Miyajima, Japan

Miyajima, also called Itsukushima, is an island in the Inland Sea a short distance from Hiroshima. Schedule a day to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site to explore some of Japan’s famous shrines and the iconic Great Torii.

Share this
View MAP

Transportation to Miyajima, Japan

A perfect excursion from Hiroshima is a visit to Itsukushima. More commonly called Miyajima, the island hosts several historic temples and shrines plus one of Japan’s most iconic sites, the Great Torii of Itsukushima. You have three choices to make the trip across Hiroshima Bay. Most people take a train or tram from the JR Hiroshima station to the Miyajimaguchi Ferry Terminal. Ferries depart every 15 minutes for the short ride. Another ferry service originates at the Prince Hotel for a 30 minute journey. Finally, a scenic option is the 45 minute cruise on the Honkawa or Motoyasu River. This sightseeing boat departs from the Motoyasubashi Pier near the A-bomb Dome within Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Enlarge/Slideshow

1 Miyajima Port at Miyajima, Japan

The cultural, religious and historic significance of Itsukushima is amazing despite being less than 12 square miles square. Miyajima was first used for a shrine by Empress Suiko during the late 6th century. Since then, Shrine Island has earned countless accolades. The first was in 1643 when Shunsai Hayashi named it among the “Three Most Scenic Spots in Japan” in his book “Nihon Kokujisekikou.” In 1996, UNESCO declared Miyajima a World Heritage Site. It has also been designated as a National Treasure of Japan. Come see why over five million people visit every year.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

2 What to See at Miyajima, Japan

Miyajima is easy to explore. All of the famous sites are within a half hour walk of this ferry terminal. If you are in a hurry, you can visit the key Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples plus pagodas within two to three hours. But give yourself more time to also enjoy the aquarium, folklore museum and stores along Machiya Street and the Omotesando Shopping Arcade. A full day allows you to include the Misen Climbing Path. This circular route can include Omoto Park, the Misen Primeval Forrest, lookouts on Mt. Misen (elevation 1,755 feet), the Ropeway ride and Momijidani Park.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

3 Begging Wild Deer at Miyajima, Japan

The unofficial welcoming committee at Miyajima is the sika deer. Although wild, they are docile and appear tame while strolling among the tourists looking for handouts. You are repeatedly warned not to feed them. But the deer can’t read the signs. So watch your belongings while snapping their photo. These skillful theves will snatch anything you don’t carefully guard. You will assume the deer you encounter are fawns because of their spots. However, the cervus nippon is one of a few species who maintain their spots at maturity.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

4 Toyokuni Shrine at Miyajima, Japan

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a feudal lord (daimyō). During his ascent to power in the 16th century, he was accomplished in battle, banned arms among nobility and persecuted Christians. Before his death in 1598, he ordered the construction of a Buddhist library in honor of war dead. The wooden structure was called Senjokaku meaning Pavilion of 1000 Mats. The Irimoya style hall was never finished although it remains the island’s largest building. Senjō-kaku was later converted into the Toyokuni Shrine and is reserved for Shinto rituals.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

5 Five-storied Pagoda at Miyajima, Japan

The Five-storied Pagoda was built in 1407 and dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine. Predominately following Japanese design – one of the country’s finest – it is accented with decorations similar to leek and lotus flowers. The eaves are coated with red lacquer and the roof is covered with cypress bark. Goju-no-to Pagoda is over 90 feet high yet seems taller from its elevated position on a hill overlooking Itsukushima Shrine.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

6 Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima, Japan

The Itsukushima Shrine was founded in 593 by Saeki Kuramoto who considered the island to be a deity (kami). Hence the name: Itsukushima means “Island of Worship.” The Main Shrine was built in 1168 using a shinden-zukuri syle and reconstructed in 1571. Throughout its history, sailors and fisherman have prayed here to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto, the goddesses of the sea, transport and fortune. The Main Shrine is connected to the Marodo and Tenjin Shrines plus the Noh Theatre. They are all painted a bright vermillion to ward off evil and disease. They are also built on piers to accommodate the ebbs and flows of the changing tide. In the background are the Toyokuni Shrine and the Five-storied Pagoda.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

7 Daiganji Temple’s Gomado Hall at Miyajima, Japan

Daiganji is a Buddhist temple (called Kikyozan Hokoin) belonging to the Shingon sect. It was founded during the 6th century, reconstructed in 1203 and is dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of elegance, music and wealth. Pictured is Gomado Hall which was built in 2006. It is adjacent to the Main Hall where several notable Buddha statues are enshrined representing Mercy, Wisdom and Gautama. Another famous Buddhist temple on the island is Daisho-in located along the Misen Climbing Path in the Misen Forest.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

8 Row of Pedestal Lanterns at Miyajima, Japan

Rows of lanterns are common to light a pathway (sandō) leading towards a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine like these along the waterfront at Miyajima. The Japanese word for a platform lamp is dai-dōrō. When it is made from stone, it is called ishi-dōrō and a pedestal version is tachidōrō. Their shape symbolizes the five elements of Buddhist cosmology. The onion-shaped top (hōju) represents kū meaning spirit, void or the afterlife.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

9 Great Torii at Miyajima, Japan

At the mouth of an inlet at Miyajima is the famous Great Torii, the floating gate to Itsukushima Shrine. The original torii was built in 1168. The current version – number eight – dates from 1875. The free-standing, vermillion O-Torii Gate is 55 feet tall, weighs 60 tons and is constructed from camphor and cedar trees; some are over 500 years old. At low tide, you can walk out to admire this national treasure but the exposed seabed is muddy. At high tide, boat rides are available to sail among the six pillars.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

10 Sori-bashi Footbridge at Miyajima, Japan

There is so much to see at Miyajima that you can find yourself racing along to discover the next hall, temple or shrine. Slow down. Enjoy the nuances such as the elegant Sori-bashi footbridge leading to Itsukushima Shrine. Savor the 1,870 foot beach at Tsutsumigaura Recreational Park. Explore the ancient alleys. Stroll the elevated Yamabe Path and smile at the charming Jizo statues, the guardian of children and travelers. Treat yourself to Momiji Manjya, a bean paste candy. Only then should you take a ferry back to Hiroshima.

Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588, Japan
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions
TOP