Miyajima Island which in Japanese means “Shrine Island” was a day trip we did while staying in Kyoto. It is an absolutely beautiful island full of life, shrines, tiny streets, and various things to explore. From the moment you arrive and you see the huge tori gate to the sight of deer packs roaming free everywhere. It is just a perfect combination of traditional Japanese architecture, nature, location, and cuisine. If you have a day (or two would be better) to spend we highly recommend the island of Miyajima!
Itsukushima (厳島) is an island in the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan, located in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima (宮島), which in Japanese means “Shrine Island”. The island is one of Hayashi Gahō’s Three Views of Japan specified in 1643. Itsukushima is part of the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Getting to the island is quite easy and convenient from Hiroshima Bay. In a typical organized way, you get in a line waiting for the ferry to arrive. You are on a boat for no more than than 35 minutes. Everything is very quick and nicely setup so you do not waste time. In less than an hour, you can be on the island ready to explore.
The “floating” tori gate that welcomes you on the island is part of the Itsukushima shrine and probably one of the most famous tori gates worldwide. The shrine is quite popular partially due to the great combination of scenery and location. Have in mind that the island is overall quite busy and there were lines to get inside of the shrine. We walked around it and got as close as possible without getting wet to the Torri gate. It was low tide.
The shrine looked absolutely beautiful from the outside and if we were not short on time we would have gone inside. At the time we were there however it was quite busy and we did not want to spend much time waiting. We tried the local cuisine (for which also you had to wait in most of the places) and just enjoyed exploring the areas around the shrine. It turns out it has tons of history and religious significance which we did not know at the time. There were boats full of people passing through the tori gate almost every hour.
The shrine complex itself consists of two main buildings: the Honsha shrine and the Sessha Marodo-jinja, as well as 17 other different buildings and structures that help to distinguish it. The complex is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and six of its buildings and possessions have been designated by the Japanese government as National Treasures.
The temple was designed and built to look like it is floating on the water. As a matter of fact, it would have been if we did not have a low tide when we were visiting. Overall a great looking attraction and cultural treasure which we highly recommend. If we had at least a day more to spend at the island we would have visited it in combination with the Toyokuni Shrine.
Another shrine which made a great impression on us was the Toyokuni Shrine. You can see it from the ferry when arriving at the island with its five stories high pagoda (Gojunoto). The temple is built 500 years ago and is dedicated to the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (one of the three unifiers of Japan in the 16th century).
The streets around the island really made am impression on us. The ancient temples on one side and the cherry blossoms on the other. Plenty of small cozy boutique/souvenir shops and restaurants. The deers which were running around not bothered by the people at all were the last ingredient to make this place one of our absolute favorites. Just make sure you protect your belongings from them. They ate almost half of ours! 🙂
As a matter of fact, we have it actually documented in our Japan trip video where the deer started eating various papers from our bag while we were enjoying the views. It did not bother to stop ever after we repeatedly tried / “asked” hereto. Pay attention and enjoy this beautiful island. We surely miss it already!