Just down the coast from Hiroshima, there’s a regular ferry service to the island of Miyajima, which takes just ten minutes. In the good weather, the island proves a good antidote to the sullen after-effects of the previous overcast day of dwelling on the atomic bomb. There are deer and cheerful native tourists everywhere. As I walk toward the iconic Itsukushima shrine and its ‘floating’ torii gate, there are three young women sitting by the sea wall chatting to a curious deer and drinking tins of Asahi. I snap away at them pretending to only be interested in the deer and the sea-gate in the background. “Would you like me to take a photo of you with him”, one of them asks. It’s clear she’s a bit tipsy because she’s Japanese and has opened her mouth to a stranger in a non-commercial setting. “Eh, yes please” I lie, taking advantage of the opportunity to talk with them. It turns out they’re from Tokyo and are on holiday for a few days. Within a split second of hearing this information, a few scavenging-backpacker-mode thoughts go through my head. They could host me in Tokyo if I decide to go there. Maybe I could even sleep with one of them. Or all three of them, greatly enhancing fond memories of Japan. I realise my imagination is running away with itself and as the small talk fades and they return to the lilting staccato of their own language, I attempt to keep the conversation going with a complement, “Your English is very good”. She tells me she needs English for her job so I ask what her job is. She hesitates before nonsensically answering, “I don’t work for a Japanese company”. Either she’s had one Asahi too many or she’s a spy for a foreign agency but I take it as my cue to leave. The three of them all wave goodbye, as is the custom here and I plod on.
Maybe it’s the tranquil beauty of the colourful autumn forests, but I can’t help feel this is a place better appreciated with someone else. I daresay it’s romantic. Still, even though I’ve spend far too much time in my own company recently, I enjoy the scenery. I can’t remember seeing a forest as lovely as this one.
At over 500m, Mount Misen is the highest point on the island and it doesn’t take long to reach the top. On the way down I pass through a temple with lots of little Buddha statues with wooly hats. I’ve no idea why they’ve got hats but whoever thought of it made good use of their time. I return to the busy little lanes near of the village and window-shop expensive, authentic hand-made food and souvenir shops before getting a ferry back to the mainland.