Thursday, April 29, 2010

Japan Day 7 P2

After the gate, it is time for us to visit the Itsukushima Shrine. The routine wash up to cleanse ourselves before entering the shrine.

The signage says it all. Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site and regarded as a National Important Cultural Property.

Itsukushima Shrine is dedicated to the 3 Munakata goddesses, Ichikishimahime, Tagitsu-hime and Tagori-hime. These 3 goddesses are worshiped as gods of sea, traffic safety, fortune and accomplishment.

The shrine is known for its unique construction, which displays the artistic beauty of the Shinden style of architecture. First build in 593, it was remodeled into the present grand structure by a powerful figure, Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1168. Its placement on the water, beautifully framed by the mountain in the background, is testimony to Kiyomori's extraordinary vision and achievement.

Itsukushima Shrine is composed of a main shrine, a Noh drama stage, music rooms, halls and several other shrines arranged around it. All these structures are connected by corridors with a total length of 300m. The vermilion colour of the shrine and of the O-torii is considered to keep evil spirits away. The shrine buildings are coated with vermilion lacquer, which is also efficient as protection from corrosion.

Lucky us came across a couple performing their traditional wedding at the shrine. Looks like they are into red umbrellas as well. Wonder if it holds the same meaning as us Chinese, which is to ward off evil and signifies 开支散叶。

Very elaborated ceremony. By the looks of it, this couple seems to come from a well to do background. So many people fussing around them just to take the perfect pic... ...

Ta da....

As we continue wondering around the vicinity, we stumbled onto Momijidani Park.

This is a quiet park located at the food of the sacred Mt. Misen. Particularly in autumn, the park presents a splendid view with its wide variety of scarlet-tingled maple leaves. From spring to early summer, lush greenery makes up the magnificent sight. I still find it amazing that the sun is so bright and shiny yet we are feeling cold.

We came across some kuri (Japanese chestnuts) one of the most common and beloved tastes of autumn in Japan. They are often used as an ingredient in Japanese confectionery.

Different from Singapore, these chestnuts were being cooked in a high pressure cooker that shot out jets of steam when the stall-owner released the pressure.

These chestnuts were really gigantic, much bigger than the ones we have in Singapore. The flesh is more robust, doesn't break apart as easily as our local ones and it is slightly sweeter.

Blamer can't resist these kawaii looking buns.

The real ones ain't too far off from the models.

As always, I'm the guinea pig cum food taster. Very soft buns, again it just proves that the Japanese put in a lot of effort in achieving a high standard of quality in what they do. Personally, I would prefer the fillings of beef and preserved mustard to be a bit more salty but Blamer liked it as it is.

I wondered why there's a large wooden spoon on display in the middle of Omotesando Arcade.

Apparently, it is the world's biggest wooden rice scoop (O-shakushi) made in the year 58 of the Showa period to leave the traditional craft Miyajima-zaiku for posterity and also as a symbol of Miyajima. It took 22 years and 10 months to complete but was in storage for 14 years because people couldn't find a place to display it. But in December of the year 8 of the Heisei period, at the same time when Itsukushima shrine was listed as a World Heritage site, and Miyajima Hon-tori Arcade was renamed Miyajima Omotesando Arcade, O-shakushi was placed on display to commemorate this special day. It is made from a 270 years old Zelkova tree and weighs a hefty 2.5 tons.

I think Hello Kitty has really become a National symbol of Japan, even in remote island Miyajima, we can find traces of this mouth-less cat.

Seems like being near Hello Kitty has given Blamer some courage. Just before we left for our next destination, Blamer got this close to the wild deers. No camera tricks here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Japan Day 7 P1

Rise and shine for another day of fun and adventure with Blamer.

It's time for us to venture out of Tokyo again to make our money's worth for the JR passes.

Need to board the ferry to take us to Miyajima, a small island that is most famous for its giant Torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on top of the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan's three best views. Blamer seems to have no idea where the ferry is... ... Just follow the crowd duh??!

A pic of the vessel. Later we realized that other than ferrying passengers, this vessel is able to ferry vehicles to and fro the island as well.

Enjoying the sea breeze.

Before long, we sighted our target in the distance.

The jetty but we lost sight of the torii gate. Seems it's gonna be quite a walk from the drop off point.

On solid ground again with a stone pillar to welcome us.

Guess who were the first inhabitants we saw on the island? Cute little deers, we missed going to Nara the other day, but surprise surprise, we still get to experience the feeling of having free roaming deers running around us.

A little signage warning visitors to be gentle to these delicate animals.

A little skeptical to be so near to them. Wonder if they bite...

Apparently, this little guy was more interested about what's in my pocket than taking a pic with me. Dude you were supposed to look at the camera... ...

Wonder why this structure was doing till a fellow tourist tried taking a pic thru the hole. Can you see the Torii gate in the middle?

It seems that we have to pass thru the town area to get to the gate, might as well find some munchies along the way.

The first stall that caught our attention.

A classic example of the ingenuity of Japanese to invent stuffs in order to make their lives easier.

The finished product.

The kind owners allowed us to just purchase one cookie instead of the usual one box. Need to save some stomach space for later.

Another innovative machine from the same store.

And we bought one product each.

Yum yum, warm food on a cold morning. The day was just starting out right.

Now it's Blamer to take photos with the deers. But scaredy cat Blamer was afraid to go close.

Haiz in the end I got to resort to camera trickery. Does it look close enough?

More goodies, grilled seasoned rice crackers. With a lot of flavours to choose from.

We chose the one that says blended seven spices. Can't really make out the seven, but it just tasted nice!

As you can see, I couldn't wait for Blamer to finish taking her pictures. Hee hee.

My favourite dish however, goes to these freshly grilled oysters!

These juicy, savoury little gems were so delectable, neither Blamer nor me wasted a single drop of the succulent, gooey goodness.

The O-torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. It's about 16.6m in height and weighs about 60 tons. Its roof, thatched with Japanese cypress bark is 24.2m in length. The main pillars, which are 9.9m in circumference, are made of natural camphor trees, while the 4 supporting pillars are made of natural cedar. The present O-torii, which is the eighth since the Heian period, was erected in 1875. A pity it was high tide so we can't really head out to take a close up look at the gate.

I tried to suck it.

While Blamer tried to grab and compress it.

There was a sampan service which would bring tourist out to sea to go through the gate.

At last we met a fellow tourist who could take a decent photo of us with a full view of the gate.

To be continued with P2!
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