dishes and a wide selection of desserts.  There was also a very friendly robot roaming around.  Its face resembled a cat with the body painted to resemble a tuxedo.  This robot wandered around and on a display panel asked (in several languages) for customers to place their trays and dishes on one of the empty shelves which adorned both sides of the machine.  Once the shelves were full the sign told us that the robot was “Going Home” and it made its way back to the kitchen to be relieved of the used trays and dishes.

Busboy (buscat?) robot
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After lunch a bus picked us up and off we went to the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park a short drive away.  This park and its monuments serve as a memorial to the victims of the atomic bomb blast that occurred on August 6, 1945.  The park's main objective is to promote peace and advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons as well as to provide a place for reflection and remembrance of the devastating impact of war.  There are several monuments in the park which either stem from the bombing itself or have been added over the years. 

A-bomb Dome

The A-bomb Dome is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Hiroshima, if not the entire world.  This iconic building is the skeletal remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall built in 1914.  It was one of the few structures left standing near the epicenter of the explosion.  Just for reference, the bomb detonated in midair, 1,970 feet above the ground.  Stealing language from earthquakes, this spot in the air is called the hypocenter.  The spot on the ground directly below the hypocenter is the epicenter.  The midair detonation was designed so that the blast wave would spread out before reaching the ground making the impact zone much larger compared to a bomb that detonated upon impact with the ground. 

This particular building remained mostly standing for several reasons.  First of all it is located 525 feet from the epicenter of the blast which allowed the blast force to dissipate a bit before reaching the building and the angle of the blast from the hypocenter was largely downward rather then sideways, preventing the building from just being swept away sideways.  Then we have the design and construction of the building itself.  As it turns out this was a very well designed building constructed using reinforced concrete and brick rather than the more traditional wood found in Japan at that time.  Another factor was the dome itself which deflected the force of the blast around the building, where a flat sided structure with a flat roof surface, like most of the other buildings in the area, would have had to withstand the full impact of the blast. 

After the bomb blast, the A-Bomb-Dome remained mostly standing as a haunting reminder of the effects of such weapons. For many years, public opinions about the dome remained divided.  Some felt it should be reserved as a memorial to the victims of the bombing, while others thought it should be destroyed as a dangerously dilapidated structure evoking painful memories.  As the city was rebuilt and other bombed buildings vanished, the voices calling for preservation gathered strength.  In 1966, the Hiroshima city council passed a resolution to preserve the A-bomb dome which led to a public fundraising campaign to finance the construction work.  Donations poured in with wishes for peace from around Japan and overseas making the first preservation project possible in 1967.  Several preservation projects have since been carried out to ensure that the dome will always look as it did immediately after the bombing.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. 

As one gazes at the remains of the building different people have different thoughts and emotions.  For some it is remembering the lives lost.  For others it is thoughts of how alliances come and go and how enemies become friends and vice-versa over short periods of time.  And for some it is thoughts about why this building is still here when all those around it were blasted away.  But, I doubt anyone comes away without some emotion.

A-Bomb Dome Building
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But the A-Bomb Building is not the only thing in the Peace Park.  On the other side of the river is the larger portion of the Peace Park.

Children’s Peace Monument

This monument is dedicated to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki.  She was 2 years old in 1945 and was one of many who survived the actual bombing with no apparent injuries.  But she could not survive the long term damage caused by being exposed to the radiation.  Ten years later, after growing to the age of 12 as a healthy young girl, she developed leukemia.  She believed that if she folded 1,000 origami paper cranes, she would be granted a wish for a cure and for world peace.  Even though she and her friends and classmates folded well over 1,000 of these cranes her condition worsened and she died in October of 1955.

Sadako's story was widely reported around the world.  Several books were published (e.g., “Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr) and songs were written (e.g., “Sudako and the Paper Cranes, by Tommy Sands).  Being encouraged by the worldwide publicity about their friend, her classmates initiated a fundraising campaign to build a monument in her honor. They wanted to create a symbol of peace and hope to remember Sadako and all the innocent children who lost their lives due to the atomic bombing.  With contributions from across Japan and around the world, the Children's Peace Monument was completed and unveiled in 1958.

Since that time people from all over the world have made and donated paper cranes to the monument with well over 10 million being donated every year.  Most come from Japan, and each year countless school groups visit the monument and bring cranes folded by the class.  The ones donated by visiting school groups are placed in booths set up around one side of the monument for a short time till they run out of room.  Before the Covid-19 pandemic the city had to collect cranes from these booths 12 to 15 times a year to keep them from overflowing.  The city estimates that they typically collect an average of 10 tons of paper cranes each year.  Even though the numbers were cut to over half during COVID, the numbers are starting to come back up again as tourists and school groups return to the monument.   

