Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, Japan — 10 Unmissable Experiences
Miyajima Island is regarded sacred. From ancient times, every tree, rock and sand in the island was worshipped as god. It is an island often regarded by the locals as where the people and the gods live together.
Miyajima Island is home to the only floating Torii gate in the world, and the infamous Mount Misen. Mount Misen is associated with a legend of miracle – that a fire lit by a Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi. have been burning for almost 1200 years.
Georgina: I visited Miyajima Island over two occassions. The first evening after exploring Hiroshima City and then the following day to explore Mount Misen. In this guide, I have combined the experiences into one for ease of planning. The ten experiences listed here is certainly doable in a day.
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Miyajima Island is a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. The journey takes ten-minutes from Miyajimaguchi Pier (see below for information on How to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima). However, I took the forty-five-minute World Heritage Sea Route by Aqua Net ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima. I preferred this route as I wanted to experience the ride overlooking Hiroshima Bay.
From a distance I could see the iconic bright orange Torii gate in the blue waters of the sea against the backdrop of green mountains — it is almost a mythical beauty and quite simply divine!
Exiting the pier and out of the station, you will find signage to the Itsukushima Shrine and surrounding areas. You can easily walk everywhere on the island.
10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO ON MIYAJIMA ISLAND
There is much you can do but I list the 10 experiences on my visit which I highly recommend that you do for an unforgettable memory of this island.
1 | The Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima Island, Hiroshima
The Itsukushima Shrine is an iconic shrine and is regarded as one of the “Three Views of Japan” along with Matsushimo Island and Amanohashidate.
The ‘Three Views of Japan’ or Nihon Sankei represent the three most scenic spots in Japan and were chosen by a 15th century Confucian scholar, Shunsai Hayashi. He travelled across Japan on foot and wrote a book documenting his experiences. He noted three locations that offered travellers stunning views of Japan, embracing the sea and the abundance of greenery.
Since 1643, these three iconic landscapes in Japan remain the most celebrated views in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The Itsukushima Shrine is the only shrine in the world that is built on water and offers awe-inspiring views, touching the hearts of millions of visitors over the years.
1.1 | A little history on Itsukushima shrine
The Itsukushima Shrine was originally built in 593, by Saeki no Kuramoto, but the unique shrine that we see today, the one on water, was erected by Taira no Kiyomon, the first samurai who became the Daijo-Daijin, (the head of the imperial government), from the late Heian period. It is said that in 1571, the Main Hall of the Shrine was renovated, and the Torii gate was reconstructed by the Mori clan in 1875.
People from all over Japan come to the Itsukushima Shrine to pray for safety of the Seto Inland Sea because of its importance to the local economy. This is a practice that had existed since the late Heian period when Taira no Kiyomori came to worship at the Shrine and pay homage. It was and still is especially popular amongst fisherman and tradesmen who sail the Seto Inland Sea.
The Main Shrine is connected by beautiful, well-crafted architecture of corridors to the Marodo Shrine, Tenjin Shrine and the Noh Theatre Stage. It is worth taking your time to observe and admire the incredible architecture of this Shrine. The high stage in front of the Main Shrine is considered as one of Japan’s “Three Big Stages” along with the “Stone Stage” at Shitenno-ji Temple and Sumiyoshi “Grand Shrine” in Osaka.
1.2 | What does “Itsukushima” mean
The name “Itsukushima” means “island of worship”. From ancient times, every tree, rock and sand in the island was worshipped as god. It is an island often regarded by the locals as where the people and the gods live together. It is home to one of the two of Hiroshima’s World Heritage Site, the Itsukushima Shrine since 1996.
2 | The Floating Torii Gate at Miyajima Island
The first sight of the floating torii gate, as the boat neared the shore, was a magnificent view with the backdrop of the mountains. The iconic image of the huge vermilion gate, at high tide, partly in water, somewhat floating, full of elegance and style, where the tide sweeps beneath it and retreats in the distance.
This Torii gate is situated about 200 meters offshore from the Main Shrine. Seeing it from the distance, somewhat feels that the floating Shrine is perfectly balanced with its surrounding nature. There is something soothing about the waters that surrounds it.
