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Look at this handsome fellow.

Look at this handsome fellow.

Best thing about waking up this morning was that we were still at the Waddling Dog! He was gracious enough to allow me to snap his photo as we checked out.

We were at The Butchart Gardens right when they opened, and M and I walked for a couple of hours in the drizzle. We were both so glad we added the gardens to our trip. Two good things about touring the garden today: the grey skies prevented the sunshine washout in our photos, and there were very few people around. See? I’m a Pollyanna to the core.

Her Royal Highness, Victoria

Her Royal Highness, Victoria

The Sunken Garden was our favourite, followed by the Japanese garden for me. I’m not sure if he would choose a different second best garden. The grounds are immense and March was a good choice because the trees were blossoming and the bulbs were at peak. Tulips and daffodils and hyacinths galore! As it rained and rained, M decided he would like to work there. He wanted to have the job of watering the plants.

While most of the plants were familiar to me because the climate on Vancouver Island is similar to Portland, we finally got to a section where M knew all the plants: the indoor room, filled with orchids and other exotics that I find hard to imagine growing wild, like M described it.

We returned south along Highway 17, now becoming familiar. M is constantly astonished at the laid back nature of Vancouver drivers, who are extremely polite and make room for the Jeep while we change lanes. Not like Boston drivers. Back in Victoria we took one of those little yellow water taxis I included in my post yesterday. It was inexpensive and fun. We got out at Fisherman’s Wharf and ate fresh sturgeon for lunch – yum! I was stuffed for the rest of the day. While we ate, we watched kids feeding mackerel to seals off the dock.

Victoria is a lovely city. We saw interesting  architecture, history, statues, cultures. M (from Sri Lanka) and I (from the US) both have a history of British Colonization…but much different obviously. Coming across the many references to Britain, the Queen, the crown, etc. caused a reaction in him each time we saw something new. I am getting a bit of an education on this trip, I will say. And I trust he is as well. If only you could hear the discussions we’ve been having for days on end while the Jeep carries us around the wet West.

Rain. Yes. Lots and lots and lots.

After a good look at the key points of downtown, we were ready for the next adventure. We got onto the Tsawassen Ferry without so much as a bump in the road, and by evening were on the mainland. We went through the rain and dark in search of my blogger buddy from Quillscratches. We found her! We went and had eats and drinks and chats and then I had to break it all up because I just need my sleep. M has been such an accommodating traveling companion.

Here’s my plan: I’ll drop a couple photos on you and add an IOU for a new post dedicated just to the Butchart Gardens, since I took many many photos and don’t have the time to go through them all tonight. Cheers! Thanks everyone who has been travelling along with us and commenting. It has been a lot of fun to do this trip with a group of friends. 😉

Delicate twins. Beds of Flowers are often raised, making close-ups of tiny, ground-hugging flowers easier.

Delicate twins. Flower beds are often raised, making close-ups of tiny, ground-hugging flowers easier.

This is what we were able to see because it is March.

This is what we were able to see because it is March.

The Sunken Garden.

The Sunken Garden.

Darling little water taxis.

Darling little water taxis.

Kids feeding the sea lions. Look at the expressions on their faces!

Kids feeding the seals. Look at the expressions on their faces!

There was also an otter.

There was also an otter.

Next fish for me?

Next fish for me?

We loved the colorful floating village.

We loved the colorful floating village.

Here's another look at all the house boats at Fisherman's Wharf.

Here’s another look at all the house boats at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The most impressive architecture in town is the Parliament Building.

The most impressive architecture in town is the Parliament Building.

Parliament Building domes

Parliament Building domes

Grand entranceway

Grand entrance way

Confederation Garden Court

Confederation Garden Court

A hunter so intent on its prey that it held still while I got close for a photo.

A hunter so intent on its prey that it held still while I got close for a photo.

British history is embraced in Victoria, British Columbia's capitol city.

British history is embraced in Victoria, British Columbia’s capitol city.

The hour and a half ferry journey from Swartz to Tsawassen was more interesting than the previous ferry ride, because we wound our way through islands.

The hour and a half ferry journey from Swartz to Tsawassen was more interesting than the previous ferry ride, because we wound our way through islands.

M on the deck in the wind.

M on the deck in the wind.

Tara reaches out to comfort the buck. This Nijonjika (Japanese deer) was the first one we saw. It soon became evident that something is terribly wrong with the deer on this island.

