Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Thoughts On Miyajima? Oh, Deer.

-- Susan, every other Sunday

When asked to rate my favorite places in Japan, Miyajima--a sacred island off the coast of Hiroshima--always makes the list, for its fabulous shrine, great hiking, amazing ryokan . . . and, of course, its resident sika (deer).

Objects in picture are closer--and fuzzier--than they appear.

It takes about six hours' travel by shinkansen from Tokyo, and another 30 minutes by ferry, to reach Miyajima, making it a lengthy trip for a place so small.

Miyajima from the ferry. The famous Otorii is just left of center.

That said, an overnight stay on Miyajima is worth the effort (at least in my opinion).

The Otorii--one of Japan's iconic images and the gateway to Itsukushima Shrine

For much of its history, Miyajima was considered so sacred that ordinary people could not even set foot on its soil. (Itsukushima Shrine sits below the high tide line, so worshippers could step directly onto the shrine from their boats, preventing them from profaning the sacred sand.)

The island is no longer off limits to visitors, but remains a historically sacred space. It's also still inhabited by hundreds of sacred deer that have lived on the island for over a century, and have no fear of humans.

Picturesque doesn't even start to describe it.

Although signs on the island warn that the deer are wild, and may bite or kick, evidence suggests the deer don't read the signs.

Clearly a dangerous wild beast.

One even tried to follow my son and me into a restaurant - and waited at the door for over an hour, hoping someone would let him in.

Table for one?

Even if you don't approach the deer, many of them will come to you, in hopes of a handout or a scratch around the ears.

Will someone please buy me a cookie?

Unlike Nara--Japan's other famously deer-filled location (about which I've blogged here in the past)--the sika of Miyajima won't mug you or rip the pockets off your pants in hopes of finding a hidden cracker.

More interested in the beach than your pants. Trust me, that's a good thing.

Miyajima's resident quadrupeds are more relaxed and far less pushy--like everyone else who lives near a lovely beach.

Beach bums come in all shapes and sizes.

That said, they're more than willing to pose for photos - which led to one of my all-time favorite portraits of my son.

A boy and his . . . deer?

The sika may not be the island's most important historical feature, or even the reason most people make the trip, but for me, they will always remain one of its most . . . endearing features.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Grooooans! I see what you did there!

  3. Idyllic doesn't begin to describe the place, the sika, or the smile on your son's face. Bravo, mama!

  4. So beautiful, Susan. Can't wait for my turn to enjoy it. Is it October yet?

  5. On my list for summer travel! I need boats! Deer are good, too. One of my favorite Seattle landmarks is the State Marine Park of Blake Island, where you can come by ferry for a traditional native experience (yes, it is run by real natives and is great) or private boat, and either buoy or anchor off or, if you are lucky and don't mind company, grab a space at the dock. There are friendly deer there, too. Please only feed them good stuff, not the crap many visitors shove at them. (Oreos? Baloney sandwiches?). Keep to apples, vegetables, lettuce and the like. Sometimes you can see them swimming from island to island. There are more parks like this up in the San Juans, but this is the only one with the native dinner show and art exhibits, and the only one from which you can see Seattle. I miss it. Miyajima is now on my summer list. Thanks.