Heartfelt advice for those hoping to visit the World Heritage site before the end of the year. 

It’s been three years since our reporter Mari Morimoto has been on an airplane, and more than 10 years since she’s visited the Chugoku region of Japan. So when she found herself in Hiroshima for business last week, she decided to make the most of her time there by adding a quick trip to nearby Miyajima to her itinerary.

This would be her first time visiting the famous World Heritage site, which is home to the beautiful Itsukushima Shrine and its equally beautiful giant vermillion torii gate, which stands in the water in front of it.

After alighting at Miyajimaguchi Station on the JR Sanyo Main Line, Mari followed the directions to the ferry terminal, where she hopped on a ferry for the short ten-minute ride over to the island.

The verdant green of the mountains and the fresh blue of the sea and sky were vivid and soothing to the eye. As she breathed in the sea air, she realised it had been years since she was able to get away on a trip like this to unwind away from her home and office.

Stepping off the ferry and onto the picturesque island, Mari was immediately surrounded by deer, who roam freely around the island, just like the deer in Nara Park.

Momentarily distracted by the deer and soft-serve ice cream shops, a few minutes passed before Mari looked out to sea in search of the famous torii gate that’s so symbolic of the island. However, when she gazed out over the water, she discovered…

▼ …the torii gate was surrounded by scaffolding!

Mari’s hopeful gaze quickly turned into one of disappointment, as she realised she should’ve done some research before travelling to the island. If she had done her research, she would’ve known that the giant torii gate has been undergoing restoration work since 2019.

Thankfully, Mari is a glass-half-full type of traveller, so she decided to simply be grateful that she was able to travel to the island at all. With this sense of gratitude, the view of scaffolding from the shrine buildings didn’t look so bad at all.

She figured she was actually fortunate to be able to see it like this. Sure, other travellers may have captured picture-perfect selfies of themselves with the gate in the past, but out of all the millions of people who’ve visited the island, not everyone can say they’ve seen the view look like this. 

According to the Miyajima Tourism Association website, this is the first time the gate has undergone repairs since it was built 140 years ago. So from that point of view, seeing the gate like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

▼ There’s more to Miyajima than just the famous gate, of course — the shrine buildings are looking absolutely beautiful at the moment.

▼ Hand sanitisers are a modern addition to the shrine.

Mari found herself wishing she’d visited at high tide so she could view the buildings surrounded by water, as if they were floating. But then she stopped and reminded herself again to be grateful.

Not everyone can travel to Miyajima right now, so Mari decided to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it was. There’s beauty in imperfection everywhere, if only you open your eyes to let it in.

Mari spent a good few hours strolling around the island and seeing the sights before she had to get back on the ferry and return to her work duties. And when she did, she turned for one more look at the splendour of the shrine, surrounded by the green of the mountains and the blue of the sky and sea.

It was a majestic sight, and Mari was glad she was able to spend time there, if only for a short while. The shrine and its gate has been greeting visitors since 1875, and with repairs and restoration underway like this, it’ll be around long after the scaffolding comes off later this year.

So whenever you come across scaffolding at a historic site in Japan, remember to stop and see the beauty and joy in the moment. And sometimes, you might just be able to see something that makes you laugh a little too!

Images © SoraNews24
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