At low tide, you can get an up-close and personal experience with the Torii gate. You can walk up to the foot of the huge legs that seems to stand freely on the seabed.
2.1 | The Amazing Craftmanship of the Floating Torii Gate at Miyajima Island
I was amazed to discover that the six pillars are also not buried in the seabed. It is 16 meters tall and weighs 60 tons. The thickness of the giant legs is astounding as is the remarkable craftmanship and engineering involved to ensure the structure stays balanced in water.
This floating torii gate floats freely, showcasing a remarkable engineering masterpiece as it is weighted down by its own weight. The two huge legs or pillars are made from 600-year-old Camphor trees and are weighted down by their own weight. Tons of stones inscribed with Buddhist sutras are inserted into the loop of the cross beams that form the roof of the gate. This is truly an amazing and remarkable structure, one that has to be seen to appreciate!
2.2 | Best Views of the Floating Torii Gate in Miyajima Island
The Itsukushima Shrine is a popular tourist attraction. It is also popular with locals and school teenagers. Most arrive at high tide to view the Shrine in “floating” which is great. They start making their way back to their hotel or home later in the afternoon.
Georgina suggests: Stay on a little longer for the tide to lower, so you can walk up to the Torii gate to take a close look at the incredible engineering that it presents. As well, if you could, stay till sundown for that amazing view of the torii gate and the horizon 😊 *Ensure you are using appropriate footwear when walking out to the Torii gate.
3 | Mount Misen (弥山) in Miyajima Island
Mount Misen is a Must visit destination when you are in Miyajima. The mountains have a powerful effect on people and is a popular hotspot of spiritual energy. It offers amazing scenery which makes it a place hard to forget. I can assure you, you will speak of your experiences here for many times with friends and family.
3.1 | A Sacred Mountain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mount Misen sits in the centre of Miyajima Island at 535m above sea level and is the highest peak in Miyajima. A Buddhist monk, Kukai (空海), also famously known as Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) who founded the Sangaku-Shinko faith, opened the mountain as an ascetic holy mountain site along with its temple in 806. Since then, Mount Misen has been regarded as a sacred mountain, by the followers of the Sangaku-Shinko faith which basically refers to “mountain worship”. Along with Itsukushima Shrine, Mount Misen is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. There are many historical landmarks in this untouched virgin forest which beckons a visit.
3.2 | 3 Options to Reach the
Summit of Mount Misen in Miyajima Island
Experience the energy which this mountain is known for and the opportunity to view the amazing beauty, observe the landmarks and the unique rocks along the way.
There are three ways to reach the summit of Mount Misen.
3.2.1 | Momijidani Station
One of the popular ways to access the summit of Mount Misen is via the Momijidani Station. With this option, you take a ropeway and then walk to the summit, but this requires a transfer (see below: Access). It is said that the ropeway gondola gives you a 360 degree panoramic view, coastal and sea view from every direction, islands dotting the Seto Inland Sea and mountain ranges fading into the distance.
Alternatively, there are several hiking routes up Mount Misen which you could consider.
There are three hiking routes.
3.2.2 | Three Hiking routes to the Summit of Mount Misen
1 | The Momiji Dani route
- 5 km
- It’s a hike along the Momiji River
- 90 minutes to 2 hours
2 | The Daishoin route
- 3 km
- Has long paved path, often referred to as the “Stone pavement of Prostitutes”, of about 2000 stone steps to visit Misen.
- 90 minutes to 2 hours
The Daishoin Route is one of the more popular routes. A steep hike of around 90 minutes, but the trails are beautiful. The stone steps certainly made it easier but it gets really steep towards the end. It offers amazing panoramic views and one can take many breaks, just to capture the surrounding awesomeness.
3 | The Omoto route
- 2 km
- It’s a hike through Omoto Park. It is said that this hike takes you through Komaga Forest, the second largest forest in Misen, where there are 100 year old large fir trees grow.
- 5 hours
During the hike, there is always someone else you pass, either they are quicker than you or are making their way back, and you do not feel alone here even if you are travelling solo. There is serenity and freshness in the air even when it was a hot day. People you pass, are friendly and we greet each other with a cheerie “konnichi-wa”. Some stop to ask if their photos could be taken and some just try to keep up with the walk up.
