It was barely noon and already I was having such a magical day. I took the ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima , met a very nice woman that offered me coffee and a Japanese dessert, I got to see the beautiful street market and the famous temple complex and great Torii gate.
I still had a burning desire to go for a long adventure today, so I decided I would climb up Mount Misen. This mountain is very small, only 500 meters above sea level but it would still take a whole afternoon to get to the top. I followed the signs to the mountain, and before I knew it I found myself in one of the most gorgeous parks I had ever seen in my life.
The reason I loved Miyajima so much was because it basically had all the beauty and charm of Japan but concentrated in a tiny area. Here there were beautiful temples, shrines, wild deer, koi ponds, incredible bridges and the whole park was surrounded by fall foliage.
You could easily spend the whole day here, and many people did. There were little tables set up where you could grab some lunch and some tea and just enjoy the scenery. One couple was trying to get a picture together but a wild deer kept getting in the shot! He seemed to be fascinated by the cups of tea they had out on the table.
I took my time to enjoy the beauty of this place before pressing on. This island has a special magic to it I hadn’t felt before. It’s basically everything I pictured Japan would be and more. This is probably the place in Japan I recommend most highly!
Although the scenery around me was so beautiful, I knew this mountain wasn’t going to climb itself! I pushed on, and got to enjoy such a peaceful forest, almost all to myself. There would be the occasional group of people hiking past me, but for the most part it was just me and nature. I would see the occasional deer walking across the trail. I liked these ones even more than the ones by the temples because they were even more wild. Although the deer by the temples technically were wild, they spent most of their time around tourists, bowing for food and getting pet by little kids. These deer up here were on their own, taking little drinks from the placid forest streams along this hike. In my opinion, there is no better symbol for the natural beauty of Japan than a deer taking a drink from a forest stream.
After walking about a half a kilometer, I finally started to notice an upward slope. The hike had officially begun! It had been quite a while since I had done something like this. Although I hike a lot when I am at home, the last time I had climbed a mountain like this was at Machu Picchu. I was determined not to take any breaks. I knew this would be good for me and help me appreciate the summit even more.
My water tanks were running low, and I was pretty concerned I would get dehydrated after 3 hours of intense hiking. Luckily for me there was a temple complex up above, marking about the ¾ mark of the hike. The beauty of the temples up here easily rivaled that of the temples down below. From this temple complex, you could get incredible glimpses of the Seto sea and Hiroshima. You could really begin to notice the unique beauty of the mountains in this area. I hadn’t seen anything like this outside of Hawaii.
This temple complex just goes to show you that sometimes immense beauty exists just beyond the beaten path. This was my reward for doing something most weren’t willing to do. The monks ran a small little shop up here to raise money for the temple, and I had to contribute. I also really needed a water and they had fresh cold ones up here. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I realized that!
I continued on the path for another 15 minutes or so until I reached the top. The summit of Mount Misen offered 360 degree views of the city and the Seto sea. Many people brought a picnic up here so they could enjoy the views over the course of an hour. I really wish I could stay here, but it would be getting dark in only about 3 hours or so and I really had a long way to go before I was home. I also wanted to take some time to see the city of Hiroshima as well.
This hike was absolutely incredible. Not only was it beautiful, with amazing scenery and surprises at every turn, everyone was also so friendly. I don’t think a single person passed by without at least a “Konnichiwa”. I would be sad to leave this magical island behind, but like many places in Japan, I vowed that one day I would return.
By the time I got back to the park area, the sun was already beginning to dim a bit. The ferries ran every 30 minutes and if I didn’t make this next one, there would be no daylight left to see anything in the city. I picked up the pace a bit and shuffled into line for the ferry. The man at the entrance to the ferry would count each person to go on and then once they reached the threshold he would gate it off. I know you won’t believe me but I was the last person he let on and he closed the gate behind me! Out of like 500 people, I was the last one to be let on. Now that’s lucky.
I would need every minute of the time I made up, because I was intent on seeing the Hiroshima Peace park. I hopped on the train, got off at the closest station and then began sprinting towards my destination to be able to get there before dark.
For those of you who may not know, the Hiroshima peace park is a dedication to the atomic bombing of the city during World War II. Here they have monuments to world peace, a flame that will not be extinguished until all countries give up their nuclear weapons and the building where the atomic bomb hit. As an American, I was a bit nervous coming here. I thought for some reason people would look at me with hatred for what my country had done to this city. Instead, the people of Hiroshima were some of the kindest I had ever met in my life. Instead of holding a grudge, they look to the future and try to see how they can create a more peaceful world. I was so inspired by this.
I arrived to the atomic bomb dome right at sunset. It was so surreal to think that this is where it all happened. I tried picturing this event in my head but I really couldn’t. This was the only building in the city that wasn’t destroyed, serving as a reminder of the horrors of war. The sunset cast an eerie glow over the park. I felt a chill go down my spine and took a moment to contemplate what in fact I was witnessing.
That night, I walked through the city streets of Hiroshima and passed by many beautiful temples. I was really glad I came here. It was good not to shelter myself from things like this and actually experience them first hand. It would appear that some of the kindest, most peaceful people on earth emerged from one of history’s darkest days.