Many of these cranes are strung together in long chains or put together in collages to make other designs by volunteer groups who make all sorts of artwork which they donate.  The ones not made into art work were incinerated until 2001, but in 2002 the city started storing them in warehouses.  In 2012, the mayor altered his predecessor’s policy and allowed the cranes to be distributed free of charge to individuals and groups hoping to use them. In addition to being displayed at peace events, given out as gifts and thank you tokens, more and more of these paper cranes are being reprocessed into recycled paper to make commercial products such as business cards, origami paper, and postcards.

Children’s Peace Monument
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One of the booths where school groups leave cranes they have made
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Sample artwork made from paper cranes
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Peace Flame and Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims

A short walk from the Children’s Peace Monument is a reflecting pool called the Pond of Peace, which contains the peace flame and the Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims.  Although these are 2 separate monuments, built and installed at different times, they are lined up with each other as well as the A-bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Museum. 

The Peace Flame at the north end of the pond was first lit in 1964 and has remained continuously lit since that time.  The intention is that it will remain lit until the world is free of nuclear weapons and all nuclear weapons are banned.  I suspect this will be a long time from now, but we can only hope.  The flame itself is on a rectangular concrete platform that resembles the outstretched palms of two hands holding the flame.  When viewed from the north end of the pond these two hands seem to be holding the museum building in the background with the Peace Flame in the middle nestled under the Cenotaph Arch.

Peace flame monument with Cenotaph and Museum behind
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Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims

At the south end of the Pond of Peace is the Cenotaph.  The word “Cenotaph means “a monument to someone buried elsewhere, especially one commemorating people who died in a war.”  Under the arch of the Cenotaph memorial is a granite chest inscribed with “Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil."  The chest contains books listing the names of people who died as a result of the nuclear explosion. As of 2021 there were over 300,000 names listed.  These books are taken out once a year to dry out any moisture and add more names. Due to space limitations some of these books are in storage facilities underneath the granite chest.

If you stand at the south end of the Pond of Peace, by the Cenotaph, you can view the Cenotaph, the Peace Flame and the A-bomb Dome all neatly lined up.  Needless to say this vantage point is quite popular for photography and there is almost always a queue of people waiting to take the exact same shot – including me.

Cenotaph with Peace Flame and A-bomb Dome building behind
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Peace Memorial Museum

The last place in the Peace Park we visited was the peace memorial Museum.  This museum exhibits artifacts, photographs, and personal stories related to the atomic bombing and its aftermath. The museum provides visitors with a somber and educational experience about the events that took place here in 1945.

How long has it been?
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One tours this museum on a fixed route through rooms with various exhibits that walk you through a time line from before the explosion to the aftermath.  Even though the museum exhibit rooms are somewhat dark, very warm, and extremely crowded it was very quiet. 

In one area was a circular platform onto which was projected an aerial view of the city just before the bombing.  Then, using video, it showed what happened as the bomb exploded and the blast wave swept across the cityscape, flattening almost everything in its path. 

Some of the exhibits had wall size photos taken in the city both before and after the bombing along with images and stories of individual people. 

Part of panorama of city after the bomb blast
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The whole experience was quite well done and documented the events as they took place.  However, there was a very strong theme of how terrible war is in general and specifically the use of nuclear weapons, which by their very nature cannot help but affect large masses of civilians for decades into the future, long after the war itself has become ancient history.

Near the end of the route through the museum, one walks down a second floor corridor alongside picture windows that look out over the Cenotaph, the Pond of Peace, the Peace Flame, and the Children’s Memorial all the way to the A-bomb Dome in the background.

View from inside Museum with Cenotaph, Peace Pond, Peace Flame and A-bomb Dome
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One unfortunate aspect of the museum was that the entire exhibit only made one brief mention of the attack on Pearl Harbor or the broader war in general.  Rather, the propaganda message as to why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed with atomic weapons was said to be “so that the United States Government could justify the cost of developing the bomb to the US taxpayers.”  Left out was any mention of the estimated number of deaths and casualties on both sides that would have occurred with a conventional attack on the main islands of Japan using conventional weapons of the time.


The next day, after a lecture about Mt. Fuji being a living goddess and seeing a wonderful National Geographic documentary produced by our host, Karen Kasmauski, we headed off to Miyajima Island.  Miyajima is a 10 minute ferry ride after an hour bus ride from our hotel in Hiroshima. 