4 | Summit of Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
The summit of Mount Misen itself is home to uniquely shaped rocks which are mysterious in themselves. The summit itself is about a 10—minute climb from the Reikado Hall, but it is steep.
The main attraction was the Reikado Hall.
5 | Reikado Hall in Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
The Reikado Hall is associated with a Legend of Miracle – that a fire originally lit by Kobo Daishi himself as part of his religious training have been burning ever since, now for almost 1200 years.
The very same fire that has been burning for 1200 years was used to light the flame at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The water in the large kettle heated above the fire is believed to cure diseases.
5.1 | To drink or not to drink?
There are plastic cups made available for you if you wish to try some. I did. The water is not clear as that of normal boiled water, but appeared and tasted more like tea. I am not sure if it has cured any of my illnesses, only time will tell 😊
You could also light a candle in respect of your wishes. There are candles in various writings on them – for good health, prosperity, success or relationship. You choose the one that you want to wish for and light them.
6 | Misen Hondo Hall
Misen hondo Hall is a holy hall built on the former training site used by Kobo Daishi. You will find this on Mount Misen, near to Reikado Hall.
There were a number of climbers who did not continue on to the summit but used their time here to relax, enjoy the views and the unspoilt nature around them. I did not spend too much time here, perhaps just about half-an-hour, then the summit and off down to sea level to catch the low-tide beauty of the Itsukushima Shrine, the Torii gates and some “yaki-gaki”.
Travel tips and practical information when considering Mount Misen
- Suitable footwear, such as good hiking boots and clothing are important. Dress for the weather.
- The hike can take anything up to 2 hours, so take water or other fluids with you to keep you hydrated. Drink frequently but in small amounts.
- Take time to rest frequently, not just to build up your stamina but also to wander in the picturesque scenery which you will come to.
- The trail is bathroom free, so a visit to the bathroom before the hike is recommended.
- Beware of snakes, after-all, this is a virgin forest!
- The ropeway station is a ten-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine or a 20-minute walk from the Miyajima ferry pier. The ride up the mountain takes 15 minutes and requires a transfer of ropeways along the way.
- The Momijidani Line ride up is 10 minutes with 1-minute intervals.
- The Shishiiwa Line ride up is 4 minutes with 5 to 15 minutes intervals.
- From the upper station at Shishi-iwa, it is a 30 minute walk up to the summit along a steep hiking trail. The Misen Hondo and Reikado buildings are located along the trail, about 10 minutes before the summit.
- Ropeway times: Going up – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. | Down – 8:20 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
7 | Main Street in Miyajima Island
The Main Street of the island — an experience of island life which is totally different to Hiroshima City.
7.1 | Omotesando Shopping Street
This 350-meter long main street in Miyajima Island is a market street like many others in Japan, and is dedicated to restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. It is the busiest place on the Island.
There are stalls selling food to enjoy as you walk along. Miyajima is also famous for its rice spatulas made of wood, called shakushi. You will see the largest Shakushi in the world, 5 meters long here.
7.2 | Food in Miyajima Island
Miyajima is popular for its Momiji-manju cakes and its oysters, the yaki-gaki (grilled oysters).
The Momiji-manju cakes are shaped like maple leaf and is filled with red sweet bean (anko). There are also other varieties such as custard fillings. These Momiji-manju are found all over the island and in the shops along the Omotesando Street. These are freshly made, and you could watch it being made in some shops. You can buy some to take back with you or just try them when they are warm — absolutely divine and delicious.
It is quite acceptable here to eat your way around Miyajima as store fronts serve you with choices of meat and other delights on sticks and wrapped in paper.
Miyajima is popular for its yaki-gaki — a staple dish for the fishermen and women who put in long hours on the water, but more recently it has become among tourists also.
The yaki-gaki, oysters are a signature dish of the island, harvested daily from its shores. They have been cultivated in Hiroshima Bay for over 400 years. They are fresh, delicious and pretty much available at all the restaurants in Miyajima Island. They come in various choices — grilled, steamed or deep fried, topped in udon dishes and okonomiyaki.
