Nature & culture
Miyajima has been considered a holy place for most of Japanese history. In 806 AD, the monk Kōbō Daishi ascended Mt. Misen and established the mountain as an ascetic site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. In the years since, the island’s Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have maintained a close relationship. In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were shipped elsewhere to die, so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled.
Miyajima is a romantic place, best enjoyed by staying overnight at one of the island’s ryokan. There are many day tourists, but in the evening the area becomes much quieter and peaceful. There are wild deer on the island that have become accustomed to people. In the day the deer wander around the same sites as the tourists, and in the evening they sleep along the walking paths.
Miyajima is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on top of the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views. Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a large, red-lacquered complex of halls and pathways on stilts, originally so built that commoners could visit without defiling the island with their footprints. Weddings are occasionally held at the shrine, but that doesn’t bar visitors, and the priest’s ceremonial dance is a memorable sight.
You can also climb Mt. Mi-sen from there by ropeway or on foot along a climbing path. From the mountaintop, you can enjoy the beautiful scene of the numerous islands of the Seto Inland Sea. There are bathing beaches with campsites around the island, and sea bathers throng to the island in summer.
- From JR Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station by JR Sanyo train (25 min), Yen 410 one way or covered of course by the Japan Rail Pass. Then take the 10-minute ferry from Miyajimaguchi to the island, which operates every 15 mins or so. Ferries are operated by 2 rival companies, JR and Matsudai. Tip: If you have a Japan Rail Pass, make sure to take the JR ferry, as it is free with the Pass.
- Alternatively, you can get from Hiroshima city centre to Miyajimaguchi by tram, which is slower, only Yen 260 but not covered by the Japan Rail Pass (tram no.2, passing by the Peace Park too)
- There is also a ferry direct from Hiroshima – the “World Heritage Sea Route” ferry operated by Aqua Net. It runs from the Motoyasubashi Pier of the Hiroshima Peace Park, with departures once per hour between 08:30 and 17:10 (returns between 08:40 and 17:30). The ride is scenic, and the boat is fast once it leaves the river and gets out into the sea. It takes 45 minutes, ¥2000 one-way, ¥3600 round-trip (half-price for children).
Miyajima on our Google map