Japan is filled with beautiful and interesting places, and one of those is Miyajima Island. It provides the perfect day-trip from Hiroshima and shouldn't be missed even if it means squeezing it into an already busy itinerary. Here's how to get there and also what to see and do.
Brief overview of Miyajima
Miyajima translates to 'Shrine Island' and is famous for Itsukushima Shrine which consists of a giant, orange torii gate that gives the illusion of floating on the water during high tide. It is a World Heritage Site with a long history as a holy site of Shinto, an indigenous faith of the Japanese people. Furthermore, Mount Misen, the tallest peak on Miyajima, has been worshiped by the locals as early as the 6th century. It is said that Buddhism was first practiced on Mount Misen by Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect and one of Japan's holiest religious persons.
Perhaps the most memorable thing about Miyajima, however, is the abundance of deer. They roam freely everywhere and are extremely tame since they have shared this island with locals and visitors for hundreds of years. Though watch out if you're eating, they'll insist for a slice of the action!
Miyajima does attract a lot of tourists during peak season but I travelled during low season which is something you might also want to consider when planning your own trip if possible. Though regardless of what time of year it is, there's always plenty to do, including a mixture of hiking routes, temples, scenic views, greenery and the surrounding Seto Inland sea.
What can you see and do on Miyajima Island?
Ok, now that you've hopped off the ferry, it's time to explore! A pleasant and relaxing way to see the island is to take a stroll along one of its many charming walking trails. Miyajima is quite a large island, but its main attractions are concentrated in two main areas: the small town around Itsukushima Shrine and the summit of Mount Misen.
Explore the town and temples
I would recommend that you start your day on Miyajima Island off, by strolling through the small town that has formed around the Itsukushima Shrine. There are lots of little cafes and restaurants and some pretty side-streets to explore.
The centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine is one of Japan's most famed and photographed attractions. The shrine is located in a small inlet, while the torii gate is set out slightly further in the Seto Inland sea. Itsukushima Shrine is a complex of buildings, including a prayer hall, the main hall and the Noh theater stage. All buildings are connected by boardwalks and rest on pillars, seemingly floating above the sea.
The second most important temple on Miyajima Island is the Daisho-in Temple. It is know as the temple with over 500 Buddhist statues. As you walk around the site, you will see countless statues in many different shapes and sizes. As well as the temple's complex, these statues make the site very unique, and somewhat quirky when you climb the stairs and see hundreds of tiny statues of guardian deity of children wearing little woolly hats! I have no idea what significance these woolly hats have, but if you know I'd love you to share your answer in the comment box below! Also, within the temple grounds, there is a cave filled with 88 icons representing the temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.