Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miyajima Part Two -Itsukushima Shrine-

You can never describe the beauty of Miyajima without mentioning Itsukushima Shrine!

Despite being a shrine, the most famous structure out of the many in the Itsukushima Shrine area is the Ootorii (The great guard frame). This Torii is widely known as one of Japan's most important cultural assets and is now the 8th generation gate, after being rebuilt numerous times since it was first constructed in 1875. It is 16.6 meters in height, weighs approximately 60 tons, and is made out of camphor tree wood that is about 500 to 600 years old—an age that can surely be felt firsthand through the gate's aura. Since the Ootorii is so large in size, and is painted in a bright, catchy vermillion color, you can even see it from the ferry to Miyajima island.

When the tide is low, you can walk from the main shrine to the Ootorii and pass under the great gate. On the other hand, when the tide is high, you can pass under the gate on sightseeing boats. I recommend researching when the tide is both high and low in advance so that you can enjoy the great gate in many ways. However, regardless of time, the Ootorii of Itsukushima Shrine is definitely a great piece of art that one should see at least once in their lifetime.

The main shrine is also an outstanding construction that is both splendid and exquisite. Walking down the shrine's wooden aisles makes you feel as if you have slipped back in time. Also, because the shrine is built along the shore, when the tide is high, it seems as if the whole building is floating on water. It's not uncommon to see water squirting out of the small crevices between the wooden boards that make up the aisles of the shrine. Numerous twists in architecture seen in the shrine protect the structure from the force of water, however, nature is no doubt strong. Like the Ootorii, the shrine has been rebuilt numerous times due to damages from natural disasters, but is still loved and respected by many people today.

Another aspect that makes the atmosphere of the Itsukushima area special is the presence of wild deer that dwell around the shrine. Deer that roam around the Miyajima area are very well adjusted to humans, and often come close to tourists looking for food. Deer being deer, they could be stubborn and uncooperative at times, but the way they match the scenery of Itsukushima Shrine and the surrounding constructions give an outstanding and unforgettable flavor.

Itsukushima's shrine has a history of over 1400 years, and out of thousands of other beautiful sightseeing spots, is definitely one of the most recommended places to visit in Japan. Once you see it, the powerful vermillion of the Ootorii is permanently seared into your head and you will never forget the beauty of the area.

But despite all I've said, it's nearly impossible to put Itsukushima Shrine's allure in words! So do yourself a favor and visit Itsukushima, and you'll understand why it's registered as a World Heritage Site and is loved by thousands of people all over the world!!

*Entrance fee to the Itsukushima Shrine is JPY 300 for adults, JPY 170 for high school students, and JPY 150 for elementary and junior high school students. Opening hours are 8:30 AM to 5:00PM.

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