NEAR HIROSHIMA: MIYAJIMA, YOKAI, IWAKUNI, RABBITS AND POISON GAS

NEAR HIROSHIMA

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Miyajima's famous Torii Gate
Hiroshima Prefecture covers 8,479 square kilometers (3,273 square miles), is home to about 2.84 million people and has a population density of 335.5 people per square kilometer. Hiroshima is the capital and largest city, with about 1.2 million people. It is in the Chugoku area on the southwestern part of Honshu island and has five districts and 23 municipalities.

Abuto Kannon (southernmost tip of Numakuma Peninsula in Hiroshima Prefecture) is spectacularly-set temple built on a rocky crag over the ocean. The view from the veranda is awesome but scary. The railing is only knee-high. The resident priests assure visitors that no one has fallen off.

Sometimes called the breast temple, it contains many breast-shaped votive offering from women who want to provide their children with lots of breast milk. The temple is associated with birth and fertility because it lies above a vagina-shaped rock formation and across from a phallic-shaped one. Abuto Kannon is 8 miles south of Fukuyama and can be reached by car, taxi or bus from there.

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island (40 minutes by tram and ferry from Hiroshima) is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Revered since ancient times as a nature worship site, the entire island has been designated as a "Special Historic Site" and "Special Place of Scenic Beauty."

Miyajima means "Divine Island." There is no cemetery on the island because an ancient religious regulation, observed until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, forbade any birth or deaths on the islands. Commoners were not allowed on the island. Today, Miyajima is probably the most famous island of Japan, as its red Torii (shrine gate) adorns many guidebooks. There is a tourist office at the port. If you are looking for some peace and quiet during an exhausting trip, it is nice to spend the night on the island.

Miyajima covers an area of 30 square kilometers. In the middle of the island is 530-meter (1,600-foot) -high, densely-wooded Mt. Misen, which can be reached by cable car or on foot. Near the summit is a temple founded in the 9th century by Kobo-Daishi, a famous Buddhist priest.

Also known as Itsuku-shima, Miyajima welcomes about 3 million visitors a year, including large school groups. Most are day trippers that arrive and leave using the two ferry lines but some stay overnight at hotels and 20 Japanese inns on the island. Some of the inns charge separately for lodging and meals, with the meals optional, partly in a bid to attract more foreign customers. If your budget is limited, there are a handful of cheap places but not many. At the upper end you can spend ¥30,000 or more. Miyajima Mori no Yado is a public accommodation facility with a quiet location on the far side of the shrine. Ryoso Kawaguchi is beautifully renovated; and is a member of the Japanese Inn Group.

Websites: Miyajima Island Miyajima island ; Miyajima Tourist Association miyajima.or Maps: Miyajima Island Miyajima Island On the World ontheworldmap.com Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Miyajima is accessible by ferry from Miyajimagushi Pier which is a 20 minute train ride from Hiroshima and by more expensive tourist boat trips form Hiroshima City (See above

Miyajima Ferries leave from Miyajimaguchi Passenger Terminal which is about a half hour by train from Hiroshima City. The trip cost s ¥180 (US$1.70) yen one for adults and ¥90 for children. The ride takes about 20 minutes and offers great views of Miyajima. Getting to the Miyajima Ferries: The ferry is located at Miyajimaguchi Station on the JR San-yo Main Line. From Hiroshima Station take a train bound for Iwakuni on the JR San-yo Main Line. Get off the train at Miyajimaguchi Station. Train travel from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station takes about 28 minutes. Leave JR Miyajimaguchi Station through the ticket gates, and walk through the underpass to the Miyajimaguchi Passenger Terminal Building.. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights on Miyajima Island

There are numerous other temples and shrines on the Miyajima Island. Built in 1587, the Pavilion of 1000 Mats boasts a five-story-high pagoda and an enormous main hall with timber pillars and ceiling paintings. Daoshoim Temple features 500 statues of Buddha’s disciples. The main building of the temple houses prayer wheels inscribed with the Hannya Shingyo sutra. There are some nice hikes on Mt. Misen, beaches, a seaside park and aquarium and virgin forests around Mt. Misen. Roaming the island are lots of remarkably tame deer and some tanukis. Monkeys hang out around the cable car station. Rickshaw rides are available around the town.

