Day 7 was supposed to be our hiking day, so naturally, it was raining. Still, we took the ferry to the island of Miyajima, and set course to hike to the top of Mt. Misen.
Shira arrived in Japan with an umbrella, but I figured I'd pick one up if I needed to. One of the things you realize quickly is just how essential an umbrella is to most Japanese. When the sun is out, or even if it isn't, many women have them up for sun protection. Quite a few bikes had an odd protrusion that only made sense when when a lady rode by in the rain: ahhh yes, that's an umbrella holder. So naturally, I spent a few bucks and picked up an umbrella for the hike up the mountain. To be out in the rain without an umbrella is to truly stand out as a foreigner.
Before the hike we had to walk through various shops and restaurants. I was able to fortify myself for the trek up the mountain with fish meat and soybeans on a stick. It was actually quite good!
The hike itself was challenging (only about 2.5k, but all uphill, mainly through steps), beautiful and completely peaceful. It wasn't until we approached the summit that we started to see a handful of people.
The island of Miyajima is crawling with what are effectively domesticated deer. They wander within a few feet of tourists and will eagerly eat out of your hands if you let them. It's quite a sight to see. On the way up the mountain Shira caught sight of what must have been some type of pheasant in the woods. Man, it was gorgeous. There was a mommy (assuming the mommy's plumage was more plain than the daddy's) and a baby, too. Unfortunately, it was raining and I had the wrong camera out to capture this guy. But trust me, he was stunning.
As we approached the summit of Mt. Misen we started to encounter more and more shrines and finally we arrived at the hut where Kobo Daishi lit a flame some 1200 years ago, that's still burning to this day. Impressive stuff. By the time we reached the summit and finished exploring the various shrines at the top the rain had stopped.
We made our way down the mountain via an alternate route and came across even more shrines; some as small as just a baby Buddha statue and a few coins tossed next to it as an offering. This, combined with the many rock piles made for an interesting hike.
At the bottom of the mountain was yet another temple to check out. After all the temples we'd seen in Kyoto, you'd think we'd have seen it all by now. But Dasiho-in Temple still had some wonders to show us. Like the 500 Rakan statues spread out throughout the paths which all contain unique facial expressions, or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune (insert joke about the Seven Dwarfs here), or the Ichigan Daishi which will allow you to realize your one wish if you pray hard enough for it. And there was more, too, but I'll spare you the complete details.
We finished our hike in the best way possible: Shira had blueberry "ice cream" (hard to say if it was actually made with milk, but it was tasty) and I had "fish meat" with cheese on a stick. I couldn't identify the fish or cheese used in this treat, but all in all, it was good.
Miyajima, even in the rain, was a hit.