Miyajima, or Shrine Island, is the nickname for the island formally named Itsukushima. The island is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, which was established in the 6th Century, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Next to the main shrine is Daiganji Temple, constructed around 1200 AD. Leading from the ferry docks to the shrine is a nice shopping street with dozens of stores selling, beer, snacks, gifts, and local oysters. The island is also famous for its maple leaves, rice scoops, and free-roaming deer that roam the town.
From Hiroshima to Miyajima, you can take a direct ferry from the Peace Park or take a train or streetcar, then a different ferry to the island.
Visit my Miyajima page here: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/15861/ed9aa/
I was skeptical about the appeal of Mt. Misen since one round trip ticket costed me 1800 yen, which was by far the most expensive ropeway I had ever used. "No view is worth this much, " I remember telling myself. Of course, Mt. Misen soon showed me just how small-minded I was since the ride felt like forever. At least, the amount of time I spent in the cable car was directly proportional to the money I had paid. Heh. When my friends and I alighted at Kayatani Station, I thought that this was it and geared myself to climb to the summit. Little did I expect to take a SECOND ropeway to Shishiiwa Station. So, 1800 yen might seem a little extravagrant but by no means was it a tourist trap. Plus, if you happen to have time on your hands, you may choose to walk back down, in which case you will only need to spend 1000 yen for an one-way ticket.
The Shishiiwa Observatory at Shishiiwa Station stands at 430 metres, which means that you will need to trek for about 100 metres before you reach the summit of Mt. Misen (535 metres). Mercifully, it was an enjoyable climb because the view of the Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) dotted islands was just gorgeous. Also, there were plenty of halls and humongous rocks to capture your attention along the way. Near the summit, this was when things got really interesting, for Kuguri-iwa (Duck-under rock) and Fudo-iwa (Acaia rock) were so big and placed so strategically to the summit that I felt humbled by the existence of some larger force other than myself. No better way to feel small and yet awed by the omnipotent Mother Nature!
Finally, we reached the summit and it was cool to take it easy and take in the view. In fact, a group of elderly Japanese were eating their bento lunches there; I got to hand it to these elderly Japanese. They were already in their 50s and 60s but here they were, trekking with the best of us without seeming to break a sweat. How rugged they were! Though I am not so sure about recommending that you bring your bento lunch to Mt. Misen in winter because the winds were fiendly cold!
Given that Itsukushima Shrine is so fondly regarded as one of Japan's top three sights, it is difficult for me to offer any insight that you can't already find for yourself through a quick Google search. In this instance, it is wise not to veer off the beaten path and skip the shrine altogether because it is indeed worth the hype. I have seen many photos of this huge red torrii rising out of the water and was resigned to taking photos taken from similar angles by many other budding photographers. Never did I expect to be so inspired by its awesomeness that I kept taking photo after photo that reflected my unique perspective. +1 for Narcissism! Anyway, here are a few things you may wish to take note to aid the preservation of your memory:
1) Tame wild deer roam in Miyajima, so be sensitive to their whereabouts and score a hit when you capture a photo of a wild deer with Itsukushima Shrine as the backdrop. I did so but the photo was taken via my iPhone *sheepish grin*
2) It will be good if you can stay on Miyajima for the greater part of the day. Why? I arrived at 11+ am when it was high tide and left around 3+ pm when it was low tide. Which goes to say that I have witnessed the majesty of Itsukushima Shrine for both conditions. Plus, being able to go out to the sea and observe the shrine up close and personal during low tide will add a few more utility points to your visit. You can even place coins on the torii so that you can earn yourself some good luck!
3) Don't scrimp on the 300 yen to the shrine itself! This is one trip where you will want to take multiple photos of yourself with the shrine as the backdrop at different locations. So, the shrine offers you a change in scene. Plus, it was fun to do what the locals did--paying my respects to the deities of the sea and praying for my prayer slip. Though it said that I would have pretty bad luck for the year of 2012. *Sigh*
The Daishoin Temple is one of the most prestigious Shingon Buddhist temples in Western Japan. The site is complex - in order to understand it, pick up a map of the temple precincts.