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O Tori in the 19th century
If you long for the sea, Tsutsugaura Park on the “backside” (east) of the island offers a beach and campsites. It can be reached by rental bike or bus from the port. If you continue cycling along the coast, you will also find some smaller beaches. If you are in Japan in July, you should check out the Kangensai Festival, where beautifully decorated fishing boats gather in Miyajima and carry the shrine deity around to some smaller shrines on the island. In the final part of the ceremony, which takes place shortly before midnight, the deity is brought back to the main shrine.

O-Torii (offshore from Itsukushima Shrine) is a huge 50-foot-high camphor-wood gate set in the water that is perhaps the most photographed image in Japan after Mt. Fuji. Resembling a red-painted pi sign and situated about 200 meters from the shore, it looks as if it is floating on the sea at high tide. At low tide it looks like a large torii gate rising out of the mud. The main pillars are 10 meters in circumference. Many visitors take a picture or throw a coin at the gate. It is also possible to take a stand-up paddle (SUP) tour through the famous vermilion pillars. Magic Island SUP operates reasonably-priced tours that take up about half a day and are led by certified staff. There is a two-kilometer course for advanced participants.

The present gate was built in 1875 for the eighth time. The original was made in the 10th century during the Heian period. At night the torii gate is floodlight and sometimes a light and sound show is performed there. Some small ferries that arrive at high tide sail through it. It is said that the official way to enter the shrine was through the gate in the sea. The view through of the gate from the water, with Mt. Misen in the background is regarded as one of Japan's "Three Best Views" along with the sandspit at Amonohashidate on the coast of Western Honshu and Matsushima Bay near Sendai in northern Honshu.

Mt. Misen offers some nice hiking options. Legend has it that this mountain was designated a religious site 1200 years ago (2006 was the 1200-year ceremony).. Several paths lead up Mt. Misen, but the one furthest away from the Itsukushima Shrine, the Omoto-course, is the most scenic and natural. Allow two hours to get to the top, from were you have a breathtaking view of the Seto Inland Sea. The mountain is only 530 meters high but will still give a good work out. Parts of the paths can be rather steep. Near the summit is a temple founded in the 9th century by Kobo-Daishi, a famous Buddhist priest, and a walk-through rock tunnel, and platforms with an excellent views of Hiroshima Bay. At the temple there is a holy fire that is said to have been lit by Kobo Daishi himself in 806. Mt. Misen has been a center of mountain worship since ancient times. It features primeval forests populated with original Abies firma and Tsuga sieboldii, and the southern Symplocos formosana. The mountain has an observatory. If you are too tired to walk down, you can take the ropeway. The ropeway station is about 20 minutes from the mountain top. A simple map with the hiking paths is available at the tourist information at the port. Most of the signs are in English, but the many small temples and sites around the top of the mountain can be a bit confusing.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine (on Miyajima Island) is Miyajima's most visited scenic spot. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is made up of a main shrine, subsidiary shrines and Noh stages---all connected by galleries and corridors set on wood platforms that stretch out over the water. Sometimes after unusually high tides floors of the corridors are submerged by seawater.

The Treasure Hall of the temple contains 3,500 objects, including Buddhist Sutra scrolls, copied and decorated with pictorial designs in gold foil and rich colors by members of the Heike clan. The five-story pagoda nearby was built in 1407 and blends Japanese and Chinese styles

Ischikishimahime-no-mikoto was established in the reign of Empress Suiko (554-628) to honor the god of naval forces and navigation, and was enlarged under a feudal lord named Tairano-Kiyomori (1118-1181). The pierike construction was conceived with the island’s holy status in mind. Commoners were not supposed to set on the island and had to approach the island by boat.