Walking along the Omotesando Street, you can feel the smoky air. The street vendors grill the oysters to perfection in a quick and easy fashion. The oysters here are small, a little sweet and has low liquid content. The low liquid content means that they do not shrink much upon cooking, therefore they need to be cooked fast, which makes them perfect for the grill on high heat. The high heat ensures that the oysters are grilled to perfection, charring the shells and giving the oysters a smoky finish. Absolutely perfect and goes well with some sake.
8 | The deer of Miyajima Island
As you may know, deer are deemed sacred in Japan. However, the island’s deer do seem a little more aggressive and authentically wild than the ones I have noted in Nara, probably because they can retreat to the mountains for natural food which requires them to use their natural instincts.
Though they are cute, be aware that they can sneak up behind you at the sight of paper or tissue. Yes, Miyajima’s deer eat paper! A deer ate the wrapper to my Momiji-manju cake when I was sitting on the bench watching the sunset!
9 | Sunset
As the day draws to late afternoon and the evening breeze sets in, you will note the crowds heading back and the place becomes quieter, especially after 5 pm.
As the sun sets into the evening, the sea-front becomes a mesmerising scene with stone lanterns lit and the Torii gate illuminated with floodlights.
The scene is one which you have seen in many photos, one is shared above. Unfortunately, I ran out of battery and I could not capture the many moments that were presented before me for you, but it has left me with a lasting memory of Miyajima Island.
10 | Quiet moments to appreciate the island vibes and the Pagoda
When you return from the mountains, have tasted some of the island’s specialities, when the crowd has dwindled down, you may want to:
10.1 | Just soak up the island vibes and watch the ferries come and go.
10.2 | A quick visit to the 5-storey pagoda
The five-storey pagoda on Miyajima Island is a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture. Built in 1407, and sitting atop a hill, the architecture is a prime example of Zen Buddhism and admirable from all angles.
Where to Stay on Miyajima Island
Most tourists stay in Hiroshima and visit Miyajima on a day trip which is what I did also but my visit to Hiroshima was a short one. I look forward to returning to Miyajima and it will definitely include a few days stay on the island. I think the serenity of Miyajima Island is best experienced by staying, at least overnight on this incredible island. If you are planning on staying on the island, the following places to stay are highly recommended by my friends who have personally stayed on the island and have experienced the excellent hospitality of the accommodations..
Best Places to Stay on Miyajima Island
1 | Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto
The Miyajima Grand Hotel is conveniently located, about 3 minutes from Itsukushima Shrine. The hotel offers both western and Japanese traditional rooms. There is an outdoor natural hot spring bath, which is separate for men and women. Accommodations are offered to single travellers and up to eight people.
Learn more and book your stay at Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto
2 | Jukeiso, Miyajima Island
Jukeiso is located near the woodlands, away from the crowds, overlooks the sea and the magnificent torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine. The accommodation offers traditional ryokan and traditional bedding on raised platforms if you do not wish to sleep on the tatami covered floor. There is a private Onsen located outdoors for that magical experience under the stars with views of the floating torii gate lit up at night.
Check availability of this highly rated accommodation and book your stay at Jukeiso.
For more choices go to superb places to stay on Miyajima Island for a complete list.
TRAVEL TIPS AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON MIYAJIMA ISLAND
For Itsukushima Shrine, please click here for pricing and opening times.
1 | Getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima
I shall just list two options here as I think these were the easiest, quickest and gives you the opportunity to experience more of Hiroshima.
1.1 | Aqua Net ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima-World Heritage Sea Route (45 minutes)
This is the fastest and direct route to Miyajima without complicated connections.
- The boat goes through the Motoyasu River and then into Hiroshima Bay.
- The boat passes slowly when going through the river, giving you the opportunity to go on deck and enjoy the views of Hiroshima City
- When the boat comes into the Bay, it picks up speed and no deck viewing is allowed.
Prices: One-way and Round-trip
One-way: Adult (12+) 2200 Yen
Child (6-11) 1100 Yen
Round-trip: Adult (12+) 4000 Yen
Child (6-12) 2000 Yen
- Round-trip ticket is valid for 2 days
**Prices correct at time of update, Aug 3, 2022
1.2 | Railway Route: Miyajima Pier to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Atomic Bomb Dome)
- Take the ferry at Miyajima Pier in Miyajima to Miyajimaguchi Pier in Hiroshima. The ferry ride is 10 minutes.