After visiting Maneki Neko, the Cat Café, Tara and I hopped back on the little local train to head south again. We got off at Miyajimaguchi Station, in hopes of finding our way to Miyajima Island. I had been told it was easy to find the ferry boat. That turned out to be true: we spotted the ferry while still inside the train station. So, we bought tickets for the ferry at a vending machine nearby. (All tickets can be purchased at a vending machine. Indeed, sometimes it’s the only option. Luckily, they are pretty easy to figure out. Luckier still, when I guess wrong, there is nearly always a forgiving official who can get it straightened out for  me.)

At the ferry dock by Miyajimaguchi station

The ferry ride was cool, breezy, relaxing. A welcome respite from the stifling July heat and humidity. Tara and I brought umbrellas for shade, but there is no way to escape the brutal weather of a Japanese summer.

Soon we spotted the huge red torii in the waters of Miyajima island, which is just offshore and a bit south of Hiroshima. The island is famous for its shrines, and the primary one is Itsukushima Shrine, for which this torii is the gate, or spiritual entrance. If you’ve only seen one photo of a giant red torii in Japan, it was probably this one. From the ferry, the famous torii of Itsukushima Shrine is quite noticeable, and drew my eye as we drew closer and closer.

Water-resistant camphor wood was used to build the torii, which can be approached on foot at low tide.

Looking past Itsukushima Shrine to the island of Honshu – Japan’s largest and most populated island.

Deer begs Tara for ice cream

This island is also famous for its deer. I had seen deer at the base of Mt. Fuji, but I don’t typically see wildlife here except birds, insects, crabs, frogs, fish, and lizards. These are a species of Sika deer, which do not lose their spots in adulthood. The deer were apparently sacred here at some point in the past, likely because a Shinto Buddhist belief is that deer are the messengers of the gods. However, they are currently considered a nuisance by local residents and Japanese officials.

After quick research, I cannot find when the ban on feeding went into effect, prohibiting people from feeding the deer. Until the ban, food for the deer was sold to visitors, and the large population of the deer was due to total dependence upon tourists. I found an unreliable resource that stated it was in 2007. I found a “please sign our save the deer petition” and the first signatures were dated 2002. PETA apparently became involved in 2008. Travel guides mention the issue in 2010.

The most official resource I could find is this publication from the Hatsukaichi City website with a city plan for fiscal years 2009-2013 (Heisei 21-25) to deal with the deer.  Disturbingly, one claim in this document is the intent to build a facility to “rescue unhealthy deer.” It’s disturbing because the city officials of Hatsukaichi are confessing that they should be responsible for detecting and treating unhealthy deer, but in 2012 I stood there on the island and witnessed many starving, deformed deer with skin diseases.

Patting a pregnant deer with patches of fur missing. This is just before another one snuck up behind me and tried to eat papers out of my bag.

Deer graze on what they can find at the creekside.

Before you make any assumptions, please know that I am no vegan tree-hugger. I grew up eating deer and learning how to shoot them. I’m merely pointing out some shockingly poor resource management. And I’m not bashing Japan. There are cases in the U.S. where local deer populations exploded when deer became reliant on food provided by people. It’s a terrible mix: people food and wild animals. And most tourists are too dumb to see the problem, as they gleefully feed cold french fries and paper ice cream wrappers to the deer, then post their videos on YouTube.

Deer and people mix in every open space. I think that one is trying to figure out how to get inside the restaurant.

I’m glad the Internet references to this issue become more common recently. Perhaps it means that local people will be pressured into coming up with a more effective plan. What that plan would be, I can’t guess. I saw no vegetation around for the deer to eat, but maybe there is some tucked away in the hills. I suspect if there was another option besides begging from tourists, the deer would choose to eat grass instead of starve to death.

Sorry about this depressing post. I intended to write about the beauty of the shrines, the photogenic torii (what’s plural for torii? toriii?), my lovely daughter sharing Japan with me, and of course, the agony of the abominable damp thickness of the furnace we had to endure day after day… oh. I mean, the weather.

But you know, as cool as the sights were, as impressive the shrines, as fun as the ferry rides were, the deer made it depressing. Tara and I didn’t really talk about it, but it was the elephant in the room. The deer themselves reminded us how unfortunate they were, every couple of minutes, as they hovered nearby and followed the movements of our hands hopefully, as though they might contain food.  I was so disappointed not to have been alerted to bring food ahead of time.

Deer with deformed leg eats food powder.

At one point, a woman showed up with some kind of food. It looked like rabbit pellets mixed with powdered chicken feed. She spread it all over the ground and deer showed up in herds to eat it. But a lot of the powder was wasted when it got mixed into the sand. I watched two rear up on hind legs and bash each other with their hooves, fighting over the powdered food in the sand.

Tara took this photo of me in front of the torii

I’m resting at the base of the five-tiered pagoda

Tara beneath a towering granite torii

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