Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hiroshima - No Need Ta See Ya, Miyajima

I awoke to a clear day (which means it'll most likely rain tomorrow, when I have to lug my backpack to the station), and thus the perfect day for a day trip to Miyajima.

I got on the correct train this time, and it wasn't too long before we arrived. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had to take a ferry to Miyajima, since it's apparently an island. Clearly I've done my research. Luckily, the ferry was run by Japan Rail, so my rail pass got me on for free. I say "free" instead of "included", because I believe around day four I had gone on enough trains that would have totaled more than I paid for the pass. So now I can just think of all of this as free, which is awesome. It's also great because if any boat, train, or bus has the holy "JR" symbol on it, I just flash my magic pass and I'm instantly waved on. I tell ya, it's beautiful.

So anyway, I took the short little ferry across to the island. And what was the first thing I saw upon disembarking? Deer! So this is where the tame deer are! I snapped a few pictures and pet one. Have you ever pet a wild deer? Didn't think so. They're amazingly tame, although the bucks with the antlers are supposedly slightly dangerous and you should avoid them. This is conveyed by the signs around the town with a little cartoon showing a kid getting to close to a buck, and the buck turning and yelling something at him. And god knows I do not want to be insulted by a deer. But the younger ones and the females will actually stick their faces in your bag to search for food.

After admiring the deer I went to see the big tourist attraction of Miyajima - the world's largest rice scoop! No, seriously, they have that. But they also have the Floating Torii, this really old giant archway or something out in the ocean that commoners had to paddle through to reach the sacred island. It was nice, but after that, I realized there wasn't much to do. I went into some shrine, which was really just a glorified pier, and came out at the other end, feeling even more at a loss. However, I started to see signs promoting the Miyajima Aquarium. And I'm a huge sucker for aquariums. Jessica and her brother will remember in Washington, DC the $20 cab ride to the "National Aquarium". And not the real one in Boston or Philly or wherever. This is some cheap imitation that is literally about fifteen tiny tanks filled with fish you can see in a pet store in the basement of some government building no one had anything better to do with. And the place cost $15! I had to end up paying for both of them to get them to come in with me, even though I had just remembered I had been there years before with my family, and we had all hated it.

So anyway, I can't resist an aquarium. And once I saw the signs showing seals with balls on their noses and girls riding whales, I knew I couldn't miss out on all the fun, so I went.

It was pretty okay, as far as aquariums go. I saw the sharks eat, which was terrifying, since a couple were nearly twice as long as me. I also saw some dugongs - or is that a kind of Pokemon? They were some sort of whale or dolphin or something. And I got a seal to follow my hand around. Plus their otters were acting like crack addicts badly in need of a fix - running headfirst into the wall over and over. Thrilling stuff, no?

But once I left, I was back where I started. The town is far too tourist-oriented. All the restaurants serve the same food, and all the stores are souvenir shops literally selling the exact same gifts. I experienced deja vu every two minutes. So I decided to turn my day trip into a five-hour trip, and took the next ferry out of there. Seems a lot of people got the same feeling as me, because several American couples on my ferry in were on the same ferry out.

It's a nice town, but it really doesn't have much to offer that the rest of Japan doesn't already have. Tomorrow: Kyoto. Because I think it's about time I see a shrine or maybe a temple.

The world's largest rice scoop!!!!!

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