We were lucky to be shown round by a Hiroshima welcome guide, who was able to explain the temple to us.
Entry to the temple is via a flight of stairs from the Niomon Gate. There are sutras on brass cylinders attached to the balustrade. These are the six hundred volumes of the Dai-hannyakyo Scripture, written by a Chinese monk named Sanzo. It is believed that touching them will bring good fortune.
In the Worshippers' Hall you can try the (free) herb tea, which contains 16 herbs for good health.
The steps up to the Maniden Hall, or main prayer hall, are lined with Mani Wheels. Spinning the wheel is supposed to be equivalent to reading one volume of the Heart Sutra.
The Hen jyokutsu Cave contains the sand and principal icons of the 88 Buddhas of the pilgrimage route on Shikoku. Worshippers believe that they receive the same blessings as those who visit all 88 temples on Shikoku.
Look out for the Hochozuka monument. On March 8 a ceremony takes place in front of this monument to give thanks to old kitchen knives that are no longer usable.
Miyajima literally means 'Shrine Island' and has been revered as a sacred island because of the Itsukushima Shrine, founded in 593 AD.
It consists of the main shrine and several smaller shrines, connected by wide wooden corridors. The corridors stretch over the sea, so that when the tide is in, the shrine appears to be floating.
Before entering a shrine, it is customary to wash your hands using a wooden ladle of water in order to purify yourself. The shrines have a two-stage layout, with purification rooms to be used before approaching the shrines.
There are donations of painted sake barrels and individual prayers written on little wooden plaques. You can purchase these on-site. These are printed on one side and the prayer is written on the other. Most of the plaques we saw had a white rabbit printed on the back as it was the year of the rabbit.
There is also a stage where Noh Theatre plays are performed.
The shrine is a popular place to go at New Year. It is also popular for weddings. We just missed seeing a wedding, though we did see some of the guests in their kimono.
Admission to the shrine costs 300 yen. It is open daily 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (6.30 p.m. in summer).
Miyajima (Shrine Island) is a sacred island because of the Itsukushima Shrine.
The first sight you have of the island from the ferry is the orange/red Otorii Gate, the symbol of Miyajima, which stands on the ocean floor. It is made from camphor wood and is 16m high. When the tide is in, it appears to be 'floating', but it actually stands on the ocean floor, held up by its own weight. When the tide it out, you can walk out and stand beside it.
I was surprised how orange it looked, as it appears quite red in the travel brochures, but we were told that the new paint was more environmentally-friendly.
Once on Miyajima, there are many things to see (see separate tips).
Ranked as one of Japan's 3 most beautiful places, Miyajima is just an hour away via train from Hiroshima.
Any who visit Hiroshima should not want to miss the opportunity to see it. Give yourself at least half a day to see it and it is best to go in the morning so that you'll have plenty of time.
The main thing to see in Miyajima is Itsukushima Shrine and the Gate of Itsukushima Shrine (Torii).
Just a short train and ferry ride from Hiroshima is one of Japan’s most sacred temple complexes. Miyajima is one of Honshu’s most popular tourist attractions and every visitor is rewarded with an amazing experience. Expecting huge crowds of tourists, I was pleasantly surprised by the tranquillity of Miyajima. This was probably helped by the less than favourable foggy weather and ridiculously early time of arrival that we chose!
The island itself lies off the Sanyo coast and as well as the magnificent temple complex, the island is a walker’s paradise with several trails leading up into the central hills past tiered pagodas, grazing deer and pristine wooded landscapes – the felling of trees is forbidden on Miyajima. The island has no cemeteries or maternity facilities as nobody is allowed to give birth or die on the island...how this is enforced I’m not quite sure!
For all the beauty, peace and magnificence present on the island itself, it is what lies just off shore that grabs the headlines. Proclaimed as one of Japan’s three most scenic views, the floating torii of Itsukushima, is a must see for any visitor to the region.
