Miyajima is a sacred island located close to Hiroshima. The island’s official tourism website calls it “an Island where People and God live together”. It is one of the extremely popular “nihon sankei” – the 3 most scenic places in Japan. Unlike the other two – Matsushima and Amanohashidate – Miyajima is easily accessible and definitely worth a visit, especially if you are planning a visit to nearby Hiroshima.
As for sightseeing in Miyajima, simply by taking a stroll around the island you can see many interesting shrines and pagodas. You can also hike up Mt. Misen. Overnight stays in local ryokans (old, traditional Japanese bed and breakfast hotels), is also a very popular thing to do on the island, as Miyajima is considered to be a rather romantic spot.
Wild deers can be seen on the island wandering freely as you walk around. This gives the island a particular air of enchantment.
Itsukushima-jinja (shrine) is a place that has been designated as a National Treasure and UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since December 1996. The traditional architecture of the shrine has been preserved in a beautiful, natural background, which makes it a sacred place for many visitors. It was first built in 593 and then rebuilt in 1168. It consists of more than 20 buildings along 280 meters of corridor.
Ohtori Gate is a “floating” tori gate, one of the most popular structures at the Isukushima-jinja shrine. This tori was erected in 1875.
Hokoku Shrine (Senjokaku/Toyokuni Shrine) was built in 1587 in order to console the souls of those who died at war. It is also known as the Toyokuni Shrine or “Hall of One Thousand Tatami Mats”. This shrine is the largest structure on Miyajima Island. You can see many picture tablets hanging in the halls of this shrine, which used to be located in Itsukushima-jinja shrine until the mid Meiji period. Admission to enter the shrine is 100 yen for adults and 50 yen for children.
Five-storied Pagoda (Gojunoto) was built in 1407 and its main feature is that the central pillar, descending from the top, only reaches the ceiling of the 1st floor – instead of reaching the bottom of the foundation. The structures are said to be one of only 5 in Japan, that are resistant to earthquakes and typhoons. The height of the pagoda is 27.6 meters and its main deity is the Buddha of Medicine.
Mt. Misen’s summit is a great 360° observatory spot with a beautiful view of the surrounding islands and the Shikoku area. The highest peak is 535 meters above sea level and was designated as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1996 as “Misen Virgin Forest together with Itsukushimajinja Shrine”.
To get to Mt. Misen summit, you first need to take a ropeway (round trip 1800 yen for adults, 900 for children), which will take you to Shishiiwa Observatory. From there you need to walk for about 30-40 minutes to the summit. On your way, you will see the so-called 7 wonders of Misen, among which are The Eternal Flame (Kiezu-no-hi), various rocks (such as a whale, a duck, a ship, etc), and some beautiful nature. The Eternal Flame is famous for being a lover’s sanctuary and the fire is said to have been burning for over 1,200 years.
Note: There is also a monument called “Fire of Oath” on the 2nd floor or Shishiiwa Station. There you can experience “Heart-in Momiji”, a type of Japanese sweet popular in this area (1 person 300 yen, 2 people 500 yen).
Momiji-manju is a maple pastry, just one of the many types of traditional Japanese sweets, very popular in Miyajima.
Miyajima Public Aquarium was renovated and reopened in 2011. It offers a great variety of entertainment for children, such as feeding and interacting with the sea life, as well as watching performances. It is located just a 20 minute walk away from Miyajima Pier. The entrance fee is 1400 yen for adults and up to 700 yen for children depending on their age.
Municipal Museum of History and Folklore of Miyajima was opened in 1974 and features around 1,000 historical items, all relating to Miyajima.