The shrine was badly damaged by a Typhoon No. 18 in 2004. The cypress-bark roof of Haraiden hall was blow away and floor boards and vermillion-painted pillars were uplifted and tossed about by the wind and waves. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage site: UNESCO website

Itsukushima Shrine: UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. According to UNESCO: “The Island of Itsukushima, in the Seto inland sea, has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. The first shrine buildings here were probably erected in the 6th century. The present shrine dates from the 13th century but is an accurate reflection of the12th century construction style and was founded by the most powerful leader of the time, Taira no Kiyomori. The shrine dates the harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill. The shrine plays on the contrasts in colour and form between mountains and sea and illustrates the Japanese concept of scenic beauty, which combines nature and human creativity. [Source: UNESCO]

”The property covers 431.2 hectares on the Island of Itsukushima, and the buffer zone (2,634.3 ha) includes the rest of the island and part of the sea in front of Itukushima-jinia. The property comprises seventeen buildings and three other structures forming two shrine complexes (the Honsha complex forming the main shrine, and Sessha Marodo-jinja complex) and ancillary buildings as well as a forested area around Mt. Misen.

”The buildings of Itsukushima-jinja are in the general tradition of Japanese Shinto architecture, in which a mountain or natural object becomes the focus of religious belief to be worshipped from a shrine, generally constructed at the foot of the mountain. The harmoniously arranged shrine buildings in the property are located on the sea and the scenery, with a trinity composed of the man-made architecture in the centre, the sea in the foreground, and the mountains in the background, and have become recognized as a Japanese standard of beauty. The sites reveal great artistic and technical skill and are unique among extant shrine buildings in Japan. The shrine is an outstanding and unique architectural work which combines manmade achievements and natural elements. It is tangible proof of the great achievements of Taira no Kiyomori.

”Even though the buildings of Itsukushima-jinja have been reconstructed twice, this was done in a scrupulously accurate manner preserving the styles that prevailed from the late 12th century to the early 13th century. The property is a Shinto shrine, a religion which centres on polytheistic nature worship, the origin of which goes back to primitive times. Over its long history, it has developed into a religion which became unique in the world, adopting continental influences to combine with its own indigenous traditions. Japanese spiritual life is deeply rooted in this religion.

The site is important because: 1) “The configuration of the shrine buildings of ltsukushima-jinja presents an excellent architectural scene on the lines of the aristocratic residential style of this period. It is an outstanding work combining manmade and natural elements. The buildings exhibit great artistic and technical merit and are sited on the sea with a backdrop of impressive mountains. 2) The shrine buildings of Itsukushima-jinja are in the general tradition of Shinto shrine architecture in Japan and provide invaluable information for the understanding of the evolving spiritual culture of the Japanese people, namely the Japanese concept of scenic beauty. The most important aspect of Itsukushima-jinja is the setting of the shrine buildings as the central part of a trinity with the sea in the foreground and mountains in the background, recognized as a standard of beauty against which other examples of scenic beauty have come to be understood. 3) The buildings of Itsukushima-jinja, which through scrupulously accurate reconstructions have preserved styles from the late 12th and early 13th centuries, are outstanding examples of the ancient type of shrine architecture integrated with the surrounding landscape, the physical manifestation of humankind’s worship of nature. 4) Japanese spiritual life is deeply rooted in ancient shintoism which is centred on polytheistic nature worship. ltsukushima-jinja provides important clues understanding this aspect of Japanese religious expression.

