Miyajima Island: Our Complete Travel Guide

Miyajima

Miyajima Island: Our Complete Travel Guide

Miyajima is a picture-perfect island off the coast of Hiroshima. It is the best day trip to take if you want to escape that bustling city. Miyajima is really easy to get to and has so much to offer in terms of culture and local traditions. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Miyajima is one of the most popular tourist’s destinations in Japan. Some even call it the “Island of God”! It is also considered one of the three best views of Japan, and it’s easy to see why. The contrast between the surrounding deep blue sea, the green forest of Mount Misen and the vermilion lacquer of Miyajima’s shrines is just magical.

View of the torii from the Itsukushima Shrine.

A view of the torii from the Itsukushima Shrine.

How long to stay on the island?

Miyajima is a great day trip from Hiroshima and it’s possible to take in most of its attractions in a single day. But if you have more time, I would strongly suggest staying at least overnight, to truly soak up the atmosphere. We spent two nights there, arriving on a late afternoon ferry ride. Most of the day-trippers depart the island around six o’clock, leaving it almost deserted. You will get to enjoy the sunset and see the island’s landmarks illuminated at night. It’s great for nighttime photography.

Night shot of the torii.

A night shot of the torii.

How to get to Miyajima?

If like us you already have a valid JR pass then you should hop on the Sanyo Line from Hiroshima Station and get off at Miyajimaguchi Station. The train ride is normally ¥410 one way, but it is covered by your JR pass. The journey takes about half an hour and is very easy going.

From Miyajimaguchi station, cross the road to the JR Ferry Terminal and hop on one of their ferries. There are two ferry companies, JR and Matsudai, so make sure you take the right one! Ferries to Miyajima leave every fifteen minutes and the crossing takes only ten minutes. The ride costs ¥180, but if you have a JR pass the cost is included.

If you don’t have a JR pass, you can instead catch the no. 2 tram to the ferry terminal, from either Hiroshima Station or the A-Bomb Dome station. The tram is cheaper (¥260 one way) but it takes twice as long.

If money is no concern take a direct boat from Hiroshima Peace Park. This will get you to Miyajima in fifty-five minutes for¥3600 return.

Arriving on the island.

Arriving on the island.

What to see and do in Miyajima?

Itsukushima Shrine and the floating Torii

The first thing you’ll see as you approach Miyajima is the beautiful vermillion torii gate standing tall in the water at the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. This Torii gate is the main attraction on Miyajima. It’s also one of the most photographed Torii gates in Japan. At high tide, the Torii and its shrine appear to be floating on the water. At low tide you’ll see many people walking out to the base of the Torii, wandering around beneath it and taking the obligatory selfie beside it! If you stay overnight in Miyajima, you will get to enjoy both tides.

The floating torii

The floating torii.

The floating torii at low tide.

Walking out to the floating torii at low tide.

Once you finish taking pictures of the Torii, visit the Itsukushima Shrine itself. The entire shrine is built out over the bay on a pier-like structure. It was built this way to protect the island. The island was a holy place and commoners were not allowed to step foot on it. The only way they could enter the shrine was by boat, arriving through the Torii gate. Within are several halls and shrines connected by lantern-lit corridors. It looks especially nice at night when those lanterns are lit.

Entrance fee:  ¥300 per adult.

The Itsukushima Shrine complex.

The Itsukushima Shrine complex.

The main building of the Itsukushima Shrine .

The main building of the Itsukushima Shrine.

Inside the Itsukushima Shrine.

Inside the Itsukushima Shrine.

The Itsukushima Shrine at night.

The Itsukushima Shrine at night.

Meet the locals!

As in Nara, Miyajima is home to white tail deer. They are everywhere, welcoming you at the ferry terminal, roaming the main street, and photo bombing your torii shots! In fact, you’ll find them wherever the tourists are. They are a real attraction themselves!

Photobombed!

Photobombed!

Although they are very, very cute, these deer can be awfully sneaky and their favourite snacks are tourist maps. Yes, maps; I never knew that paper could be so tasty! So keep your pocket secure from these furry little pickpockets! They also like to snatch any snacks you might have!

