Posted by Heliocentrism on October 30, 2016
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Mark and I had so much fun hiking up Mt. Sanbe (with the help of a chair lift) that we did it again a few days later. Wouldn’t you know it? There are a few other mountains in Hiroshima prefecture with a ropeway or ski lift ride close to the top. Mt. Misen is one of them.
Mt. Misen is on Miyajima, that island that people think about when they think about Hiroshima. Well, people who aren’t from Hiroshima. When a Hiroshiman thinks about Hiroshima, they think of the Carp. (Did I ever mention how much I hate baseball?)
Mark and I have been to Miyajima once before. We went there on a New Year’s Day when our friend Tom visited us. New Year’s Day is not a day for sightseeing near shrines or temples, especially if one is not Buddhist or Shinto.
We spent the whole day being forced into one line after another. The crowds were so massive and so determined on its path. There was no way to go against the tide once we were sucked in. We just had to follow the crowd until everyone disbursed.
This day, there was still a crowd, but a manageable one. It was too small to kidnap anyone. You could still flow with the crowd if that’s what you’re into, but there was freedom to move independently.
We ate before buying our tickets to the island. “Last time we ate at some restaurant I didn’t like and we paid way too much for our meals,” Mark complained. So we ate at a diner in the building with the souvenir shop.
Once on the island we were scandalized by the exorbitant meal prices. We joked, “Plain soba noodles for 1,600 yen and it only comes with one jumbo prawn! Is that prawn battered in gold?” We did waste our money on some overpriced maple leaf shaped, cheese flavored fish cakes. How could we not? We were on Miyajima. They were delicious, by the way.
As a side note, if you are ever on Miyajima and you don’t want an unreasonably priced meal, move away from the main street. Get away from all the tourists and move more inland. Even going closer to the 5-Story Pagoda, you’ll find 800 yen ramen, which is about how much ramen would cost in most ramen shops.
The first thing we saw was the giant rice paddle. It’s the biggest rice paddle in the world, which is easy to believe. Asia for one, is the only part of the world that uses a special utensil for serving rice. So, you’re not going to find too many rice paddles, big or small in places like Europe or Africa. Second, I’ve been all over Asia and I have never seen a bigger rice paddle. So that proves it.
We walked on over to the 5-Story Pagoda. It was a fine pagoda. We took lots of photos and thought about going inside the temple next to it. Toyokuni Shrine was filled with pious looking Buddhists. Because of me being a camera wielding tourist, I didn’t think I should enter and disturb their worship. Mark and I only looked at the numerous tatami mats and moved on.
We walked up the hill to wait for the free shuttle to the Miyajima Ropeway. As we got there a shuttle was just leaving. There was a 20 minute wait for the next one. Since the walk was only 15 minutes, we walked.
The path led through Momijidani Park and across Red Bridge. It was a beautiful walk. It must be especially scenic during spring and autumn.
When we got to the Momijidani Ropeway Station, Mark moaned about the price for 2 round trip tickets. “Mt. Sanbe only costs $12 for two people. This is almost $40!”
“Well, this is a lot bigger than Sanbe,” I tried to explain. We paid for two tickets since neither of us wanted to do a 2 hour hike.
Once in the ropeway car, we both realized that the ropeway ticket was worth every yen. The ride took about 15 minutes with a short stop in the middle to change gondolas. “There is no way we would have made it up this mountain without this ropeway car,” I said. “Look,” I pointed out the window. “That’s where I would have given up and turned back around.”
From the Shishiiwa Ropeway Station near the top of Mt. Misen we took in a quick look from the Shishiiwa Observation point. “Very nice,” Mark said, “But where’s the magic stuff I was promised?”
I handed Mark the brochures I had collected. It had a list of all the power spots on Mt. Misen and what to do there. All the spots required a hike further up the mountain. “Why can’t Buddhists have magical rocks and stuff at sea level?” I asked Mark. “I think the lack of oxygen up in the mountains is what makes the magic,” he answered. That seemed about right.
