Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

DAY 4: Miyajima Island

Dudes. So when I said I was recovering from my illness, I was wrong. One case of laryngitis, one round of powerful antibiotics, and one sleepless night tripping out on devil-spawned cough medicine later and I think now I can say I am recovering. I have my voice mostly back and the illness has retreated to an irritating cough, so now I can resume my interrupted travelogue.

On this day, we left Tokyo and headed out for an interlude on Miyajima Island, a small island near to Hiroshima. On the first day there actually wasn't much food photography. We had breakfast at Caffe Excelsior again, and I was so in awe of our first night fabulous multi-course dinner that I didn't take pictures. I figured I would just take pictures the second night. But on the second night I realized they had come up with completely new dishes for us to eat. I was not expecting that.

What I did take pictures of was lunch. We got to buy our lunch from the train station, which, when you are a tourist, is really fun.

J. picked his lunch from a busy stand selling plethoras of bento boxes. I don't understand why we can't have something like this here. These are such wonderful portable lunches. This one is chicken cutlets with rice, pickles, some kind of creamy potatoes, and a sauce.

I found a whole store dedicated to selling rice balls! They had about 15 or so different types of rice balls. I couldn't tell what most of them were, so I just got a plain one and an umeboshi one. Umeboshi are pickled plums that are extremely salty and sour. Once pickled, umeboshi can last for centuries. Hopefully, the ones in my onigiri were not that old.

Finally, we arrived at the ferry and a short ferry ride later we were in Miyajima. It was immedately very different from Tokyo:

The first thing we saw was this rickshaw driver chatting with his helper deer. That's the thing about Miyajima. There are deer everywhere, and they are completely tame and unafraid of people. They will walk right up to. We called our hotel and managed to communicate who we were and that we needed a ride.

This is our hotel. It is a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese hotel, meaning your room is a tatami mat room and very minimalist. Our ryokan was a really nice one, so we also had a little sitting/vanity area and a western style bathroom area. After checking in, we took a little walk around the village to get acquainted with it.

This is the five story pagoda, next to the Senjokaku, or "Hall of One Thousand Mats." Now the hall is just a big empty space.

This is a horse statue outside the shrine. I have no idea why it's there, but I liked it. It seemed so real! It even has it's own little barn.

This is a lion statue on the promenade that goes along the harbor.

Here is the torii gate to the Itsukushima shrine. This gate is famous because it is built out in the water. This is at low tide, but at high tide the gate appears to be floating on the water. The gate has been there since 1168, although this incarnation of the gate was actually built in 1875.

At low tide people also go out and dig for oysters for my dinner.

This is how close you can get to the deer.

Miyajima is also home to the world's largest rice spatula. The reason the world's largest rice spatula is here is because this is where the rice spatula was invented. The inventor of the rice paddle had a dream about a woman holding a lute and the next day he made a rice spatula in that shape. Now you can purchase your own rice paddle on the island. They have all sizes, but none quite as big as this one (although some are almost!).

While exploring, I discovered why the deer don't mind people at all. The deer eat rice crackers, wafers, paper and cloth. So humans are basically walking trees covered in food. This deer tried to take a bite out of me. I had to kick him to the curb. Don't worry! My $10 tank top was not harmed. Whew! I was just happy he went for that, rather than my Banana Republic sweater.

After our walk, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Staying on the island is also fun because you get to play dress up! Each ryokan provides traditional yukata for the guests and you can wear them not just in the hotel, but all over the island. Here's me in my yukata having tea.

This is our room. That's our table and chairs. Other furniture included a small stand where the tea stuff was, and a tv. The bed was a thin futon and blankets that were kept in the closet. Every night after dinner, the staff would come and put away our table and put out the beds. In the background you can see our sitting area.

After dinner, we had to go out for a walk because we were so stuffed (you'll see why in the next post). Here is us in our yukatas and matching provided coats getting ready for our walk.

This is the torii gate at night. The tide is in so now it appears to be floating on the water.

This is the Itsukushima Shrine. It also appears to float when the tide is in. This shrine dates back to the 6th century. The shrine and gate are built floating in the water as they are because the island was considered so holy that commoners could not set foot on it, but had to come up by boat and enter the shrine directly without ever touching the island.

I was afraid that we might get a little bored on the island, but that was not the case. By the time we were done with dinner and our walk, I was pooped and fell right to sleep.

Next time ... there are not only deer on the island, but monkeys. Also, finally island cuisine, including both local food and our feast of many courses.


this is one of the funniest things you've ever said:

"So humans are basically walking trees covered in food."

said by Anyanka at 11:34 PM Delete

You both look adorable in your yukatas! And deer! Are you still jet-lagged? Did you get any fake food for your dining table?

said by furry_feline at 4:37 PM Delete

We finally beat the jet lag. And I did bring back on fake sushi set, but it was for a gift, so we have no plastic food memories in our own home.

Next time!

said by KT at 4:54 PM Delete

Hey KT, I finally have permission to do my dining area in a sit on the floor, Japanese style. How high are those tables would you say?

said by Garrett at 9:54 AM Delete

Oh dear, I am terrible at estimating stuff like that, but probably about 2 feet high.

I would say if you were doing it, just test tables to see if you could get your legs underneath easily in any configuration you might sit.

said by KT at 10:24 AM Delete

Awesome, thanks. :)

said by Garrett at 4:25 PM Delete

The train bento are called "ekiben" and are really fun. Each station has its own specialty bento with regional food that isn't served anywhere else. I eat a lot of ekiben when travelling in Japan.

said by Chubbypanda at 11:32 PM Delete

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