Lying on a bed of blossom petals.

Lying on a bed of blossom petals.

Walking through the streets at night we would spot many deer taking a long nap after an exhausting day spent chasing tourists. As animal lovers, they were our favourite part of the island.

Deers relaxing!

Another deer.

Daisho-in Temple

The Daisho-in temple is located at the base of Mt Misen. The temple is very peaceful and it has a magical feel to it. Because it’s up the hill (just a ten-minute walk), it has great views out over the bay and the surrounding area, especially during cherry blossom season and during autumn.

The view from the Daisho-in Temple

The view from the Daisho-in Temple.

This temple is big on statues. It has hundreds of them scattered all over its grounds. Some are very large, such as the two Nio guardians at the Niomon Gate, the main entrance to the temple. Some are much smaller, such as the cute Kawaii monk statues found in every corner of the temple.

Daisho-in Temple

The Daisho-in Temple.

One of the highlights of the temple are the five hundred Rakan statues with their colourful knitted hats. You’ll see them on your left as you climb the stairs up from the main gate; you can’t miss them. These statues represent the disciples of the Shaka Nyorai (the Japanese name for Siddhartha, the historical Buddha). If you look closely you will see that every statue has a unique facial expression. It’s pretty incredible.

The 500 Rakan statues.

The 500 Rakan statues.

More Rakan statue.

More Rakan statues.

View over the 500 Rakan statues.

Henjokutsu Cave

Another highlight is the dimly lit Henjokutsu Cave. It houses eighty-eight icons representing the eighty-eight temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage route. Worshippers who come here believe that they will receive the same blessings as those who make the full pilgrimage. That seems like a pretty sneaky shortcut to us!

Lanterns at the Henjokutsu Cave.

The lanterns at the Henjokutsu Cave.

This temple is one of a kind. I say that because Simon is not a fan of temples. To him, temples are often “all the same”. Like me, I’m sure many of you will disagree with him, but it did make our visit to Japan a bit tricky in that regard. There are so many temples to see that he quickly began to suffer from temple fatigue! But although I may have struggled getting him inside this temple, I struggled even harder getting him out! He loved it and spent ages photographing the cute and funny little Kauai monk statues scattered all around the temple. So even if temples aren’t really your thing, give this one a try. It was Simon’s highlight of Miyajima, if not Japan!

Entrance fee: Free, donations only

A kawaii monk Miyajima.

A Kawaii monk.

More monks at Daisho-in Temple.

More monks at Daisho-in Temple.

More statues.

Omotosando Shopping Street

This is the main street of Miyajima and it is packed with small speciality and souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, and sweet stores. It’s the perfect place for souvenir shopping, grabbing lunch, or if you fancy a snack. It is packed with tourists during the day, but at night you will barely find a soul, maybe just a deer or two!

Some fun on Omotosando Shopping Street

Some fun on Omotosando Shopping Street.

Goju-no-to the Five-Storied Pagoda

This five-story, vermilion red pagoda was built in 1407 and restored in 1533. In 1945 it was restored once more to its original style, and coated with a glossy red lacquer. This 27.6-meter pagoda is dedicated to the Medicine Buddha, and to the Buddhist saints Fugen and Monju. It’s a splendid structure combining the beauty of both Japanese and Chinese architectural styles. You can only enjoy it from the outside as the pagoda is not open to the public.

The Five-storied pagoda.

The Five-story pagoda.

View from the pagoda.

The view from the pagoda.

However, you may enter the Senjokaku Shrine (the Hall of 1000 tatami mats) next door. This huge pavilion is dedicated to the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi and has an interesting history. The hall was built using huge beams and pillars. Ancient artefacts and paintings hang from the ceiling and it feels like you are walking through an ancient art gallery. From the shrine, you also get a great view out over the five-story pagoda and Miyajima.

The Senjokaku Shrine

The Senjokaku Shrine.

The Senjokaku Shrine (the Hall of 1000 tatami mats).