We climbed down from the Shishiiwa Observation point and passed the ropeway station again. We found a sign pointing to the second floor of the ropeway station for “Fire of Oath”. “Let’s make an oath!” Mark shouted.
“I don’t know,” I said hesitantly. “I married you and all, but a Fire Oath seems quite serious. I don’t know if I’m ready for that level of commitment.”
There was an unlit lantern sitting on a long column. Across from it was a stand for cameras and smart phones. I put my camera on the stand and set the timer. Then Mark and I stood by the lantern and posed. The photo was taken but something felt off.
“Where’s the flame?” Mark asked looking around.
“We are trying to take a fire oath, but where is the fire?” Mark looked around the column and found the buttons. “Oh, here it is,” he said answering his own question. “We both have to press these buttons.” We did and the lantern was lit. We took another photo and made a fir oath, whatever that means…
We hiked up the mountain to find a flame that has been burning for 1,200 years. We found a sign to put us in the right direction and set off. After a few minutes of walking we got to a spot where the real hikers meet the ropeway passengers.
They all looked so tired and sweaty. We over heard a conversation between a mother and daughter. “No. No. You go on. I think I’m done hiking for the day,” the mom said.
“Are you sure, mom?”
“Yes. I’ll just sit here and wait for you to get back. Maybe by then my shirt will be dry.”
“What a shame,” I thought. “The best parts of this mountain are past the spot where the mom gave up. They should have taken the ropeway…”
About 10 minutes after leaving the mom behind we got to Reika-do and its eternal flame that was used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Peace Park. Supposedly, water boiled with the eternal flame cures all diseases. I looked for someone selling boiled water.
There was an old man selling green tea. There was no indication that the tea was made with magic water. I thought about buying the tea anyway and just saying it was made with magic water. I don’t really believe in the water’s healing properties, I just love a good tale. But, when I walked over to him, I saw that the tea was all sold out.
There was a sign that stated that this was the last opportunity near the summit to buy water. “Does water bought from a vending machine next to the temple of the eternal flame cure anything?” I asked Mark.
At the time, I was suffering from thirst. So I bought a bottle and guess what… Cured!
We went back on the trail to the summit and passed our next magic spot. Sankido is a temple where people worship a type of demon called a Tengu. Well, sometimes he’s called a demon and other times he is referred to as “a long-nosed goblin”. He is said to keep the mountain safe. Some claim that he is the one making noises like that of wooden clappers at night near the summit which frightens overnight hikers. He keeps the mountain safe, not necessarily the humans on the mountain.
At Sankido, the only place in Japan where people openly worship a demon, you can pray to the Mt. Misen demon-goblin. He’ll help you with success in business and happiness in family matters. I don’t know if he does this by making clapping noises.
Next we passed Kannondo and Monjudo where, according to our brochure, people pray for, “safe delivery and success in school”. I don’t know what “safe delivery” means here. I can hardly expect to see a pregnant woman hiking up here to pray for a safe delivery. But I also can’t imagine anyone feeling overly concern about an Amazon.com package and running up Mt. Misen to cover all bases. Either way, Mark and I asked for “safe delivery” so, hopefully we’ll have a year where everything arrives in the mail on-time and in pristine condition.
We stopped for photos at Kanamn Iwa or Ebb & Flow rock. It’s a rock with water in it. The level of this water changes with the tide. We looked at the water wondering if we should touch it. “It doesn’t exactly look clean,” I said adding, “What if this is that demon-goblin’s drinking water. He’ll probably get mad if we stick our hand in it.” We left the water unmolested.
We took a long time getting to the summit from that point. Mark took photo after photo and then took some more photos. “Didn’t you already take a photo of that rock?” I asked snarkily.
“Yes, but not from this angle.” He seemed completely unaware of my impatience. He took a million more photos of that rock then moved on to the adjacent rock.
“This is the sort of thing that would piss off a mountain goblin!” I told Mark.
“What’s that?” He hadn’t heard me. He stopped taking photos and looked up at me.