Located on the island of Miyajima, the Itsukushima Shrine is one of Japan’s most sacred complexes. The ancient shrine was founded in 593 but has been extended and rebuilt may times over the centuries. The shrine is dedicated to the 3 daughters of the Shinto deity Susano no Mikoto. Like the torii gate the shrine is affected greatly by the tide in that at high tide the complex and shrine are suspended above the water on stilts and at low tide there is no water surrounding the shrine. Beside the shrine is Japan’s oldest surviving Noh stage.
The floating Torii of Itsukushima is one of Japan’s most famous sites and even without the splendour of the Itsukushima Shrine and Miyajima Island is well worth the short ferry ride over from Hiroshima. The torii gate lies just offshore from the island and if you visit at low tide you can actually walk up to the gate. We chose to visit at sunrise and managed to see the gate at relatively low tide and (not low enough to walk out however!) and watched as the tide crept into the bay and around and under the temple complex. To be honest, I think the torii is more photogenic at high tide anyway although we were unlucky with the misty weather. However, it did add a certain atmosphere to the place and the torii appearing from the mist is one of my most memorable experiences in Japan. The torii was first constructed in the 12th century by Taira no Kiyomori but was reconstructed since. The present day torii dates from 1875 and measures approx 16 metres in height. Historically any visitor to the island had to enter through the torii by boat at high tide.
Miyajima means shrine island and it mainly refers to Itsukushima Shrine which is famous for its floating torii gate. The shrine and its torii gate are unique for being built over water, seemingly floating in the sea during high tide. The admission fee is 300 JPY. It is open daily from 6:30 to 17:30. Besides Itsukushima Shrine, you can also visit Daisho-in Temple which belongs to Shingon Buddhism, Kiyomori Shrine, Daiganji Temple, Tahoto Pagoda and Five Storeyed Pagoda. Just like Nara, you will see many deers wandering around the island. You can also reach to the top of Mount Misen by using walking courses around parks or by using Miyajima Ropeway. Miyajima is easy to reach from Hiroshima and a full day can be spent visiting the shrines and enjoying eating the famous okonomiyaki before leaving the island. To reach Miyajima, you can take train of JR Sanyo Line from JR Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station (25 minutes, 400 JPY one way, JR Pass covers the trip) or take tram line no 2 (40 minutes, 270 JPY one way). Then you have to take ferry to the island either from JR or Matsudai ferry companies. (10 minutes, 170 JPY one way, JR Pass covers JR ferries)
Most photographed torii in Japan, appears to be floating in the sea, less impressive when low tide.
accessible by streetcar and JR line from Hiroshima sta.30 mins, walk from station to ferry port 10 min. cross-over by ferryboat 30 min . JR rail pass holder be sure to use the JR ferry
The shrine was first built in 593, then rebuilt in 1168 on the same scale as it is today. It's pier-like construction is a result of the island's holy staturs: commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and had to approach the shrine by boat, entering through the torii in the bay.
The shrine consists mainly of red pillars, which is impressive, but most of the time it is not surrounded by water but by mud. Only the very lucky ones experience the shrine and torii "really floating".
Nevertheless, it was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996.
Admission Y300, open 6.30am - sunset daily
Mount Misen provides some nice walks through the forest, leading to several elevated points on the island. Apparently, most people ascending Mount Misen do it by cablecar (which was closed at the time of our visit), and as most of the visitors stay around Itsukushima-jinja and the little town, the paths are quiet - at least we didn't meet a single person. The fact that it's pleasant to get away from the crowds makes it already worth the effort, but the beautiful views of the island and the Inland Sea definitely contribute to the experience!
A true beauty, Daisho-in is Miyajima's most important temple. It once oversaw the administration of the Itsukushima-jinja and is a temple with everything: statues, gates, pools and carp. Amazingly, most people don't seem to get this far, the temple was very quiet though it is just behind the town and can be visited on the way down Misen.