The Senjokaku Shrine (the Hall of 1000 tatami mats).

The Miyajima Ropeway

Take the Miyajima Ropeway for some spectacular views over the island and the surrounding sea. The journey up is split into two stages, with two different types of ropeway. The first stage is a smaller ropeway that takes you most of the way up. The second stage is a larger funicular style ropeway that runs from the mountainside up to the final stop, Shishiiwa Station which is 430 metres above sea level.

Next to the Shishiiwa Station is the Shishiiwa Observatory, a great place to view the magnificent Seto Inland Sea, and its many islands.

Cost : ¥1,800 return or ¥1,000 one way.

The Ropeway to Mt Misen.

The Ropeway to Mt Misen.

The Shishiiwa Observatory.

The Shishiiwa Observatory.

Mt Misen

From the Shishiiwa Station, you should continue on and take the short half hour hike to the summit of Mt Misen. The hike itself is very pleasant. You pass through a beautiful forest, past some ancient temples and around some giant boulders. But the real reward is found at the summit of Mt Misen. At 535m above sea level, Mt Misen has 360-degree views over the island, making the hike to the summit well worth it. If you are motivated and have more time you can hike all the way up without taking the ropeway. We took the ropeway on the way up and then walked back down. We thought that was the much better option!

The top of Mt Misen.

The summit of Mt Misen.

The view from Mt Misen.

The view from Mt Misen.

Where to stay on the island?

There is a large range of accommodation options on the island. But since Miyajima is rich in culture and tradition, it’s a great place to stay in a Ryokan (a traditional Japanese guest-house) if you would like to experience one. All of them are relatively pricey but you can find some that are a little more affordable. Just make sure to book a while in advance; the best ones fill up very quickly. We booked six months in advance and struggled to find one that was both traditional and affordable.

We stayed at Hotel Sakuraya. It’s not your traditional Ryokan but rather a hotel offering Japanese style rooms with mountain or sea views. It doesn’t serve the traditional Japanese dinners that you will find in a real Ryokan. But we truly enjoyed our traditional room, complete with tatami mats, kimonos, slippers, futon beds and a Japanese style table and chairs.

Our bed for the night!

Our bed for the night!

Please consider booking your Miyajima accommodation through this link, at no additional cost to you. It will help support our work on this website. Thank you!

What to eat?

Miyajima has three specialities, Oysters, Anago Meshi and Momiji Manjyu.

Oysters are farmed all around Miyajima and Hiroshima and they are very fresh. You’ll find that every restaurant on the island has oysters on their menu. They are served in a variety of ways, freshly suckled, grilled or added to your dish. If you are a big fan of oysters, you may want to visit in February to experience the island’s annual oyster festival!

The Anago Meshi is a local dish of Conger eel grilled in soy sauce, served on a bed of rice.

The traditional Anago Meshi.

The traditional Anago Meshi. Photo credit Flickr.

The final speciality, the Momiji Manjyu, is a Japanese sweet first created over one hundred years ago. It’s a small cake in the shape of a maple leaf, that is traditionally filled with red Azuki bean paste. Now they are made in many flavours, such as chocolate, matcha, custard, and even cheese!

Miyajima turned out to be a great side trip from Hiroshima. It has an interesting culture, lots of cute deer, fascinating historical sites and stunning scenery to enjoy, both during the day and at night.
I’m so glad we took the time to really make the most of what it has to offer. Sometimes it’s fun to sit back, relax and just soak up the atmosphere of the places you visit. Miyajima is a great place to do that.

Read more:

One day in Hiroshima: A Complete Itinerary

5 Reasons You Should Visit Nara

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20 Comments

  • Tanja (the Red phone box travels)

    it’s wonderful! I wish I could visit it too:)

    August 18, 2017 at 5:21 am
  • Skye

    Miyajima is definitely on our Japan list for when we finally make it there. This is such a great wrap of things to do during the visit. Love your suggestion of staying overnight instead of running around quickly in a day as most visitors do. That Ryokan looks like such a wonderful experience in itself. Great guide.