“Oh, good. You’re done. Let’s go to the top.”
At the top was a rest area. There were 3 tiers. The first level had bathrooms. The second level had tatami seating, shade, and a view. This would have been a great place to take a nap, but we were not that tired; a benefit of taking the ropeway up. The top level had pretty much the same view as the second, only slightly higher up and with the full glare of the sun. We sat at the second level until we couldn’t stand the view any more.
From there we headed down, but by a path different from the one we came up. We passed a rock shaped like a boat and another rock that gives scabies to some and cures scabies in others.
We stopped at Mizukake-Jizo to pour water on some Jizo statues. They are supposed to give you children when you do this. Where the statues get these kids to give you, I’m not sure.
We stood in front of the statues not knowing what to do. “Were we supposed to bring our own water?” Mark asked. I looked at my water bottle; it was almost empty.
Then a couple showed up. They looked like they would know what to do so we stepped out of their way. The lady reached to the side and picked up a ladle. Then she scooped up some water from a ditch to the right. She poured water on the Jizo statues and said some words in Japanese. Her partner did the same.
Once they were gone we copied them. Mark took a photo of me pouring water. “Would you like me to take a photo of the two of you?” I was startled to hear English even though Miyajima is overrun with tourists. “Yes, please.” I handed the man my camera. I poured more water on the statue as Mark stood by trying to look helpful.
The man and his accompanying lady friend gave us a few pointers on photo taking before heading down the trail to descend Mt. Misen. “Real hikers, you think?” I ask Mark.
“They seem too dry. Maybe they took the gondola up and will hike down.”
“That sounds easier that hiking both up and down, but still…”
Mark ended my sentence for me, “too much needless walking.”
We had one more rock to see. This one was shaped like a whale. “The first guy that saw a whale when looking at this rock had more imagination that I have,” I told Mark. “To me, it just looks like a rock.”
The last thing on our list to see was Miyama Jinja. It was described as, “a shrine in the sky”. This sounded awesome. I was even willing to let Mark take as many photos as he liked without uttering a single complaint or wise-ass comment. But when we got there, the shrine was under repair.
From there we made our way back up to the eternal fire then down to the ropeway station. As we were climbing down we heard an announcement. We couldn’t make out what was being said until we got a lot closer to the ropeway station.
Apparently, the wind was expected to pick up so they would be closing the ropeway station 20 minutes earlier than usual. This new development did not affect us at all. The new closing time was a good hour away and by that time we would be in our car driving home.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
- Coordinates 34°16’49.0″N 132°18’40.6″E
- Miyajimacho Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588
- You can get to Miyajima from downtown Hiroshima by high-speed boat.
Giant Rice Paddle
- Coordinates 34°17’56.6″N 132°19’18.5″E
- 536-1 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0516
- 7.7 meters long
- 2.7 meters wide
- 2.5 tons
5 Story Pagoda
- Coordinates 34°17’50.0″N 132°19’14.7″E
- 〒739-0588 Hiroshima-ken, Hatsukaichi-shi, Miyajimachō
(Miyajima Rōpu Way)
- Coordinates 34°17’35.8″N 132°19’36.3″E
- 〒739-0588 広島県廿日市市宮島町紅葉谷公園
- (Send questions to:) Momijidani Park, Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 739-0522
- ￥1,800 round trip
- ￥1,000 one way
- 9:00 – 17:00
- Hours vary from season to season and with the weather.
- Check the times before buying your ticket.
Things to see on Mt. Misen:
- Fire of Oath
- This up stairs of the Shishiiwa Station (the ropeway station on Mt. Misen).
- The start the flame, two people must push the buttons on either sides of the pillar.
- Eternal Fire
- This fire has been burning for 1,200 years.
- Water boiled on this fire is said to cure all diseases.
- People worship a demon here.
- If you’re a bad person, this rock will give you scabies. If you’re a good person, this rock will cure your scabies.
- You will have children if you pray while pouring water on the Jizo statues.