MIYAJIMA: A 1200-YEAR-OLD POT OF TEA
Miyajima means ‘shrine island’ because it literally has so many Buddhist and Shinto sacred shrines. The island was formerly known as Itsukushima – as in the name of its most famous shrine (593AD) now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I was excited to visit Miyajima during our Japan trip on a day trip from Hiroshima because Miyajima is famous for so many amazing things – perhaps more than any other island in Japan – and all those amazing things I will cover in a separate post Exploring Miyajima Island.
But the one thing that fascinates me most about Miyajima – and that is the subject of this post – is the shrine on the top of the mountain called Keizu-no-Reikado containing the Holy Fire known as The Eternal Flame.
A fire that has been burning continuously for 1200 years.
And, hanging above this fire, is a giant pot of tea.
Yes, really! A 1200-year-old pot of tea!
OUR QUEST: A 1200-YEAR-OLD POT OF TEA
Our quest to find the Shrine of the Eternal Flame and to drink from a 1200 year old pot of tea awaited us if we could only get to the top of Mountain Misen on Miyajima Island!
I wondered what the tea might taste like after all that time?
Of course, the water in the pot is regularly topped up and the flame is kept going by a Guardian Monk.
But it’s hard to imagine the fire has never been allowed to go out… even accidentally.
Imagine the responsibility!?
The fire was first lit in the year 806 by a great Buddhist priest. His name was Kobo Daishi.
Kobo Dashi was born 27th July in the year 774. He died on 22nd April 835 (Japanese calendar).
He was known as a great teacher, the father of Japanese culture, a Grand Master, and the founder of the most popular Shingon Sect ‘True Word’ of Buddhism.
GETTING TO THE REIKADO SHRINE AND ETERNAL FLAME
To get to the Reikado shrine and the Eternal Flame and the 1200-year-old pot of tea – which resides at the top of the mountain and at 535 meters above sea level – one first has to walk from the ferry point after arriving on Miyajima, through the small town.
We had to reluctantly ignore the street carts selling grilled oysters and steamed buns and other tempting bites along the main street – as we had packed a picnic lunch – but we promised to try the local food upon our return from the mountain.
We marched on past the sacred Itsukushima Shrine and the beautiful famous floating Torii Gate – the symbol of Miyajima Island. More on all of these wonders in my post Exploring Miyajima Island.
Then walk past the amazing five-story Pagoda Shrine (dating from 1407) and the Daisho-In-Temple and into Momijidani Park that is styled like a beautiful Japanese Garden with wooden bridges and water features and stone statues.
Then, we followed the wandering sacred Miyajima deer and the signs into the Komaga Forest. And, from the forest you have a choice of route.
You can take one of the several hiking trails and routes of various levels of difficulty – or take what is called The Ropeway – which is a cable car.
Two cable cars, actually.
The first one takes you from Momijidani Park up to Kayatani Station at 371 meters above sea level. From which you take a second cable car across to Shishiwa Station at 433 meters above sea level. Then it’s a walk.
If you’ve watched my video you’ll see it’s quite the trek and a rather a rough hike along rugged pathways and 2000 steps for that last 100 meters to the top of the mountain. But it’s worth it for the views alone.
The views from Mount Misen offer panoramic views over the Seto Inland Sea.
THE REIKADO SHRINE AND ETERNAL FLAME
But, of course, what was keeping me going was the thought of that 1200-year-old cup of tea, the Eternal Flame, and seeing the ancient shrine for myself.
There are actually many shrines and temples to see along the way.
Then the final push up past smooth giant boulders and a stone staircase to the 1200-year-old pot of tea!
The sacred Reikado Shrine is a small wooden building with a tiled double roof that is easy to find because it sits surrounded by woodsmoke on the plateau.
The shrine is also known as ‘Lover’s Sanctuary’ as this miraculous fire is considered to represent the eternal fire of love.
We removed our shoes and went inside the sacred smoky aura to see the fire bellowing and suspended above it was a huge black cast iron cauldron.
The 1200-year-old pot of tea!
A 1200 YEAR OLD POT OF TEA!
With eyes stinging and lungs burning in the smoky room, I approached the pot and wrestled with the heavy wooden lid.
Using the ladle, I scooped out two measures of the tea in into the small paper cups provided.
I sipped and tasted and considered the flavour. I decided it was green jasmine tea and it was delicious.
The tea is said to have magical, medicinal, and therapeutic properties.
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF MOUNT MISEN
The Eternal Flame – Kiezu-no-hi – is just one of Seven Wonders of Mount Misen.
The flame was also used as the source to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.
And is just one of the many amazing experiences to greet the visitor to Miyajima Island.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed this adventure and our quest to find The Eternal Flame and the 1200-year-old cup of tea!
HOW TO GET TO MIYAJIMA FROM HIROSHIMA
We went to Miyajima Island on a day trip from Hiroshima that we organised ourselves using a combination of tram (or local train from San-Yo Line) and a 10-minute ferry ride.
We used our Suica Card to ride the tram (Line 2) from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-guchi Station.
When you arrive at Miyajima-Guchi Station, walk for 5-6 minutes to the ferry terminal for the ferry ride.
The route is well signed and you can generally just follow the crowd.
Buy your ticket and take the next ferry boat over to Miyajima Island.
The ferry boats run frequently – three or four times an hour – and journey time is around 10 minutes. Easy!
Are you planning a trip to Japan?
Is Hiroshima on your Itinerary?
Will you visit Miyajima Island?
Let me know? Leave a comment.
I’d be delighted to hear from you!
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