I forgot to mention the other day, and then it happened again today, that I’ve never bowed so much in my life. Most of the time, it’s small, almost half-hearted bowing when saying thank you. But in Osaka at a convenience store the clerk bowed as I approached the register and she went for it. She bowed all the way to the counter. Pretty sure her nose was touching the counter. And then when she thanked me she did it again. Full on, deep bow. So I felt the need to bow more than “usual”, but of course I started after she did, so she was on her way up and saw that I was bowing, so down she went again. We didn’t do that for long, but it went back and forth a bit. It could’ve gone on forever! Then today after a purchase of some souvenirs the gentleman bowed (not as far as convenience store chick), so then I started bowing, and then he saw me and bowed more. Seriously, where does it end?!?! But I actually want to Google the tradition of bowing. I know it’s deeply respectful, but there must be more to it!
We slept a little later today and it seems like every day that I think is going to be more “laid back” and “easy” never turns out that way. I mean, we’re not rushing and we haven’t had to cram things in, but it’s always so much more walking and sweating than I anticipate! We went straight to the train station to take the train to the port and a ferry to Miyajima Island. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I really should look up a list of those and see how many I’ve been to!). It was said to be one of the three most scenic spots of Japan, at least a Confucian thought so in 1643 AD! The heritage site includes 431 hectares of land, the shrine (which we did not go into…so many shrines and temples!), the sea, and the forest around Mt. Misen.
The island is also well-known for its O-Torii Gate (not sure why this one has an O when the others did not). The gate appears to be floating in the sea about 100 meters off the shore. But at low tide, one can actually walk to it! So I wanted to make sure we saw it at, or very close to, high tide. But when we first got there, we did some browsing at the many souvenir shops and food vendors. Had I known there were so many food vendors, I wouldn’t have had two pastries for breakfast (woke up starving!). Of course, many of the food vendors were selling things I would not eat (squid testicles, anyone? Though now that I’m typing that, I realize it may have been “tentacles” that was lost in translation…hmmm.)
We then saw the Torii gate at almost high tide, but decided to take the Ropeway (Gondola) up Mt. Misen. I said I would go if it wasn’t a crazy steep/many steps walk. And then we found the shuttle bus. Which was driven by a crazy person. I was freaking out with the older Japanese lady next to me who liked it when Loren closed her eyes it was so scary! We took one set of gondolas up and over the beautiful forest. We were with a Brazilian couple who very lovely. Then we had to transfer to another, larger, gondola that brought us up the rest of the way. It slowly revealed stunning views over the Seto Inland Sea (or Hiroshima Bay, we’re not sure). So stunning that numerous people audibly gasped as it started coming into view! Many “oohs” and “aahs”! It was very beautiful and I am afraid that photos won’t do it justice. There are lots of islands in the water and they all seemed to have been covered in forests, so it was just very pretty.
We then went down soon after and chose not to take the 30 minute hike to the summit of Mt. Misen. On the way down (the second leg) we were in a gondola with an older couple. Or I thought they were a couple until we started talking and realized that they are siblings! They are of Asian descent and are Australians. We had a nice chat with them and took turns taking silly pictures of one another in cut-out frames. We just missed the bus going back down, so we decided to walk. The nature walk was much better than the road and was quite scenic. We then made it back to the Torii gate, shortly after high tide. It was really beautiful.
I should also say that there were a lot of deer here, like in Nara. But unlike Nara, we were not supposed to feed or touch these deer. They definitely seemed more “wild” than the ones in Nara. I saw one deer take a lunch bag out of someone’s backpack and fought for dear (ha!) life as the person wrested it away. None of the deer tried to eat my shirt this time, though, so that was good. As we stood by the water and I ate a mandarin orange ice cream cone, we watched some idiot try to ride a deer. The deer bucked that dude just as good as a horse and the guy fell flat on his back. Served him right. Apparently idiocy knows no borders. Shortly thereafter, the deer was seen on a relatively high stone fence. I have no idea how it got up there, but it was looking for food! I had earlier eaten a tasty grilled beef skewer. It had some seasoning on it that was delish. But I had also seen grilled corn on the cob, so I got some of that then. It was nasty. It was mostly cold and stale. So I contemplated giving it to the deer, but decided to follow the rules and not feed it!
We took the ferry and the train back into town and tried to shop at a “mall”, but it was too overwhelming and we were too tired. The gentleman from Australia had noted that there seemed to be a lot of malls in Japan. We concurred! So we left the mall and looked for dinner on the way back to the hotel. I was in the mood to try tempura again, but couldn’t find anywhere that had it. I’m not kidding, this hasn’t been easy attempting to try new foods when new foods for me are too passe for the Japanese. The common Japanese food is too far out of my comfort zone. So we settled on Savoy Pizza. Holy cow. Good choice. Probably the best pizza I’ve had since Italy. So good!
Tonight we rest. Longest train trip tomorrow to a rural town in southern Japan. It will be a primer for our all-day train trip on Tuesday!