Conservation and Preservation of Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

According to UNESCO: “The boundaries of the property include all the shrine buildings and natural elements that are indispensable for demonstrating the harmonious building arrangement and the integrated scenic beauty at the time of its original construction by Taira no Kiyomori in the 12th century. Moreover, the remaining area of the island and a section on the sea forms an overall buffer zone to control proposed development activities, and thus the integrity of the property is intact. [Source: UNESCO]

”The authenticity of the Itsukushima-jinja monuments and landscape is high and in complete accord with the principles enunciated in the Nara Document on Authenticity of 1994. As an ancient place of religious or spiritual importance, the setting continues to reflect the scenic harmony of the monuments, sea, and mountain forest and is properly maintained from both cultural and natural viewpoints. The design expressing the monuments’ historic value, including the character of the plan, structure, exterior appearance, and interior space, remains unchanged from its original state. In addition, the original materials are preserved to a great extent in the structural framework and other fundamental parts of the monuments. When new materials are required, the same type of materials are used with the same techniques based on detailed investigation. The property still retains high level of authenticity in terms of form/design, materials/substance, traditions/techniques, location/setting and spirit.

”The twenty buildings that make up the component monuments included in the property are designated as a National Treasure or Important Cultural Properties. The entire area of 431.2 ha, in which the buildings are set and including the forest land surrounding them and the sea in front of Itsukushima-jinia, is designated as a Special Historic Site, a Special Place of Scenic Beauty or Natural Monument. Thus, the property is properly protected under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Under the law, proposed alterations to the existing state of the property are restricted: any alteration must be approved by the national government. The property is also protected under the 1957 Natural Parks Law. In addition, within the 431.2 ha area, a forested zone of approximately 422 ha is designated as a City Park Area by Hiroshima Prefecture under the 1956 City Parks Law. These laws impose restrictions on construction of new buildings and tree felling.

”The twenty buildings as component monuments of the property are owned by the Itsukushima-jinja Religious Organization, which is responsible for their management. The organization employs a qualified conservation architect who plans and supervises routine maintenance and repair works including, in particular, damage repair after typhoons. As all of the monuments and their surrounding buildings are made of wood, each of the monuments is equipped with automatic fire alarms, fire hydrants, and lightning arresters. The national government provides both financial assistance and technical guidance through its Agency for Cultural Affairs. Other agencies and organizations associated with the protection and management of the property area include the Ministry of Environment, the Forestry Agency, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Hatsukaichi City.”

Iwakuni

Iwakuni (20 miles southwest of Hiroshima) is an industrial city located on a delta of the Nishiki River in the Inland Sea. It's main that attraction is Kintai Bridge. Iwakuni is also famous for its albino Japanese rat snakes. There are regarded as good luck and can sometimes be seen crawling in trees or on the ground. The snakes are true albinos (white with pink eyes) and there are believed to be over a thousands of them and a special society has been set up to protect them. The first albino snake was recorded in 1733. No one is quite sure why there are so many of them here. The chances of an albino snake occurring in nature is roughly 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000.

Iwakuni Castle was originally built in 1608 and reconstructed in 1962. The four-level donjon displays a historical collection of armor and swords, and offers good views of Kintai Bridge and the Inland Sea. Iwakuni Castle is located on a mountain opposite the river. It can be reached via a cable car ride and short hike The four-story castle tower was rebuilt in 1962. Using the coin-operated binoculars from the top one gets a good view of the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station. At the foot of the mountain is a statue of Sasaki Kojiro, a famed 17th-century swordsman and rival of the great Miyamoto Musashi. There are few old samurai houses in the area.

Iwakuni Shirohenbi Shrine was built to house Iwakuni’s famous white snake. The many decorations of white snakes around town. Kikko Park, the site of the residence of a feudal lord, contains Kin-unkaku Pavilion, the Iwakuni Historical Museum (with an impressive collection of samurai armor), and Kikko Shrine. Cormorant fishing is conducted in the summer on the Nishiki river from June to August..

Websites: Explore Hiroshima hiroshima-navi.or ; Wikitravel Wikitravel Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ;

Iwakuni Bridge

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Kintai Bridge (in Iwakuni) is sometimes called the Abacus Beads Bridge because of its shape. Originally built in 1673, this unique five-span bridge is 193.3 meters (600 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) wide, and and 11 meters (36) feet above the water at its tallest point.

Although the bridge---with its ingeniously constructed arches--- looks as it was designed to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing the design is meant to be functional: namely to remain standing when it struck by high winds, tidal surges and river swells destructive typhoons. Walking across the bridge your view and perspective changes depending on where you stand on the humps.

