Friday, December 18, 2009


Up and out of the hostel for 9am, I breakfasted on hot hash browns and a fried egg on toast before catching the tram to Miyajima-guchi. The tour groups were lined up like an army of invasion at the entrance to the ferry port, marched out in columns fifty-metres apart by tour guides holding flagpoles and providing non-stop commentary through microphones. Wild deer wandered about indifferently. The souvenir shops weren't doing any business, but the photographer in front of the floating Torii gate was seating twenty at a time on two low benches, cameras crowding the sides.

Daishin Temple was, by contrast, an oasis of peace. Water tumbled gently into rock pools, there was the slow tinkle of coins in a donation box, Koi swam in lazy circles around a pond completely still except for the movement of the light. From the highest point of the temple you could see right back across the bay.

I had lunch in a wooden pavilion a short way up Mount Misen, watching a ferry crossing and clouds drifting in over the mountaintops. From there it took an hour to the top, stone step after stone step, bending first this way then that until I came upon the summit. There were large, rounded boulders, an open-topped wooden building selling sweet sake and udon noodles. Someone was speaking French, a wild deer was grazing on the stone, there was a transistor radio and the Inland Sea. And then, 529-metres up, the snow began to fall.

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