Close Encounters of the Deer Kind
Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
17Trip End Apr 25, 2012
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We then took a river cruise to Miyajima Island. This is a sacred island, home to several major temples and a famous torii gate which, at high tide, seems to float on the water. It is so sacred that births and deaths are not allowed. Pregnant women near term and patients near death are moved to the mainland.
With our first steps on the island we immediately saw the deer wandering around. They readily interact with the tourists
While I was waiting for Susan to pay for an item in a souvenir shop, I stepped out onto the street and saw one of the deer trying to enter a cafe. The owner came out and tried to shoo him away. At one point, he lightly thumped the deer on the head. He still wouldn't leave. Their antlers are trimmed back to prevent damage, but you can tell that the people are very tolerant and protective of them.
As we walked along the waterfront, past the torii gate onto the Itsukushima Temple grounds (another World Heritage Site), I could hear music. After lots of picture taking, we headed over there and were delighted to happen upon a performance of Noh Theatre. (It is staged only three days a year, so we really lucked out.) We stood there, enchanted, for half an hour. We were told that this style of theatre is over 500 years old. The Japanese, themselves, have difficulty following it because of the ancient way of speaking and how the actors draw out the syllables in many words. It occurred to me that it was like watching Shakespeare or Chaucer, with beautiful costumes, chanting, and slow, graceful movements in an authentic setting.
The temple was originally built in 503 and rebuilt to today's scale (20 buildings) in 1168. The buildings are connected by covered wooden pathways and rest on land which is flooded each day as the tide comes in. The temple seems to float on the water. It's exquisite.
We took more pictures of the torii gate as the tide rose and wanted to stay on the island until sunset
The post office was located next to the world's largest rice scoop! It is symbolic of the city because this is the place where it was first made and is now ubiquitous throughout Japan. When I got up to take a picture of the scoop, a deer found us. Susan started yelling for me to help her gather up our bags. He grabbed a map from Susan (barely missing her gloves) and quickly ate the whole thing. He obviously wanted more. He literally stuck his nose inside my bag. When I stepped away and tried to put arthritis cream on my neck, he really got interested. That cream must have deer sex hormone in it! He was nudging my arms, trying to get to it. While I was trying to shoo him away, Susan was laughing hysterically.
Via return ferry and train, we made our way back to Hiroshima and had dinner in a tiny restaurant serving the local specialty -- okonomi-yaki (a pancake layered with veggies and your choice of meat. We chose shrimp and it was delicious!