Miyajima, literally means in Japanese the “Shrine Island”. Miyajima is an island in the coast of western Japan and it is designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also celebrated in Japan as one of the “Three Best Views of Japan” noted by Hayashi Razen. Miyajima is a popular travel destination for both foreigners and Japanese people and is famous for being beautiful all year round.
With a population of only 2000 people and without a signal traffic light, Miyajima’s tranquil atmosphere and its plethora of historic sites will ensure a unique and enriching experience no matter what time of year you go.
Iksukushima Shrine is perhaps the most prominent landmark on Miyajima. Its iconic “floating torii gate” image is synonymous with Japanese iconography and is instantly recognizable all over the world. The torii gate is considered to look like its floating at high tide, typically in the mornings and evenings. However during the day, there are times where it’s possible to walk up to the torii gate and touch it during low tide. Being able to see such an iconic landmark up close during only a small window of time is definitely a must for anyone considering traveling to Miyajima.
Mount Misen is considered as a holy mountain and is the highest peak on Miyajima. With a height of 535 meters and surrounded by primeval forests, the one and a half hour climb is definitely worth the hike. It is also accessible by cable car and offers an amazing views of the entire island. Along the way, you can find several small shrines, temples and statues referencing the deities of the island. At the summit, you can find deer roaming freely, greeting hikers and travelers. Deer are considered as scared animals in Shinto religion, seen to be messengers of god and are allowed to roam freely throughout the island. The deer are friendly and won’t attack you but sometimes can be a little over-eager if they notice foods. Make sure to get a selfie with one.
Momiji Manju is Miyajima’s most popular souvenir and can be found at almost all the local stores. It is a soft, maple-leaf shaped cake filled with sweet red bean paste. Momiji Manju is shaped like a maple leaf in recognition of the many maple trees that cover the island and blanket Miyajima in vibrant red during the Autumn. It’s served in a variety of different ways and with different fillings such as cheese, custard, chocolate and green tea. Keep an eye out for the deep-fried Momiji Manju, as it’s particularly tasty.
Senjokaku Hall (Senjoukaku), literally translated as “The hall of 1000 tatami mats” as an enormous hall dating back to 1587. The hall was first commissioned as a place to chant Buddhist prayers for fallen soldiers but was not yet completed before the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the three unifiers of Japan. The hall is magnificent and hauntingly sparse and with an entry fee of only 150 yen, it is definitely something to check out. Adjacent is also the 5 Story Pagoda (Goju-no-to) and together they strike a beautiful balance.