Photo Post: Miyajima

It’s Wednesday, which means… it’s time for a photo post? Yeah, we can go with that. The subject: Miyajima!

Miyajima (宮島), actually called Itsukushima (厳島), is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, specifically Hiroshima Bay. The island is famous for Itsukushima Shrine, which is why it’s referred to as Miyajima (shrine island). Itsukushima Shrine is a World Heritage Site, as well as one of the Three Views of Japan, and it really is very beautiful. I’ve been twice, so I hope you enjoy some pictures from my two visits!

Itsukushima

Coming up on Itsukushima, from the ferry.

Itsukushima Torii

The famous “floating torii”. Unfortunately, both times I went the tide was out.

Itsukushima Shrine

Inside the shrine.

Itsukushima Pagoda

A pagoda from inside the shrine.

Itsukushima Town

The town on the island. There’s only one and it’s very small.

Itsukushima Island

The town and shrine from up one of the hills.

Miyajima is a lovely place and, if you go to Hiroshima (which you should!), please take an afternoon to check it out. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I have and get to see the torii float and everything!

Access: Take the JR Sanyo Line from JR Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station. Walk to the ferry pier and then take the ferry to the island. The train ride is about 25 minutes and the ferry is 10.

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A Monk in Nara

Well, it’s been a few days since my last post. Sorry about that! My job, which involves about four solid hours of walking a day, really tired me out my first week. But I’m a little more used to it now, so the blogging can recommence! And what better way than with a Japan photo?

A Monk in Nara

A monk begging in Nara, near Todai-ji.

Buddhism (仏教/Bukkyou) is one of Japan’s two primary religions (the other is Shinto). It was introduced from China in the sixth century and, though it’s been in decline since the end of WWII, roughly 70% of the population still identifies as Buddhist. I could devote a very long post just to discussing Japanese Buddhism, but I’m not going to because I doubt most people would be very interested in the details. The short version is that there are still multiple schools – including Amidist, Shingon, and Zen – and Buddhism and Shinto in Japan are syncretic, meaning that they overlap and are not mutually exclusive.

But the real point here is to explain the picture! It’s very common in Japan to see a Buddhist monk begging. They stand or sit with a begging bowl in public places, chanting mantras. It’s a safe guess that the above monk is a practitioner of Shingon Buddhism because that’s the school Todai-ji is associated with. It’s interesting from a western perspective because we associate begging with people who are out of work, or attempting to scam you, whereas in Japan it’s typically a religious practice.

I’ve always liked seeing monks because, after a while, places normalize and you stop looking at them actively. But whenever I came across a sight like this, it was like a reminder that, oh yeah, I’m still in Japan. Always very cool.

Photo Post: The Oregon Coast

Last summer, just a few weeks after I came back from Japan, my friends and I spent a weekend at the Oregon coast. We rented a beach house near Tillamook and used that as our base camp while we went to a few places in the area. I don’t have a lot to say, but I do have pictures to share! And I can tell you how to get to Tillamook from Salem (and I suppose Portland, too, for practicality’s sake), to make this somewhat informative, as well.

Sand Dunes

Sand dunes! The sand was really hot, but we ran all the way to the top anyway.

Dune Trees

Trees at the top of the dunes.

The Sea

The sea!

Crab Races

Crab Races?

Oregon Coast

The coast at the edge of the world.

Sea Lions

Sea lions! There are a lot of them at the coast.

Access: You have to drive and it’s kind of far.

From Salem: Get on OR-22 W. After about 4 miles, turn onto US-101 N/Oregon Coast Highway. After about 25 miles, turn right to stay on the Oregon Coast Highway. About 14 more miles and you’ll hit Tillamook. Travel time: roughly two hours.

From Portland: Get on US-26 W/NW Sunset Highway via the ramp to the Oregon Zoo. After about 20 miles, turn onto OR-6 W. Follow OR-6 W for about 50 miles and you’ll hit Tillamook. Travel time: roughly an hour and a half.

Another Fake Japanese Tree

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a picture of a fake Japanese Christmas tree, so that’s what I’m bringing you today! This one actually isn’t that bad – it’s what was left under the tree that cracked me up.

Christmas Tree Fail

A fairly respectable effort utterly ruined by the dead Elmo left at the base like some kind of offering to the fake tree gods.

A Matsuyama Side Street

Matsuyama Side Street

A side street in Matsuyama, near Shi-Eki.

More black and white photography today! I went through an “artsy” phase towards the end of my JET year and it resulted in photos like this. When I first arrived, Japan’s narrow streets and exposed wires struck me as something distinct and identifiable, and that strong association has stuck. Here I also like that, aside from the parked car, this picture could just as easily been taken twenty years ago as one. There’s something very nostalgic about these side streets and I actually really miss them now that I’m back in the States.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

Doing the Weekly Photo Challenge again! This time around the theme is “Near and Far” and I admit that I’m playing fast and loose with it. I don’t have any pictures that are exactly what’s been asked for, so I picked two shots that at least play with perspective a little bit. I feel like it’s true to the spirit, if not the specifics, of the theme.

They’re a bit random, but I hope you like them anyway!

Snow Day

Measuring the snow at my family’s house last winter.

Matsuyama Starbucks

Experimenting with my camera in a Starbucks in Matsuyama.

Yokohama’s Chinatown

Yokohama is a great city. Only a short train ride from Tokyo, in Kanagawa Prefecture, it offers no shortage of things to do and see. It’s also a city where you’re much more likely to run into westerners, thanks to the US naval base at Yokosuka, but I’m going to talk a little bit about a different sort of foreign influence: Chinatown.

Yokohama Chinatown

Approaching one of the gates.

Yokohama has what’s probably the most famous Chinatown in Japan. In fact, every year in Matsuyama venders from Yokohama come and set up a Chinese market for a few days. Much like American Chinatowns, the actual number of Chinese residents has been decreasing, as people move out of what was essentially an ethnic ghetto, but you’ll still find plenty of shops and restaurants. There are also brightly colored Chinese Buddhist temples that you can visit, if you’re looking for something a little more cultural than just shopping and food.

Chinatown Temple

A temple in Chinatown.

Most people, of course, go to Chinatown for the food. You can find all sorts of Chinese cuisine, such as manju (steamed buns) and ramen, most of which has been slightly Japanized, but is nonetheless very tasty. The food ranges from very inexpensive, just a step above fast food, to fancy restaurants that are less than ideal for the budget traveler. I can guarantee you’ll find something, though, even if you’re trying to keep costs low.

Chinatown Gate

One of the gates.

If you’re in Tokyo and have enough time to venture out a little farther, definitely take a day trip to Yokohama and check out Chinatown. It isn’t a big time or monetary commitment and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Chinatown Temple Lanters

Lantern decorations at the temple.

Access: Take the JR Negishi Line from Yokohama Station to Ishikawacho Station. From there it’s just a short walk.