    August 19, 2017 at 4:03 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks Skye, Glad you are finding this guide helpful. I am sure you will love Japan. It’s such a wonderful country.

      August 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm
  • Janna

    Such a detailed guide to Miyajima Island. Thank you for sharing this. It’ll be useful for my trip to Japan next year! 🙂 I love the views from the Shishiwa Observatory.

    August 20, 2017 at 6:26 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      You are welcome Janna. How exiting that you are going to Japan next year. I really hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you have any questions feel free to drop us an email.

      August 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm
  • Kim-Ling

    We recently returned from an amazing time in Japan, but missed out on Miyajima and Hiroshima this time. Both are my priority for our next visit though! I like your suggestion of staying overnight, especially to get a night shot of the torii at night. I can’t believe how different the torii looks at the different tides. I must admit I prefer the ‘floating’ look ☺ I didn’t realise there were deer there as well! They are so cute! There looks to be so many things to see and do at Miyajima, I think we’d have to stay for a couple of nights to truly enjoy it all. Thanks for the post!

    August 20, 2017 at 10:32 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks Kim, Glad you found this post helpful. Yes the torii is prettier at high tide but it’s quite fun to walk up to it too. We stayed a couple of night and it was just perfect.

      August 21, 2017 at 4:43 pm
  • jitaditya

    wow, what a mindblowing site! I have seen such structures from Japan before, but being located within a water body makes these ones unique. Loved the photo bombing deer. Also, Don’t you think some of those Rakan statues look like Yoda?

    August 21, 2017 at 4:16 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Haha yes they did look a bit like Yoda you are right!

      August 21, 2017 at 4:37 pm
  • Kerri

    Having followed your instagram gallery I feel as though I know so much about this city now. It’s always great in my opinion to stay a little longer in places so as to appreciate them more and just get the feel of them better. Thanks so much for allowing me to learn more about Miyajima.

    August 21, 2017 at 7:12 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks for your lovely comment Kerri, I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

      August 22, 2017 at 1:04 pm
  • Jen Joslin

    I went to Miyajima over a decade ago to see the Itsukushima Shrine, but had no idea you could stay overnight on the island. I feel like I missed out on so much! I would love to visit the various temples and see those Rakan statues. How incredible that they each have a unique facial expression. I would also love to go to the top of Mt Misen. I like your idea of taking the ropeway up 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration to get back over to Japan!

    August 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks Jen, I am glad you enjoyed the post and got inspired to go for a return trip. 🙂

      August 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm
  • sara | belly rumbles

    Love your photos! Miyajima has been on my list to visit when I am in Japan, I just never seem to get there when I visit. I had no idea the tori gate was lit up at night, so spectacular.

    August 22, 2017 at 9:35 am
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks Sara, I hope you get there on your next visit.

      August 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm
  • Megan Jerrard

    So glad you had the chance to visi Miyajima! It really is such an awesome side trip from Hiroshima. This was one of my highlights of our time in Japan – you got beautiful photos 🙂 Agree that staying overnight is a must – it’s nice to have the opportunity to photograph Itsukushima Shrine and the floating Torii at both low and high tide 🙂

    August 22, 2017 at 7:36 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thanks Megan, Miyajima was one of the highlights of our trip too.

      August 24, 2017 at 2:24 pm
  • Mia Herman

    The Rakan statues, I would love to see those up close and explore all the different facial expressions. I lived in Japan for a few months, many years ago, but I never made it to Hiroshima. That’s one regret from my time in the country but it gives me a reason to keep going back again and again. One of the other cool things I’d like to see is the floating torii. Actually, there are several things I’d like to see. Definitely adding Miyajima Island to my list of places to go.

    August 23, 2017 at 4:59 pm
  • SHRADDHA GUPTA

    I love the torii gate, the main building and the pagoda. These tangerine structures have always inspired me for some reason. The cheery blossoms just add to the whole feeling on this place – so dreamy!!!

    August 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm
    • Cindy Collins

      Thank you so much Shraddha for your lovely comment.

      August 28, 2017 at 3:50 pm

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