Kintain Bridge crosses the Nishikigawa River and has been designated a national scenic treasure. The original bridge was constructed in 1673 by the regional governing Kikkawa family. The current bridge, in its forth incarnation, was built from 2001 to 2004. The wooden parts have been built using methods from the Edo period (1603-1867).No nails were used in its construction; the only metal objects are clumps of wires used as fasteners. Modern techniques using girders filled with concrete have been used inside the stones. In 1950 the bridge was washed away by a flood; in 1953 it was reconstructed according to its original design. The ¥2.6 billion restoration finished in March 2004 involved 6,500 carpenters, laborers and specialists.

Sake and Higashi Hiroshima

Higashi-Hiroshima City (20 kilometers east of Hiroshima) is famous for sake and the home of Hiroshima University. In the area around Saijo Station are eight sake breweries, each with a history of over a century and often identifiable by their red-brick chimney. The largest, Kamotsuru, has an international reputation. In 2013, president Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was photographed pouring Kamotsuru’s Tokusei Gold Daiginjo for U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Hiroshima. The Kamotsura visitor’s center show a video on sake making and features tours of the brewery.

At the brewery 13 tons of rice are steamed daily in pre-dawn darkness, When it is ready the brewery comes alive. Some rice is taken to a special climate-controlled room, where koji (the fermenting agent) is sprinkled over it and mixed in. The resulting mash ferments in the giant tanks, Later the mash is placed into bags and the liquid is squeezed out. After a month or so, the fermented sake is ready fro consumption,

Takehara, an hour’s drive southeast of Higashi-Hiroshima, is worth a visit not only for its sake breweries but also for its well-preserved Edo period houses. The 150-year-old Fujii Shuzo brewery offers tours. It is a small brewery but won the top prize at Japan’s first sake competition, held in 1907. In 2007, it won first prize at the International Wine Challenge for its Ryuseo Black Label Junma Daiginju. Akitsu on the Inland Sea is another sake town, and the place where brewing sake with soft water was pioneered.

Rabbit Island (Okunoshima)

Rabbit Island (15 minutes by ferry from Tadanômi Port) is a small island occupied by hundreds of tame but wild rabbits that roam the forests and fields, shadowing tourists for food. Rabbits have large families and are known for their high fertility rate. For these reasons, rabbits are often considered a symbol of safe childbirth and the blessings of many children in some places. Rabbits are mostly nocturnal, they are most active in the early morning and late in the evening. With overnight stays, you can observe them during the night, while fully enjoying the night sky away from artificial lights. In Japan, legend has it that at full moon you can see a figure of a rabbit pounding mochi rice cakes on the surface. In 2015, the rabbits were featured in a short television BBC series called “Pets - Wild at Heart”.

The real name of Rabbit Island (Usagi Shima in Japanese) is Okunoshima. Considered part of the city of Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture, it is a small island in the Inland Sea of Japan with a circumference of 4.3 kilometers and is home to several historical buildings including the former Geiyo military fortress and the ruins of an old poison gas factory. Today, Okunoshima is mainly an island where visitors can enjoy the natural environment of the Seto Inland Sea, and it also features a swimming beach and campground.

Okunoshima is accessible by ferry from Omishima as well as Tadanoumi.There are several walking trails along the coast and into the mountain. You can swim in the sea during summer seasons. There is only one restaurant operating on the island along with a coffee shop. Bringing your own food is advised during peak seasons. Plenty of snacks and drinks are sold at the hotel. The beach is a five-minute walk from the hotel. Shower rooms and snack booths are available during summer seasons. The summit of the hill on Rabbit Island known for its 360-degree of the Seto Inland Sea at its many islands. There is also a scenic ocean view from the lighthouse and a campsite by the sea. The 226-meter-high pylon on the island is the tallest in Japan. The island is connected to Takehara on the mainland by Chūshi Powerline Crossing, the tallest powerline in Japan.