Miyajima Island (aka Itsukushima Island) is roughly 11 square miles which is pretty small as islands go, but it packs quite a few interesting places to look at – mostly temples and shrines.  Like many other places in the world Miyajima is considered so sacred that being born or dying on the island is prohibited.  It seems that soon to be mothers must leave the island before their due date and can then only return after giving birth.  And, at the other end of the line, if you are near the end of your life you too must leave the island to die someplace else.  I wonder what happens if you have a fatal accident on the island?  Do they declare you un-dead, ship you to the mainland and then declare you dead?  I didn’t run a test with myself to see how they handled that sort of thing.

As we approached the island on the ferry on a cool, rainy and foggy day, we got a glimpse of one of the most famous features on the island which is the “Floating Tori Gate”.  This tori gate is part of the Itsukushima Shrine and sits out on tidal mud flat in the bay.  So, depending on the tide sometimes you can walk out to it and at other times it is in the bay itself.  As we approached the island it was mid tide so the gate was “floating” in the bay near the shore.  But we’ll talk more about this later.

Floating Tori Gate, Itsukushima Shrine on a foggy/rainy day
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After departing the ferry we were in the city of Hatsukaichi, which except for a few far flung temples and shrines scattered around the island is the only developed area on the island.   The main portion of Hatsukaichi is on the mainland so I suppose the portion on Miyajima is more of an extension of that city.  But nonetheless it was a thriving tourist area with loads of shops, food venders, restaurants and, of course, temples, monuments and shrines. 

Our first stop was in a plaza just outside the ferry terminal where we were informed about the significance of the island (Island of the Gods).  As is the case in many areas, this island is a UNESCO world heritage site and to commemorate its attainment of this designation a monument was placed in the plaza.  This monument has a hole carved through its middle which frames the Famous Floating Tori gate.  Unfortunately, the view through the hole also included a delivery truck that was parked there the whole day.

UNESCO Monument
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(Above image from Google Maps)


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From the plaza one can walk along a road by the beach or slide over one block and go down the main commercial street full of tourist oriented businesses.  The two routes meet again several blocks further down. 

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

The most visited attraction here, and one of the top 3 in Japan, is the world famous and unique Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  This shrine is a single level structure raised up on stilts over a tidal mudflat.  The floor boards are placed with gaps between them so that when there is an extra high tide, the water can come up between the boards without lifting the building.

It is built in the architectural style known as Shinden-zukuri, which is characterized by a main hall with a raised floor (typically covered with tatami mats), surrounded by verandas on all sides. The main hall serves as the central sacred space where rituals are performed.  The buildings themselves have no walls, just columns that hold up the roof and separate interior “rooms” from outer “walkways”.

One of the most distinctive features of Itsukushima Shrine is that it is built over the water, giving it the appearance of floating during high tide. This design is called "shin-za" (divine seat) and was intended to create a strong visual impact, emphasizing the shrine's connection to the sea and the sacredness of the island.  When the tide is in, the entire temple is floating over the water but when the tide is out, it is on dry land.  And as we’ve seen before, it is painted in a vibrant vermilion color which is a common characteristic of many Shinto shrines in Japan. The vivid color symbolizes protection against evil spirits and is considered sacred in Shinto tradition. 

The shrine complex is intentionally designed to create a division between the sacred and the profane. Visitors enter through a tori gate and then pass through corridor before reaching the main hall. This progression is symbolic of transitioning from the secular world to the sacred realm of the shrine.

Itsukushima Shrine at low tide
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Arched bridge in background is a relatively new addition to the shrine
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Great Hall
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The large vermilion torii gate, officially called Otorii, is the symbol of Miyajima and is often considered one of Japan's three most scenic views. During high tide, the gate stands in the sea seeming to float on the water, while during low tide, you can walk up close to it on the beach as was the case when we were there.  This is a large structure that measures about 54 feet high and 78 feet across.  The gate is made of camphor wood and is painted the same vibrant vermilion color as the temple. 

Floating Tori Gate (mid-low tide)
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Floating Tori Gate (mid-hightide)
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Gojunoto Five Story Pagoda

Like many temples and shrines in Japan, the Itsukushima Shrine also has a pagoda, this one called Gojunoto, and like the one we saw at Zentsuji Temple (article 6 of this series), this one too is a 5 story pagoda.  In this instance the 5 stories represent a different aspect of Buddhist teachings and cosmology.  Starting at the bottom they are:

  1. Earth, which is the realm of human beings. It symbolizes the earthly realm where humans live and interact.
  2. Water, the realm of asuras or jealous gods. Asuras are mythical beings associated with constant struggle and envy.
  3. Fire, which symbolizes the realm of animals. It is associated with animal instincts and desires.
  4. Wind or air, which symbolizes the realm of hungry ghosts (pretas). Hungry ghosts are beings who suffer from constant hunger and thirst.
  5. Space or void, which symbolizes the realm of heavenly beings or celestial beings. It is associated with the highest and purest state of existence, free from suffering.

