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Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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Miyajima Walks

The best way to explore small islands such as Miyajima is by walking around and in this post I would like to share a selection of photographs taken during my exploration of the island. Some shots were taken around the island’s small town, but most are shots from time spent walking on Mount Misen, an enjoyable and sometimes arduous activity.

The graceful flowing lines of Japanese temple roofs is a sight I never tire of and when the thatched roofing materials can be shown in front of a natural forest (as in pic 1), the blending of man-made and natural structures is quite sublime. Maintaining this natural theme is the island’s houses (pic 2), which typically portray traditional Japanese styles utilizing materials such as wood and stone to great effect. Of course, this is accompanied by modern additions such as satellite dishes.

It is not unusual in Japan to come across small businesses supplying temples and shrines and as shown by pic 3, Miyajima is no exception. I have long admired Japan’s ability to maintain old skills and traditions, often through businesses passed down through many generations and when one consistently finds businesses of this type close to temples and shrines, it suggests a preference to support the work of local artisans.

As a protected site, the island’s deer population (pic 4) can be found everywhere from the peak of Mount Misen to wading through the waters at low tide near the Itsukushima Shrine. Perhaps I was just lucky during my visits, but the Miyajima deer seem to be less mischievous than their Nara counterparts. (Those who have visited Nara will know what I mean.)

The deer certainly handle the slopes of Mount Misen with greater ease than humans and although there are extensive paths to follow, care is often required to safely negotiate one’s climb and descent. Nevertheless, as can be seen from pics 5 to 9, Mount Misen is well worth the effort. When walking in Japan, a frequent sight is that of stone arrangements like those shown at pic 10. I don’t know if there is any special significance to the arrangements, or perhaps people simply like the challenge of creating and/or adding to little ornamental stone arrangements. Whatever its significance, it is an engaging form of communal art and entertainment.

The stone arrangements are again seen at pic 11, where Kannondo Hall in the foreground is said to be where prospective parents can ask for a safe childbirth, despite no births being allowed on the island. The building visible in the background is Monjudo Hall, where one can ask to be endowed with the ability to be a good student.

Further up the mountain, one finds Sankido Hall (pics 12 and 13), where it is believed one’s prayers for household welfare and business prosperity will be answered. On a practical level, Sankido Hall also serves as a welcome rest stop where one can enjoy a relaxing and contemplative break from the comfort of the welcoming Tatami flooring.

On the descent I came across a hall I failed to identify (pics 14 to 16) guarded by a couple of impressive, but fierce looking guardians. If anyone can provide further information about this building, it would be appreciated. I also found the sign made by the guardian’s right hand in pic 16 quite amusing given the penchant of the Japanese for hand signs. Perhaps it is more deeply ingrained in their culture than I realised.

What better way to end a walk around Miyajima than the shot of two young boys waiting for the ferry, looking happy and well stocked from their trip to the island.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

 


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Nara

Nara is historically significant as Japan’s capital from 710 to 784 – the period when Buddhism was at its height and spreading widely through Japan.

Despite this historical significance, one’s first impression of Nara is more likely to be the sight of deer freely roaming in Nara Park and the nearby public areas, much to the delight of residents and visitors.  The deer are considered to be messengers of the gods and are protected as national treasures.

The dominant location in Nara is the Todaiji Temple, within whose grounds lies the Great Buddha Hall or Daibutsuden – the world’s largest wooden building.  The scale of the Daibutsuden becomes more apparent upon entering when one first encounters the giant bronze and wooden statues of Buddhas and their guardians.

It is from these locations that today’s photos are drawn and from their ability to impress today, one can imagine the power and influence centred in Nara during its period as Japan’s capital.

 (Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)