Itsukushima, popularly known as Miyajima Island or ‘the shrine island’, is part of an inland sea found in Hiroshima Bay. It’s about a 10 minute ferry ride from Hiroshima to Itsukushima, which is a worthwhile journey to take if you don’t get sea sick. The island and the waters of the inland sea are within Setonaikai National Park. These waters are affected by strong tides, so at low tide the ocean floor is revealed, and at high tide the water rises to nearly take over one of the most famous attractions at Itsukushima: the Itsukushima shrine. The landscape of the island is mountainous and the entire population only amounts to about 2000 people. Deer wonder the island in large numbers – even on the roads! It’s not uncommon for tourists to pet and get photos with them, as they’ve grown accustomed to human contact. There are also wild monkeys all over the forests and the mountain on the island. It is quite rural, there aren’t even any traffic lights. But Miyajima is always one of my favourite places to visit, it is simply such a beautiful place to be.
Itsukushima shrine, also known as the torii gate or the ‘floating’ torii gate, is built over the water on the shores of Miyajima Island. The idea that it is floating over the water is because when the tide is high, the water rises the touch the bottom of the shrine and it looks as though it is really floating. The shrine has multiple buildings including a main hall, a noh theater, and a prayer hall. These are all connected by boardwalks that sit above sea level so tourists can safely visit the shrine at high tide. During low tide, it is not uncommon to see people walking out to the torii gate to see up close.
The torii gate at low tide
Itsukushima shrine complex
The shrine when the water is high + some tourists on the boardwalk
Mount Misen is a holy mountain and the highest peak (at 500m) on Miyajima Island. It has been worshiped as early as 806AD, when it was first visited by Kukai – a Japanese monk who founded the ‘true word’ school of Buddhism. For eons the mountain has been religiously important. When the weather is clear, the top provides spectacular views of the sea and Hiroshima city. There are three hiking trails that lead up the mountain, but be warned; they are lengthy and generally steep. It takes between 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the summit, where you will find hollow Buddhist structures. There is an alternate route with a ropeway that leads from the town at the bottom to about 100m from the peak. However, this last 100m still needs to be hiked if you want to reach the top. In my opinion, taking one route up and a different route down makes for some wonderful experiences and photo opportunities. The summit is beautiful and serene, making this a great stop for first time travelers to Japan.
The peak of Mount Misen
Photo taken from inside the car on the rope way
A view from the summit
Strangely enough, Miyajima is known for having the world’s largest rice scoop! It’s also referred to as a giant spatula or paddle, and is well over 5 meters long. It is showcased on Omotesando, the main shopping street. Along this street are an assortment of silly souvenirs available for purchase, like miniature rice scoops on key chains, tiny torii gates, chocolates purposely resembling deer poop and tons of other funny nic-nacs. There’s even a Hello Kitty shop! This is the perfect place for gift shopping, hard-to-shop-for family members or friends will be thrilled with all the cheery little gimmicks you can find!
Giant rice scoop Omotesando shopping street
Hello Kitty rice scoop themed toy
Daisho-in is a historical temple on Mount Misen. In the temple is a flame that is said to have been burning for over 1200 years, since the temple’s foundation. The temple was founded by Kukai, the Japanese monk (see above: Mount Misen). In 1991 it suffered horrible damage caused by a typhoon; it’s restoration was completed by 1998, where a memorial service was held. Itsukushima shrine tends to over shadow Daisho-in, but it is definitely worth the look.
Niomon Gate, Daisho-in temple
Maniden Hall, Daisho-in temple
View from the Maniden Hall
Last time I stayed in Miyajima, we splurged and booked a room at the Miyajima Seaside Hotel (not to be confused with the Hotel Mijamiya Seaside Ryokan). The island works well as a day trip if you don’t want to spend extra by staying a night, but getting the chance to enjoy this scenery all over again at night is too good an opportunity to pass up! The ferry has a free shuttle bus that can take you to the doors of the hotel, and once you’re at the hotel you are only 20 minutes walk away from the furthest attraction on the island. From your room you have the option of scenic ocean views. TV and wi-fi are also available (for those who need electronic interaction!).
To see more, view images or book a room go to http://www.booking.com/ and search for ‘Miyajima Seaside Hotel’. As far as I am aware, it does not have it’s own website. If looking for a cheaper alternative, simply searching ‘Miyajima’ will provide multiple inexpensive options.
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