At the top of the pagoda is a finial or spire called "sorin", which represents the pinnacle of enlightenment and the attainment of Buddhahood.

Five Story Pagoda at Itsukushima Shrine
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Shrines, Monuments and Temples

In addition to the major attractions I’ve already mentioned, as you walk around this town you can’t turn around without bumping into another temple, shrine or monument.  Some are not much more than a tiny plot of land with a small monument inside and others are more elaborate.  Some had signs, but many did not and you just had to know what it was. 

No sign so no idea what this one is (couldn’t translate stone plaque over entrance)
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Itsukushima Ryujin Shrine in front of Daiganji Temple
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Behind Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
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Traditional Tea Ceremony

One of the planned events for our group was a formal tea ceremony.  The facility turned out to be a training school for “traditional tea serving”.   The rooms inside were not large enough for our entire group to go in all at once so we were divided up into two groups with each group being given a time to come back.  We’d been to tea ceremonies in the past so pretty much knew what to expect. 

We were brought into the facility and led to a small, but very Japanese, room where we sat around the perimeter of the room on the floor.  A few chairs were brought in for those of us who would not do well on the floor.  As usual, a couple of kimono clad young girls brought in the items needed for the ceremony and carefully arranged them in precise locations for the ceremony.  We were quite surprised when the person who would perform the ceremony came in as it was a man, not a woman.  At first I thought he was just another helper but it turns out he was the main guy.  He was also not Japanese, he was German.  Turns out he has been training with tea service masters around the world for the past eight years.  In order to get his certification he needed to up his count of tea services performed correctly.  So, he came here to continue his apprenticeship for another 2 or 3 years until he could be certified as a tea service master. 

At the start, a Japanese woman from the school was narrating in Japanese, which was then translated by our guide. As they say, something was lost in translation, and we really couldn’t get the drift of what was being said.  But, it turned out person performing the ceremony was fluent in English and soon took over his own narration and was quite forthcoming in answering questions.  This was a traditional Tea Ceremony which is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the famous Green Tea Ceremony which has additional elements and is a bit more elaborate.  The ceremony had him make a pot of Macha Tea and each of us got a small cup of it along with a small sweet cake.  I must say that the Macha Tea was vastly better than the Green Tea we had gotten 10 years earlier at a Japanese Green Tea Ceremony.

Japanese Tea Ceremony
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Before landing on the island, we were informed (warned?) about the over abundant wild deer that roam the island including the streets of the town.  Wild?  Well as opposed to captive or domestic maybe that term makes sense but they are quite friendly, tame and used to being around people.  I’d say too used to being around people.  And, even though “tame” they are quite bold in their quest to obtain your lunch. 

For lunch I headed back to the tourist/commercial street, which was wall to all food stalls, restaurants, and packaged food shops.

Streetside Food Stall (oysters I believe)
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I purchased some take away food for lunch from a shop and found a bench by the visitor’s center to sit and eat. When I was about done a family came along with their lunch to share the bench.  Not too long later a deer showed up. 

At first the deer just sort of begged for a hand out like a dog at the dinner table.  But, the dad made the grave mistake of giving it a little something to impress and delight his daughter before pushing it away.  Well, that was all it took.  The buffet had been declared open.  Undaunted, the deer came right back and tried eating one end of the dad’s food while he was eating the other end, but he pushed it away again.  Then while he was helping his daughter to be a bit more discrete with her lunch the deer went head first into a canvas shopping bag they had.  The mom quickly pulled the canvas bag away from the bench (and the deer), but this exposed a plastic bag from the food stall that had been hidden between the dad and the canvas shopping bag.  Instantly the deer was helping itself to the contents of the plastic lunch bag. 

By this time the opinion of the little girl had shifted from delight by being so close to a cute deer to distress at seeing her lunch being stolen before her eyes by this crazed wild beast, and the tears flowed.  About this time some city workers came by and shooed the deer away.  Apparently they were the “deer patrol” for as soon as they showed up the deer was out of there without a second glance. 

The Deer takes lunch
41 Miyajima Deer41 Miyajima Deer

Random things about Japan

Now that we’re nearing the end of our tour, I find that I still have a list of weird or interesting factoids about Japan that didn’t make it into these articles.  So, rather than just trashing the list, why not just insert it here in list form.