Some rules and things to keep in mind in regard to the rabbits: 1) Do not hold rabbit in your arms or chase them. Rabbits are usually afraid of being held; they will struggle to escape. 2) Do not feed Rabbits on roads. Roads have bicycle traffic; while eating, rabbits are usually too focused and do not notice the bicycles or other vehicles. 3) Do not leave rabbit food leftovers Rabbits do not eat dampened pellets or spoiled vegetables. These attract crows which interfere with rabbits. 4) Do not feed rabbits with human food. Rabbits may become ill from such food such as bread or snacks; they cannot digest potatoes. Dogs and cats are not allowed on the island.

Okunoshima Island Visitor Center provides information about the fauna and flora of Okunoshima Island and the natural energy used by the center. Okunoshima, Tadanoumi Town, Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Tel: 0846-26-0100; Open: 9:00am-4:00pm; Closed Wednesdays (January - February: Wednesdays, Thursdays), end and beginning of year Getting There: Rabbit Island is a 15-minute ferry ride from Tadanômi Port with services leaving roughly every 30 - 45 minutes. The port is a 3-minute walk from Tadanoumi JR Station, which is a 25-minute train ride from Mihara Station on magnificent coastal JR Kure Line. This ride itself is worth the trip, with it views of the Inland Sea and its many islands. The best way to get the island from outside Hiroshima is to take the Sanyō Shinkansen train to Mihara Station (only the Kodama stops there). At Mihara, catch the Kure Line local train to Tadanoumi. All Kodama Shinkansen Super Express coming from both Hiroshima and Osaka stops at Mihara Station. It takes about 20 minutes from Hiroshima and less than 2 hours from Osaka to reach Mihara Station. The Kaguyahime Highway Bus Service is also available directly to Tadanoumi JR Station, which operates from Hiroshima Bus Center via Hiroshima Station. Accommodation: If you plan to stay overnight, advance hotel reservation is advised as accommodation is limited around the area. The hotel on the island is not always available for last-minute visitors, especially during high seasons. A free shuttle bus or a 15-minute walk will take you to the National Park Resort Hotel on the island, where there are many rabbits welcoming tourists. Of course, many rabbits can be seen on the way to the hotel, and the sidewalk along the shore is spectacular.

Poison Gas and the Dark History of Rabbit Island

Okunoshima (Rabbit Island) was the center of chemical weapons research and production during WWII. It was “erased” from maps and workers on the island were sworn to secrecy. A poison gas factory was located on the island and it produced most of the agents used in the chemical warfare that was carried out in China. Some say that rabbits were released onto the island after the war like canaries ro a coal mine to spot signs of poison gas leaks.

Okunoshima was mainly used for farming and fishing The island was a cultivated area until the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) when ten forts were built to protect it. At that time three fishing families lived on the island. In 1925, the Imperial Japanese Army Institute of Science and Technology initiated a secret program to develop chemical weapons, based on extensive research that showed that chemical weapons were being produced throughout the United States and Europe. A chemical munitions plant was built on the island between 1927 and 1929 and was home to a chemical weapons facility that would go on to produce over six kilotons of mustard gas and tear gas. [Source: Wikipedia]

Japan was a signatory of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of chemical warfare but not the development and storage of chemical weapons. Nevertheless, Japan went to great lengths to keep the chemical munitions plant a secret, even going so far as to remove records of the island from some maps. The island was chosen for its isolation, security, and distance from Tokyo and other areas in case of disaster. Under the jurisdiction of the Japanese military, the local fish preservation processor was converted into a toxic gas reactor. Residents and potential employees were not told what the plant was manufacturing and everything was kept secret. Working conditions were harsh and many suffered from toxic-exposure related illnesses due to inadequate safety equipment.

When World War II ended, documents concerning the plant were burned and Allied Occupation Forces disposed of the gas either by dumping, burning, or burying it. People were told to be silent about the project, and several decades would pass before victims from the plant were given government aid for treatment.

