So I was in the mood for a road trip. Phoned up a couple of Aikido friends, contacted Peter Goldsbury, and with a minimal amount of negotiation picked Saturday and chose a rough intinerary.
One of my Aikido students showed up on time but yours truely was still in bed - not a good start - but hey I'm quick with a bit of fire under my butt. Ten minutes latter we were off from Himeji to Okayama (a little over an hour away) to pick up the man that was the first person I met when I went to Honbu dojo - he was deshi at the time - and a good friend. Interesting man, after he finished his apprenticeship under my teacher, he studied for several years under a famous Daito-ryu teacher - now he does both Daito-ryu and Shodokan.
Another couple of hours we were in Hiroshima and met Peter G. He wisely advised us to park in the city and take the train - apparently every Japanese and their dog is visiting a shrine in the New Year and Miyajima is very popular. He quoted 140,000 visited the day before. After a bit of manouvering in the city we parked the car (almost an hour) and went to lunch. Well fed (as an added bonus I could have a beer since we were taking a train) off we went to Miyajima Island. Very easy, not so long, and no traffic jams. The place was crowded but not terribly, I guess the other 130,000 where stuck in traffic.
Miyajima shrine is gorgeous when the tide is in. Surrounded by water it looks like its floating. When the tide is out - not quite the same. People sort of wander around the front - sometimes reaching the Tori but we decided to climb the mountain and see if we could see the 1200 year old flame.
Well being Budo guys we decided to give the roap way a miss and walk up. Needless to say that took quite a while but lots of Budo conversation along with intervals of "So how do you do this technique". Usually we found a quiet place with no one around but every now and then we had to act nonchalant as people passed by.
The day was cold be we were sweating but it got worse. Almost near the top Peter G. and I slowed down a wee bit while the others powered to the top. We caught up a few minutes later where we found one waiting and the other checking when the last ropeway was. We were tired but worse evening was upon us. These was still a little less than a km to the top in the other direction so Peter G. and my student headed that way while I ran to pick up the other. The two of us then ran to catch up to the other two - we really did our New Years Shugyo. We climbed onto the back of a Goddess. Once the film gets developed I will post a picture of our haggard, sweaty selves. We ran, not because we are rough, tough, he-man types but because the deadline for the last ride down was 30 minutes away. Timing was pretty good - we were able to walk the km to the ropeway.
It was only on the way down that we realized how far we had climbed. Fantastic view. By the time we got down Miyajima shrine was surrounded by water and night. The latterns lighting up the orange paint was really special so we hung around there a bit, watched some deer wrestling, talked some more Budo, etc. We would have stayed to eat but everything was shutting down - apparently there is no nightlife on the island. Not sure if it is the same reason there are no graveyards.
Hiroshima we spent a few more hours talking Budo over food and then back to our respective cities.