One of the most famous images associated with Japan is a large Torii gate standing tall in the ocean as waves wash around it. While it may seem like a more fantastical image, you can find this sight in real life. Itsukushima, or more popularly known as Miyajima, is a small island in the south of Japan off the southern coast of Hiroshima city where you can find some charming and unique sights in Japan. Unfortunately, if you are planning a trip to this region, you might find Miyajima’s famous Torii gate to be a disappointing sight. Currently, the gate is being renovated to help preserve its color as well as integrity. The renovation effort will start with scaffolding at the base and gradually build up to cover the entire structure over the duration of the project. While you may not be able to enjoy the majestic view of the Miyajima Torii if you visit now, there are still plenty of fun activities you can do within walking distance of stepping off the ferry you’ll take across the Seto Inland Sea.
This is a fun activity you can do as soon as you exit the ferry station, as you’ll likely see some deer as soon as you enter the island. Because the local government is dedicated to preserving the island, the local Sika deer population is allowed to roam over the entire island, including public areas. These deer are tame and will permit you to come close, but they are attracted to food, so keep any bags close to yourself when around them. While it’s fun to observe the deer up close, you should refrain from feeding them. The deer roam across the entire island, but are most commonly observed along the route to Itsukushima Shrine.
Miyajima Island’s size means visitors can observe a difference in the coastline over the day. This can be observed most dramatically in the area around Itsukushima Shrine, as the inlet fills up as the tide rises. If you time your visit to the island right, you can visit during high tide. This results in the interesting sensation as visitors walk around on the shrine grounds on wooden boards built above the ocean water. At high tide the sides of the shrine appear to meet the water, resulting in a vista-like shrine visit. Itsukushima Shrine is significant for its dedication to three female deities that are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Kannon. This has resulted in the island being designated as a special holy space where deaths and associated activities like burials are not permitted. At Itsukushima Shrine you can observe the unique atmosphere of visiting a Japanese shrine while walking over the ocean.
Mt. Misen is the highest point on Miyajima Island, and can be accessed by visitors in a few different methods. For groups looking to spend the whole day on Miyajima, there are some hiking paths up the mountain. While Miyajima island is small, it’s still a considerable climb up the mountain that can take up to 2 hours. Another method of reaching the top is by ropeway, during which riders can observe Miyajima’s scenic forests during their ascent. Both the ropeway and walking trails are found inland from Itsukushima Shrine, with the ropeway found directly south-east of the shrine area. At its peak, Mt. Misen holds several buildings belonging to the Daisho-in Temple which can be found at the base. Visitors can observe a complete 360 degree view of the Seto Inland Sea from the mountain peak.
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Take a break from the island atmosphere and have fun looking at various ocean creatures in the Miyajima aquarium. This aquarium is found by walking along the coast past Itsukushima Shrine, along the coastal road. This aquarium has some interesting attractions such as an interior section modeled after the Itsukushima Shrine and a performance area for sea lion shows. Some interesting animals you can observe here are pirhanas, horseshoe crabs, and penguins. Take refuge from the summer heat by going inside and taking an air-conditioned tour of the ocean.
If you’re tired from your day trip at Miyajima Island, why not try a rickshaw ride? Rickshaws can be found in various Japanese cities as a fun way for tourists to experience a historical way of getting around. You can rent a rickshaw on Miyajima by heading just past Itsukushima shrine and locating the rickshaw departure area. Rickshaw rides can be reserved in advance for a cost of 4,500 yen for a 30 minute ride Ride routes can be prearranged or customized to give you the option of seeing which spots on the island interest you the most.
Don’t let the renovation of the Miyajima Torii discourage you from visiting this beautiful destination, there’s plenty of sights and activities to find on this small island.
There are many accessible places to stay in the Hiroshima region if you want to visit Miyajima Island.