Written by Faith Harrison ’19
On April 28th, the class went on an excursion to Miyajima, an island that is considered to be entirely holy. The whole island is a sort of shrine, with various shrines and temples scattered all down its mountainous landscape. I decided to go off by myself to see what sort of peace I could find; to experience this massive shrine.
The island is littered with deer which—we’d all been warned by Professor Parkinson—might try to eat our maps, so I only took out my map when I was entirely unsure of where I was. My goal for the day was set to riding the rail up the mountain then hiking back down. Through crowds, I picked my way towards the rail station. Once I’d broken through in the right direction, I began my journey.
“Buy your ticket here!” a voice called out. I looked over to see a man standing behind a podium labeled something in Japanese. I couldn’t read it, but the man called out again so I went over to him. “You buy your rail ticket here, then go to the station,” he explained. “It’s about a thirty minute wait.”
I nodded. “Okay, how much?”
“2,000 yen, both ways,” he said, holding out his hand.
“No, one way,” I replied. The man seemed disappointed, but told me it was 1,800 yen. I forked over bill and coins, taking my ticket when he held it out to me. I turned to go.
“Free shuttle to the station over there,” he said, stopping me in my tracks. “10 minute walk.”
“I’ll walk. Arigato!” I called back. I strolled past the line for the shuttle, following signs that informed me of the 10 minute walk—7 if I ran a little. After walking so much in Tokyo and Takayama, a 10 minute walk sounded like nothing.
Along the way, I saw some little street (or path) side shops. Many sold various snacks and souvenirs, likely to attract those who had chosen to walk to the station off the path. I did end up stopping, only briefly, to get some strawberry shaved ice. It ended up being a good move; it was more like an hour long wait for the rail.
I could have very well chosen to walk up the mountain. However, this was something I’d decided to do for myself. I had always been afraid to ride on a rail such as this, so going off and doing it by myself would be even more terrifying.
Going to Japan made me want to not be terrified of life experiences. And boy was it worth the ride. I would look down from the cart I was in, down into a spread of green. There were little to no gaps in the trees below. It was a wonder anything could hope to grow up through and create a new set of leaves to add to the canopy.
The top of the rails (I had to take two to get to the end) was not the tippy top of the mountain. It was another winded hike up. I didn’t mind, feeling the determination in my gut. This was a view that I wanted to see, the whole island surrounding me.
The view from above matched the beauty of the views below. Tramping down miles upon miles of stone steps to reach the bottom took two hours minimum. In truth, I didn’t really keep track of time. I decided to just enjoy it, ignoring the pain I began to feel in my feet, refusing to feel hopeless that I’d never get down.
I said hello and konichiwa to people I passed. Many were on their way up, looking ahead with a sigh. Seeing the tired looks on their faces made me glad I’d ridden up. Still, maybe I’ll go back someday and walk all the way up, look out again, and see the views once more all the way down.