I don't know what it is about Miyajima.
It never bores me and I always leave feeling completely replete - filled up to the brim.
Time doesn't seem to have quite caught up with Miyajima. Or maybe Miyajima simply hasn't caught up with the time.
It's like being transported into another era.
Modern Japan is scattered with remnants of it's history, and there are so many cities and sites commemorating age-old traditions. But I've yet to come across anything quite like this little island.
It has a special charm.
Maybe it's the ferry ride over to the island....with it's view of the towering mountains and oyster farms, and the sea spray that seems to fly from the ferry's wake.
It primes your senses.
Or maybe it's the deer that roam the island freely. Even with all their annoying habits, they're still pretty cool. Where else can you roam around an island with wild, semi-domesticated deer?!
It's like Jurassic Park: Bambi Edition.
Perhaps has something to do with the ancient temples that scatter the island and define it...the Itsukushima shrine that seems to welcome visitors to the island and the tall red pagoda that seems to peek out of the mountains onto the narrow, winding streets below.
Or maybe it's the smell of grilled kaki (oysters) and momiji-manju that seems to permeate the waterfront, or the way that the whole island seems to revolve around Mt. Misen and the floating Tori.
This time, it happened to be a combination.This time, we toured Miyajima with some of my future English students who happened to own a restaurant on the island. So we got the insider's scoop :)
We were lead down narrow side streets and up above souvenir shops into a formal tatami room where we were served a Japanese feast.
I felt like royalty.
The whole family pulled out the very best of their restaurant and served us homemade seasonal dishes native to Miyajima.
I knelt there at the table just trying to absorb it all. It was one of those moments I had to pinch myself.
As I sat there taking it all in - with fresh Miso soup, locally caught Kaki Tempura, and Anago-meshi (cooked rice with vegetables and local eel) in front of me, and a bundle of little Japanese giggles climbing all over me -it all seemed too perfect.
Then one of the ladies across the table from me asked if I was a Christian and told me she too loved Jesus.
As I sat listening to her testimony, I got goosebumps.
Here I was, in the middle of an ancient Japanese island - a major Shinto pilgrimage destination - sitting across an old tatami mat, sharing a traditional meal with another Japanese believer.
Gosh...God orchestrates the most amazing things.
After lunch, we strolled along the old streets in search of shopping, and (of course) a giant cone of soft serve and finished our day as we began it - on the ferry.This time, I stood by the railing and watched Miyajima grow smaller and smaller under the afternoon sunshine and hugged tightly the wiggly, sweaty little boys next to me. My cheeks were sore from smiling so much, and hair was all sorts of wind-blown.
But once again, I left the small green island with my heart full.
You know those moments when you find yourself in situations that seem so perfect...those moments that leave you feeling so excited on the inside, you feel like you just want to dance?
I had one of those moments.
My heart was bursting open at the seams.
It's been almost two years since our migration to Japan...but sometimes I still have a hard time believing that this amazing life I live is really my own. It's more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.
And I'm so thankful for it :)