  • The Japanese alphabet consists of three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic alphabets with between 40 and 50 characters each.  The Kanji is a system of Chinese characters where each character represents words or ideas.  There are well over 50,000 Kanji characters of which about half are still in common use.  Starting in the 2nd grade students are taught to write about 5 new ones a day, every day, all the way through the end of high school at which point they still haven’t gotten to them all.  The rest they’ll just have to figure out on their own.
  • Sumo wrestling is the national sport of Japan, and professional sumo wrestlers often live together in communal training stables called heya.  Although these athletes seem to have an unhealthy amount of fat but that is not the case.  Despite consuming around 7,000 calories per day, they train for almost 5 hours a day. This intense training keeps their body fat away from their vital organs where it causes problems. However, if they stop training, they're likely to become obese
  • The Japanese are known for their love of sushi, but raw fish wasn't always a popular food in Japan. It was actually introduced to the country from China in the 8th century.
  • The Japanese have a unique way of counting, using different words for different objects. For example, the number 2 when used to describe pencils is different from the number two when used to describe cars.
  • Japan has the second-highest life expectancy in the world, with an average life expectancy of 84 years.
  • Capsule Hotels - Capsule hotels are a type of hotel unique to Japan where guests sleep in small, capsule-like pods instead of traditional hotel rooms. The pods are just big enough to fit a person lying down, and typically come equipped with a TV, radio, and other amenities.
  • Maid Cafes - Maid cafes are a popular type of cafe in Japan where the wait staff dress up in French maid costumes and serve customers. The cafes are known for their cutesy atmosphere and the attention to detail that goes into the maid outfits and decor.
  • Love Hotels - Love hotels are another unique type of hotel found in Japan. They are designed for couples who want to have private, romantic encounters and are typically rented out by the hour. Love hotels often have themed rooms and elaborate decor. I wonder if married couples ever use them?

The End

After returning from Miyajima and a brief stop back at our hotel, we were off again for our “end of trip farewell dinner”.  Although the restaurant was not that far from our hotel, the traffic was heavy and it took quite some time to arrive at the restaurant.  For our farewell dinner they took us to the posh Hambei (Hanbe) Garden Restaurant for one last authentic Japanese meal. 

According to our guide this is the number one restaurant in Hiroshima.  Their website describes it as a sukiya-style building surrounded by a Japanese garden and offers authentic kaiseki (traditional Japanese) cuisine that can be served only at traditional Japanese restaurants, using an abundance of seasonal ingredients.  The dinner was a multi course bonanza of fresh items, well prepared and immaculately presented. 

01 Hambe dinner collage 101 Hambe dinner collage 1

02 Hambe Dinner Collage 202 Hambe Dinner Collage 2

Outside the dining rooms was a spectacular courtyard Japanese garden with a pond.

44 PXL7-#006244 PXL7-#0062

45 PXL7-#006345 PXL7-#0063

The next day, we all went our separate ways.  Most of the group had flights and took the bullet train to their departing airports.  We headed back to Tokyo on the bullet train to spend some more time with family before heading back home to the San Francisco area.

And that concludes this travel series on our trip to Japan in April, 2023.  I hope you enjoyed following along with our adventures and please leave a comment on this web page.




This blog is posted at:


Or, the whole Japan 2023 series here (as they are created)



Photographs from this trip to Japan can be found on my website here:


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Thanks for reading – Dan


(Images by Dan Hartford.--Info from Wikipedia, ChatGPT, other web sources, pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way guidebooks and commentary by the local guides)






A-bomb Dome(non-registered)
The A-bomb Dome structure with your background story makes the closer to yesterday than over 75 years ago. Very timely with the Oppenheimer movie out this year. An obvious question from your text is why the bomb was detonated to do the most damage.

In a way this reminds me of St. Paul Ruin in Dresden that lives as a reminder of the bombing of the city near the end of WWII, but is supported as a theatre/bar.

Karen Kasmauski(non-registered)
Love your posts, they are so informative!!
Louise Kingsley(non-registered)
David and I have enjoyed the pictures and blog and reliving the wonderful trip we were on. It was great getting to know you and Ellen and hope our paths cross again.
Hi Dan,

I really enjoy your blog and always learn from them,

Thanks for the outstanding work,

Bruce McGurk(non-registered)
Thanks for a lovely story and photos, Dan! I've seen pictures of the Hiroshima Dome, but yours are better. Combining the Peace and Children's displays was great, and your shot them all in a line must have also had a line@! Lovely shot. Too short since the last bomb test, and I hope we get to extinguish that flame in at least my children's lifetimes. Thanks for the research and explanations, I love to learn about what I see!
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