To visit one of Japan’s most iconic sights, you need to take a ferry to Miyajima. The floating torii at Itsukushima Shrine is one of Japan’s three most beautiful views and internationally famous as well. Here is a Miyajima travel guide to plan your visit.
Itsukushima (厳島) is a small island off of the coast of Hiroshima located between Honshu and Shikoku. The island is commonly known as Miyajima (宮島), or shrine island. Itsukushima Shrine is the most famous place on the island. Due to the volume of visitors, the shrine can become crowded. To avoid the crowds, visit the shrine in the early morning or evening and spend the rest of the day enjoying the other sights on the island.
Miyajima Travel Guide: how to get there
You can reach Miyajima easily by taking the shinkansen to Hiroshima from Kyoto or Tokyo. At Hiroshima station, switch to the JR Sanyo line and get off the train at Miyajimaguchi station. From the station, walk under the road and to the ferry station for the island. Two competing ferry companies will take you to Miyajima Island. Be sure to take the JR ferry. Both the train and ferry are covered by the JR Pass.
Alternately, if you are visiting Peace Memorial Park, you can take a 45 minute ferry ride to the island. This ferry is not covered by the JR Pass.
During my trip to the island, my first stop was the shopping arcade. To visit the shrine, you have to walk through the historic shopping arcade at Miyajima. The arcade has several of the standard tourist gifts from Japan as well as several snack shops. Since the day of my visit was a rare sunny day during the rainy season, my souvenir of choice was a sun umbrella (redhead problems).
I particularly enjoyed trying the Momiji Manjyu, a local pastry shaped like a maple leaf.
After navigating my way through the shopping arcade, the crowds thankfully thinned out as I walked through the torii gate to Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine dates to 1168 when Taira no Kiyomori built the shrine for his family. The shrine has long played a role in Japan’s consciousness. The floating torii gate is one of the Three Views of Japan (日本三景), a list of the three most famous and beautiful views of the country created centuries ago.
When I first walked into the shrine, the bay was at low tide and you could walk out to the floating gate and take a look at the pillars holding the gate in the sand. Fun fact: the pillars aren’t buried in the sand but stand on the stand with their own weight.
I wanted to see the famous view of the floating torii at high tide so I decided to take the gondola to the top of Mount Misen to spend some time enjoying the view of the inland sea.
I wanted to get a better view of the island and the heat was beginning to get to me. The gondola ride seemed like a perfect way to take a break and enjoy the view. I missed the walkway to the ropeway station, but stumbled upon the shuttle bus that takes you to the ropeway station. The hike to the station is quick, and the shuttle bus is also quick if nerve wracking due to the tight road.
The ropeway takes you close to the summit of Mount Misen. During the ride, I marveled at the view of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea Most of the ride was spent agreeing with my Japanese co-riders that the view was sugoi (terrific).
From the top of the ropeway station, it’s a short hike to the summit of Mount Misen. From the summit you can either take the ropeway back down the mountain or hike down the mountain and visit Daisho-In Temple.
Daisho-In is a Shingon Buddhist temple at base of Mount Misen. The focus of the temple is prayer for world peace. I chose to walk up the steps of the temple which have a unique railing in the center of the stairway. The railing contains hundreds of circular metal cylinders with kanji written on them.
The 600 cylinders contain the text of the Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom. By walking up the stairs and spinning each wheel, you can obtain the same merit as reading the sutra. The stairs were important in historic Japan when literacy rates among common people were low.
When you get to the top of the stairs, there are several buildings to visit. You can try your hand at sutra transcription or drink herbal tea made by the monks. I visited on a warm and humid June day and enjoyed finding a quiet bench to meditate and drink cool green tea. I made sure to get my Goshuincho stamped as well.
Hopefully this Miyajima travel guide has provided you with proof that Miyajima is a must-see attraction to add to your Japan itinerary. Have you visited Miyajima? What was your favorite part of your visit? Here are a few links for additional reading:
Have you visited Miyajima? If so, what was your favorite place to visit? Are you planning a trip to Japan? What questions would you like me to answer?