One of the three best views in Japan, who makes these lists anyway, who takes considerable effort to corral such wildly subjective opinions into measurable lists? Tourism Japan does, that’s who, just like the tourism boffins in every other country around the world. Well it has worked, we’re here with an ATM full of tourist dollars to spend, flies caught in the web like all the other dollars, euros, pesos and rupees drawn like moths to the flame. The last few days have been somewhat introspective ones for us as a years worth of adventure presses the next two weeks into near insignificance. We’ve started feeling like gap filler in a tube pressured by the weight of experience behind us, the fleeting moments before us just delaying the inevitable squeeze into the small space we occupy back at home. Three best views: what rubbish; it’s lucky we haven’t become cynical.
Best view or not, Myajima certainly is a pleasant place to be. Just a short ferry ride across from Hiroshima we see the sprawling city slick to the mountainside over the water while we amble the freshly swept promenade abutting the sea wall of this mystical island. On one side, a pure ocean produces the famed Hiroshima oysters and the other, a world of bursting green reaches out to us in a delicate balance of natural ruggedness and cultivated elegance. Differing influences of passivity surround us while stone lanterns and imposing gates highlight this grand seaside walk that feels like a whimsical stroll through a forest on account of the wild deer that wander close for a pat along their dotted flanks. Oh look, there goes the ferry carrying our travellers fatigue back to the mainland.In the few hundred metres or so it takes us to get to the gate, the famous floating gate that we’re all here to see, the transformation has taken place, we are gap filler compressed in a caulking gun no more. Past stone lanterns nearly five metres high and under the watch of fearsome granite lions that tower overhead we round the head of a small peninsular where intimidating imperiousness meets Bambi to lead our eye to the floating gate of Itsukushima-Jinja shrine. Dating from the 6th century, this shrine exists on piers with the entry gate rising far above the sea out in the bay to greet those arriving by boat as setting foot on this sacred island was forbidden for common folk.
An eternal flame that has burned for 1200 years still burns high on the sharp mountains above, this very flame was the ceremonial origin of the flame in the peace park in Hiroshima that also persists today. The view atop the mountain is commanding and the walk down takes us past impressive temples, gates, shrines and gardens that blur the lines between wild and cultivated as elegantly as only Japanese design can. The view out to the floating gate is a grand one, one of the top three I am beginning to see less cynical objection to, but notably it’s Miyajima itself that is the real drawcard. So pure that schooling fish teem in open stormwater runoff I’d have little objection to drinking, so low-impact that wild deer graze beside the footpath and find shade at the bus stop like they’re waiting for the 2:20 bus to town, so finely balanced that the pagodas, wide coarse sand paths, bridges and trained trees bring zen garden exactness to natural informality.Making our way around the extensive shrine, the gate that calls us all here remains shadowed by the island too precious to tread foot upon yet keeps catching our eye. With some huge, freshly steamed oysters right from the sea and a beer in hand, the island that feels too perfect to carry our feet slowly bids good night on a sunset and high tide that takes the floating gate from supporting act right into the spotlight. The blazing orange gate is backdropped by mountains crowned by a blazing sky in a scene so grand we immediately feel no conflict with the silly notion of a best view in Japan. Oysters deliver the fresh taste of this pure ocean while occasional squeals pierce the dusk from onlookers surprised by a deer coming in for a close forage for a piece of their octopus cake or bean shortbread.
It still feels a little trite to declare anywhere the best view of somewhere or other, but sitting on the foreshore here as the sun dips below the mountains and the ocean glows to lift the blazing orange gate onto a cloud of etherial sea it’s only objection that seems trite. The view is grand yet it’s the sacred island of Miyajima that deserves the accolades, like watching an amazing opera that has the show stolen by a theatre too grand to be outshone. Another hungry deer and another squeal pierces the day that slips to darkness as the stone lamps that line the foreshore ignite and the spotlight shines on the stage. Countless photos have been taken of this scene, this one of three views, and it’s time for us to get the ones that are our own and time for my special talent to come to the fore: no one can erect Charlie’s tripod quite like I can.The beer slips down easily and the occasional prod from a friendly deer farewells this day as the glowing gate rises from the darkening sea and onto a cloud, it’s so easy to see why this is called the floating gate. It feels but a moment ago that our thoughts were for home, the weight of experience banking up behind us was forcing us to a finish line a few steps too early. The floating gate is mesmerising and far from a fleeting gimmick, it’s held our eye the whole time here, but it’s this island that contains the magic too pure to walk upon. With careless ease, Miyajima presents a halting hand to 50 weeks of experience pouring forth to draw a deep breath for a final two weeks that only now isn’t just waiting to be squeezed into a gap, but balances the pressure that felt so irresistible. Two weeks now are just as big as the fifty that came before, delivered through the gate of the best view in Japan.