Located in the Omotesando shopping street in Miyajima is what is said to be the largest wooden rice scoop in the world. Some 7.7 meters long, 2.7 meters thick and 2.5 tonnes it is said to be made from 270 year old Zelkova tree. The scoop took almost three years to construct and went on display in 1996 to commemorate the designation of Itsukushima Shrine as a World Heritage Site.
However, as in the case with many of the “world’s largest,” the largeness of the scoop is less interesting than that it represents a kind of collective pride by the people of Miyajima in an object that has helped put their island on the map.
As the legend goes, between the 1790s and 1800s a Buddhist monk named Seishin lived and worked in the Tokidera Temple. One night he dreamed of a deity known as Benzaiten, the Japanese name for the Indian goddess Saraswati, whose myth arrived in Japan via the Chinese and began being worshiped in the 6th century. She held a traditional Japanese lute which the monk saw as a kind of spoon. Upon awakening he showed the people of Miyajima how to make this magical rice scoop or “shamoji” he had dreamed of.
In Japan, Miyajima is quite famous for its rice scoops, and though now the scoops sold on the island are made with foreign timber (Miyajima has little native wood) the scoops still come with a stamp with the Chinese characters for ‘Miyajima’. These days most of the practical shamoji sold are made from white plastic or cheap plywood, the island sells many higher grade shamoji to tourists who keep them as spiritual and good luck items.