Many of the rabbits on the island are descended from rabbits intentionally let loose when the island was developed as a park after World War II. During the war, rabbits were also used in the chemical munitions plant to test the effectiveness of the chemical weapons, but those rabbits were killed when the factory was demolished and are not related to the rabbits currently on the island. The ruins of the old forts and the gas manufacturing plant and the power station that supplied it are still stading, but entry is prohibited as deemed too dangerous. Since it is part of the Inland Sea National Park system of Japan, there is a resource center and a museum. Tadanômi Port was extraterritorial during the war, being the only departing port to reach the island. It is said that the thick historical wall besides the ticketing office at Tadanômi Port separated the port from the mainland during WWII.

Poison Gas Museum

Poison Gas Museum (on Okunoshima, Rabbit Island) contains materials from Japan’s secret chemical weapons and poison gas program. It opened in 1988 to educate people about the island's role in World War II. Its curator, Murakami Hatsuichi told the New York Times, the museum "was established in order to alert as many people as possible to the dreadful truths about poison gas. My hope is that people will see the museum in Hiroshima City and also this one, so they will learn that we were both victims and aggressors in the war. I hope people will realize both facets and recognize the importance of peace." [Source: New York Times, Wikipedia]

The small museum is only two rooms large and provides a basic overview of the construction of the chemical plant, working conditions, and the effects of poison gas on humans. Families of workers who suffered the aftereffects of the harsh working conditions donated numerous artifacts to help tell the story of the workers' plight. The second room shows how poison gas affects the human body through the lungs, eyes, skin, and heart. Images of victims from Iraq and Iran add to the message of the museum.

The museum also offers guides to the numerous remains of the forts from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the poison gas factory. Most of the buildings are run-down and condemned, but still recognizable. The museum is aimed primarily at Japanese tourists, but English translations are provided on the overall summary for each section.

Miyoshi Mononoke Yokai Museum

Miyoshi Mononoke Museum (80 kilometers northwest of Hiroshima) is Japan’s first yokai museum. Officially known as the Yumoto Koichi Memorial Japan Yokai Museum. Opened in April 2019 in Miyoshi, it explores the world of yokai — spirits, physical beasts, demons, gods, and supernatural phenomena — through picture scrolls, pottery and other carefully selected items from approximately 5,000 objects of a yokai-themed collection, much of it originally belonging to Kouichi Yumoto..

In TeamLab Yokai Park, yokai designed by visitors come to life on the screen. In the world of Ino monokairoku, the story Ino monokairoku, which was set in Edo-era Miyoshi is explored. Among the most prized possessions are "MinamotoYorimasa nue extermination", an the Edo Period 136 x 123.5 centimeter color scroll which shows Minamotono Yorimasa shooting an arrow at a nue among dark cloud; "Most scandalous sight figure kimono" (after the Edo Period 136 x 123.5 cm color print); "The Tongue-Cut Sparrow figure” and "Imaginary beast figure Zu”.

Much of the museum deals with the Ino Monokairoku story. According to the museum: “Ino Monokairoku” is the story about some demons who torment a guy named Heitarou Ino who lived in Miyoshi in the Edo Period. Many suspicious events occur and strange characters show up. Location: 691-4, Miyoshi-machi, Miyoshi City, Hiroshima Prefecture Tel: 0824-69-0111. Hours Open: 9:30am-5:00pm (last admission at 4:30pm) Closed Wednesday; Admission: 600 yen for adults; 400 yen for college student and a high school student; and 200 yen for junior high school and elementary school students Preschoolers are free. Getting There: From Hiroshima on the JR Geibi Line rapid. From Hiroshima Station to Miyoshi Station is about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Website: miyoshi-mononoke.jp

Image Sources: 1) 11) Ray Kinnane 2) 5), 6), 7) Hiroshima Convention and Visitor's Bureau 3) 4) 8), 9) Gensuikan 10 Aomolife 13) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education, 14) Wikitravel, 15), 16), 17) Shimonoseki city site

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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