Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miyajima Island

As part of our trip south to Hiroshima, we spent a day at nearby Miyajima Island.   Just a short 20 minute boat ride away from our hotel, we entered another world on this heavily touristed yet peaceful island.

Miyajima is a sacred island and according to Fromers, no one is permitted to die or give birth there. There are no cemeteries or maternity wards.  Also, one may not cut down trees.  

In any case, the place is most famous for the floating Torii , a 50 foot high vermillion gate leading to Itsukushima Shrine.  At low tide you can walk up to the Torii but at high tide, the gate appears to float in the water, casting reflections and highlighting spectacular sunsets. Itsukushima Shrine was founded in 593 and is built on stilts. As the tide laps in and out, the entire structure also takes on the appearance of floating in the bay.

The shrine and torii were stunning but I really enjoyed a visit to the Daisho-in Temple.  It's actually a whimsical place with playful statuaries interspersed with more traditional collections.  We saw two buddhist monks painstakingly creating a sand mandala.  After my quick tour of the temple grounds, I hoofed it back to the pier to catch our boat back with only seconds to spare.  

View of the Torii from Itsukushima Shrine - low tide

Itsukushima Shrine - low tide

Rooftops of Daisho-in with mountains and Hiroshima Harbor in the distance

Who are these guys?

And these guys?

Relaxing statuaries

Creating the Mandala (Tibetan Buddhist "sand painting") 

Millions of grains of sand are laid out over days or even weeks into a spiritual design.  The tool in the photo is a chak-pur.  It holds the sand.  The second tool is rubbed over the chak-pur and the vibration causes the sand to flow out like liquid.  Mandalas are usually destroyed soon after they are finished to emphasize the impermanence of life.

From the mouth of babes

I'm going to make an effort to start recording some of the stuff Max is saying these days.  I know every parent must go through this and think their child is oh so clever but here I go.  I thank god there are moments of humor because otherwise, I'd be pulling my hair out 100% of the time.

After banging his knee while jumping on and off the sofa, he sat down in front of his Radiator Springs cars which he often keeps lined up on the coffee table and said - 
"Hey guys, I hurt my knee!"

After a bath, laying on his back in the empty tub.
"I wanna go down the drain."

Heather - "What do you want for dinner?"
Max - "Dessert."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


How do you talk about visiting Hiroshima?  How does it feel to be standing at "ground zero" of the first atomic bomb blast aimed at decimating a city and its inhabitants?  It feels eerie and uncomfortable and unsettling - yet hopeful.  Each blade of grass, sturdy tree and flower bed is like a miracle.  A large prosperous city stands where there were ashes.  Several rivers lead to a beautiful and bustling harbor; trolley cars click-clack down the thoroughfares; high rise office towers and apartment buildings sparkle; the sun shines on Hiroshima.  

In what was the epicenter of the explosion, the city of Hiroshima has created a Peace Park filled with a museum and several monuments in remembrance of those who perished and to nuclear disarmament and world peace.  

The A-bomb Dome is the only remnant of the city's fate.  And it has been left alone and preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Despite the glorious weather and spit and polish evident in the new city, I could not escape a feeling of being haunted by the suffering of those who were killed and injured in the blast. 

View of the A-bomb Dome (Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall)

Rich and Max by the Flame of Peace 
(to be extinguished only when all nuclear weapons on earth are eliminated)

A-bomb Dome and Flame of Peace seen through the Cenotaph
 (A memorial containing the names of the victims)

On a lighter note - happy and running in Peace Park

Max in Peace Park entertaining schoolchildren on a field trip

A happy moment

For Fans of Grandpa Joe

Grandpa Joe has been with us now for over a week and has brought with him his typical relish for new experiences and zest for life in general.  Here's a quick photo-montage of "Tokyo Joe" in action.

Dropping Max off at School

On the Beach after Strawberry Picking in the Countryside

On the Monorail

Racing Cars at Hakuhinkan Toy Store in Ginza

Posing in front of Wako Department Store in Ginza (formerly the Tokyo PX Building) 
in virtually the same spot that where he stood in 1946

Peace Park in Hiroshima

On the Waterfront, Hiroshima

Playing Cars