The island of Miyajima, what to see and what to know before going?
Miyajima Island is an island only 50 km from Hiroshima. It is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and one of Japan’s most visited places by tourists thanks to its already famous Torii.
The Miyajima Torii belongs to the group of monuments of the Itsukushima Shrine. The Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine built on water in a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains. It is the busiest place on the island and although it is a very touristy place, it is worth a visit.
The Shrine was founded in the year 593. Although, unfortunately, like many other Japanese monuments, its main buildings were destroyed by fires at different times and rebuilt again. Therefore, the buildings that we currently find are from 1241, date of its last reconstruction.
The reason for being built on the sea is because the sanctuary is dedicated to a deity of the sea. Facing the sea and facing the great Torii is the main platform of the sanctuary where the hall of prayers (Haiden) and the hall of offerings (Heiden) are located.
If you are lucky you can witness the prayers of the monks accompanied by music and a scene worthy of being seen. In my case, I went around 8:30 in the morning and I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy all the curious rituals that take place.
Within the enclosure of the Itsukushima Shrine we also find a five-level pagoda, a two-level pagoda and several Honden (the most sacred building in a Shinto shrine made specifically to venerate the specific deity of that shrine).
The Great Torii of the Itsukushima Shrine
As mentioned earlier, the most famous building of the Itsukushima Shrine is its great Torii, which undoubtedly offers us one of the three most beautiful landscapes in Japan. It is 16.6 meters high and weighs 60 tons. Its vermilion color is based on the belief that this color keeps evil spirits away.
It is worth going early in the morning when the tide is still low. In that time you can walk next to the Torii and appreciate how the tide is rising gradually covering a part of it and all the beach to reach the main part of the Itsukushima Sanctuary.
Planned restoration works
The great Torii has also been rebuilt several times, the last of which was in 1875. Today, being in continuous contact with water, its bases are very worn out. So from June 3, 2019 restoration works are planned.
If you plan to visit Miyajima soon, make sure that the dates of your visit do not coincide with the restoration work. Otherwise, you will find it covered and under construction.
El Monte Misen
Apart from the Itsukushima Sanctuary on Miyajima Island we can also visit Mount Misen. Mount Misen, which is 530 meters high, is the highest peak on the island. It is accessible by cable car and from there you can enjoy the company of monkeys and deer that are found by the mountain and the views of the island from above.
How to get to Miyajima Island?
The cheapest way to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima is by tram. Hiroshima tram line 2 crosses the entire city so you can go to Miyajima direction Miyajima – guchi and get off at the last stop. From there you have to go to the pier next door to buy the ferry ticket.
The one-way fare from Hiroshima city centre is approximately 270 yen (2.3 euros) depending on which area you are in and it takes an hour and a half. The price of the return ferry is 360 yen (3 euros). Thus, the total trip from downtown Hiroshima to Miyajima Island is 900 yen (7.5 euros).
Another good way to get to Miyajima is to take the train at Hiroshima Station and get off at the Miyajima – guchi stop. From there you can take the ferry to the island. The fare is 410 yen (3.4 euros) and if you take the express train the trip takes about 30 minutes. The total price of the round trip by train from Hiroshima to Miyajima Island is 1,180 yen (10 euros).
Since the price does not vary much, my advice is to choose the way to go depending on how close you are to the tram and the train. Of course you will also have to take into account that by train the trip is 30 minutes and the tram an hour and a half.
Where to stay on the island of Miyajima?
In my opinion, you don’t have to sleep on Miyajima Island. You can arrive early in the morning which is when there are fewer people and the Torii is still not covered with water and spend a couple of quiet hours on the island visiting the Sanctuary. Still seen the Sanctuary, when the tide rises, unless you want to stay to see the sunset, everything is already seen.
However, if you plan to spend a night on the island to enjoy the sunset and sunrise you should know that hotel prices are quite high. A single night can cost you at least 40 euros. Among the best places to stay in Miyajima in terms of quality-price is the Sakuraya Hotel and the Miyajima Guest House Mikuniya, both near the Itsukushima Shrine and both affordable (as far as possible) for backpackers.
Is the island of Miyajima worth visiting?
Miyajima is so close to Hiroshima that it costs nothing to “lose” a morning to visit one of Japan’s most famous places. If you don’t like places full of tourists I advise you to go first thing in the morning with the first tram or the first train.
The great Torii, which is so hard to stop looking at, contrasts with the small details that you find every day in Japan and that so much define this country. Early in the morning, when the crowd has not yet arrived, the place has a special atmosphere. Silence takes over the bay, and the watchful and imposing Torii welcomes newcomers. He is naked but proud. With the arrival of the tourist masses and the noise, he blushes. The water, his eternal friend and companion, returns to dress him little by little. It makes him handsome and leaves him his mirror so that he can contemplate how the passage of time has not affected him at all.
After my visit to Miyajima Island, I returned to Hiroshima to pick up my suitcase and head to Fukuoka, a beautiful, modern coastal city considered the birthplace of Japanese civilization.
We always think there’ll be more time left, but it’s always over.
Have you ever been to Miyajima Island? Did you like it? Leave your opinion and if you found the post useful and interesting I encourage you to value it and to share it and values. Thank you!