|The alarm goes off at 5.30am but we snooze it repeatedly as we can feel how cold it is on our faces, the only exposed part. A couple of snoozes later we drag some clothes into the sleeping bag to warm them up before reluctantly prizing ourselves out of bed at 07.15am. We are headed for Miyajima island below Hiroshima today and having still not encountered anyone at the campsite we chance it and leave the tent up to save some time later as we know it will be a long day. Rather than fight with the traffic Karen finds us a mountain back road which skirts around the city and gets us on the right side. It takes a bit longer but it’s much more scenic and fun than stop\start city traffic.
Miyajima is famous for its floating Torii (temple gate) which is out in the sea, in ancient times commoners were not allowed on the island, the only way to enter was via the shrine hence why its out in the sea to act as a waypoint and entrance. Isao recomended it but we don’t know much more about the island. We pull into the ferry terminal car park, its 500 yen to park the bike plus the ferry over or 460 each way to take it across with us so we decide to take it across on the ferry. Its only a short 10 minute hop and once on the other side we turn right out of the ferry port through narrow windy backstreets heading for the Torii and the Shinto temple it leads to. The road suddenly gets narrower still and full of pedestrians so we cut right along the seafront and park up the bike within sight of the shrine complex. Most people come across as foot passengers for the day and this part is pedestrians only from 9 to 5 but bikes and scooters can squeeze through with care. We are lucky as the tide is right in which means the whole complex is surrounded by water as it’s built on stilts making it much more picturesque. Not wishing to miss this fantastic photo oportunity we hurriedly grab our gear and start to explore. The island is touristy but we can understand why it’s beautiful and we take loads of pictures. There are also incredibly tame deer that wander the streets, so tame you can stroke them. Once we have explored the shrine and Torii and taken a gazillion pictures we head back to the bike for lunch only the deer have beaten us to it. All our food is packed away in panniers and drybags but we normally leave the bread and 2 packs of noodles in a carrier bag so they don’t get squashed and they are handy for lunches and in our haste we forgot they were there. We get back to find some deer munching contentedly on them so dig out some others from the pannier and Karen cooks them on the stove whilst I bat off deer who obviously fancy seconds. They have learnt that carrier bags equals food as I witness another one grabbing a carrier bag and ripping it open while the person who is holding on to it is looking the other way. They are very cute and we get some great pictures but like all animals they are obsessed with food.
Lots of people stop to look at the bike and talk to us while we are there and it’s very sociable. This is one of the few places we have been where we see a lot of western tourists, throughout most of our tour we have barely seen a western face. After lunch we explore some more of the island on foot, there is an impressive pagoda which we climb up to admire the view and lots else to see. We head back to the ferry around 4pm cursing the fact that we left the tent at the campsite. It would have been interesting to stay here the night and see it after the tourists have gone home, also the touristy part is all in one area and we would have liked to have explored the rest of the island which isn’t that big but has a few small roads on it. Most of the ride back is in the dark and we get back to the campsite around 6.30pm again we are greatful for our heated gear which we are using for the first 2 or 3 hours in the morning now as well. I cook curry and rice for tea and we eat it straight from the billy can with the stove on simmer to keep it hot followed by hot drinks to keep warm.
We decide to head back up to Makiko’s tomorrow as we need to make a start on cleaning the bike in preparation for shipping it to New Zealand which will take a few days at least. We have covered a good bit of Japan but we have decided against going to the southern islands as the bridge tolls are really expensive. We would have liked to get up to Hokkaido the northernmost island as well but we had to get back to pick up our parcel. We only originally intended to stay here for a month and we have already been over twice that and we could easily have spent longer there is so much to see and do here.