- A short, 1-minute walk from Miyajimaguchi Pier, is the tram station. Board the tram and get off at Genbaku-Dome Mae stop (Atomic Bomb Dome). This journey is 50 minutes.
- From here it is 1-minute walk to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Ferry ride: Adults – 180 Yen / Child – 90 Yen
**Prices correct at time of update, Aug 3, 2022
ADD TO YOUR ITINERARY ON MIYAJIMA ISLAND
If time is afforded, you may like to add the following activities to your Miyajima Island itinerary.
1 | Climb Mount Futaba
Located behind Hiroshima station is a 10 kilometre Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail that connects 16 shrines and temples. It takes a good half a day to complete the trail but the hike up to the mid-section where most of the shrines and temples are just a few kilometres and takes a couple of hours.
You may want to follow the trail that leads to Toshogu shrine on Mount Futaba. Toshogu Shrine is a popular Shinto shrine established in 1648 and is dedicated to Tokugawa Shogunate Ieyasu. The shrine is accessed by steep stone steps and a tunnel of torii gates. From here, you could continue on to Peace Pagoda, built in 1966 by monks.
2 | Day trip to Sandankyo Gorge
If you are a nature lover, this is one place you should not miss! The beautiful gorge runs through the mountains in the northwest of Hiroshima City. Sandankyo Gorge is one of Japan’s top five valleys of special beauty. It is a favourite destination for those seeking an escape from the city, to bathe in the natural surroundings and do some hiking. Trekking the trails can take anything from 2 to 5 hours and you are treated to waterfalls and natural pools.
Take the express bus from Hiroshima Bus Centre that leaves 8:15 a.m. The journey takes 80 minutes. The return bus leaves Sandankyo Gorge at 3:00 p.m.
Basics for Hiroshima City Travel
For your convenience, I have compiled the following links to hotels, tours and other services to support your travel to Hiroshima.
1 | Where to Stay
2 | Best Tours to Maximise Your Experiences in Hiroshima
1 | Discover Hiroshima in 6.5 hours by joining a bus tour of the World Heritage Sites and other highlights of the city. This tour includes lunch and an audio guide.
2 | Enjoy the traditions of Japanese culture of the tea ceremony or a calligraphy while wearing a kimono on the island of Miyajima.
3 | Hiroshima is well-known for its Sake, Japanese rice wine and a visit to one of the region’s premier sake breweries is an essential experience. Join this best selling visit to a brewery founded in 1873 and enjoy a delicious sake hotpot for lunch.
4 | Explore Hiroshima and Miyajima with a local guide and see all the sites that are deeply rooted in the city’s history. Learn about the life and resilience of the people of Hiroshima.
5 | Taste Hiroshima’s best food and drink in a bar hopping food tour.
3 | Other Essential Services for Hiroshima Travel
1 | Travel Insurance (with Covid cover)
2 | Check easily for Visa requirements and Apply for Visa to visit Japan
MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON MIYAJIMA ISLAND
Finally, I’d just say that my visit to Miyajima Island was one of the many memorable ones in Japan. This is a destination I would return to, with a stay on the island instead of the mainland in Hiroshima City. It is difficult to narrow down from the 10 experiences I have listed above. If you really do not have a whole day here, perhaps just visit the Itsukushima Shrine, walk-out to the torii gate at low tide or take a kayak tour when it is high tide (there were no kayak tours when I visited but you may be lucky) and take the ropeway up Mount Misen.
When you visit this island, I am certain that you will have an unforgettable experience too ☺️
Now it’s your turn – let me know what you think. Was this post valuable to you to aid your travel plans to Miyajima Island? If so, use the links embedded in this guide and related posts to book your activities, and places to stay. We earn a commission from qualified purchases at zero cost to you. You could support TTS in other ways also. We appreciate your continued support to keep this blog going.
Have a splendid time exploring Miyajima Island!
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Miyajima Island – 10 Ultimate Experiences not to be missed first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
Update: Aug 9, 2022
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