Ranked as one of Japan’s three must-see destinations because of its Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, venture to memorable Miyajima Island for a fabulous day break when in Hiroshima.
Around 6,000 years ago in the Seto Inland Sea, Itsukushima (Miyajima) Island separated with the opposite bank, becoming an island.
Hugging Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, Miyajima Island is quieter than the mainland. Although, the island’s population swells with the substantial amount of locals and foreign visitors on day visits, making today busy. (Miyajima does offer various accommodation options for those wishing to stay on the island longer than a day.)
Rest assured, it is still possible to get away from the bustling crowds and find some serenity in picturesque Miyajima.
What to see
Sadly, the mobile phone photos in this post do not do Miyajima Island justice. Back in March, Japan was out of many of the Fujifilm cameras I intended to buy with a six-month waiting list. Before arriving in Japan, even Singapore was without stock.
Once off the ferry, the crowds swarm together and race along the waterfront to the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. I suggest taking your time and absorbing everything along the way as Miyaijima offers more than the iconic Itsukushima Shrine.
Today’s grey and dull day dodging showers isn’t enough to keep visitors (like us) away.
Dedicated to the Buddhist God of Medicine, the impressive five-storied, 27.6-metre-high pagoda Gojunoto is intricately painted in vermillion and gold.
Chinese influence can be seen in the top of the wooden pillars, while the pagoda’s shingled roof is made from layers of Japanese Cypress bark. The top of the hill offers great views of various shrines below.
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine – Jinja O-Torri Gate
Since early times as a ‘holy place of Shintoism’, it is believed that the first shrines were erected in the 6th century. Although today’s UNESCO World Heritage shrine is an accurate likeness to 12th-century construction, this shrine dates from the 13th century.
Powerful leader Taira no Kiyomori ordered the shrine to be built as “a display of reverence for the tutelary god of navigation and to serve as a base for maritime activities…”
Depending on the time of year you visit Miyajima’s Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, a sea of heads eager to capture the obligatory perfect selfie, bombards any photo opportunities. Luckily, on this visit, with Japan recently opened to tourists only a few months ago, the heads are bearable.
Take a stroll along the eastern waterfront of Miyajima to discover some peace.
Many day visitors stick to Miyajima’s main food and shopping streets, including, of course, the O-Torii gate.
Miyajima walking and hiking trails
Choose from one of the many charming walking paths, which offer a pleasant respite from the more frequented and busy shrine areas on Miyajima. For a more substantial hike, three main trails lead to Mount Misen’s 535-metre summit: the Momijidani Course, the Daisho-in Course, and the Omoto Course.
The Daisho-in course takes 2 hours one way. Ascending the 3 kilometres to the top of Mount Misen via some 2,000 steps, you also see the gorgeous Shiraito Falls along the way. Spending quite some time around Miyajima, today is dissolving. Decide instead to do part of the Daisho-in hike, which is the easier path but still worthwhile as this leads to the serene Daisho-in temple.
Cutting through Miyajima’s alluring quiet forest, stunning views unfold along the way on this grey day…
…whilst surrounded by beautiful maple and cherry trees yet to bloom next month. However, the best is yet to come as you bump into the most significant and oldest Buddhist temple on Miyajima, the Daisho-in temple.
Although in the past, the Daisho-in Temple was connected to imperial rulers, Kukai (a monk) founded the Daisho-in Temple. Kukai stopped at Miyajima in the year 806 along his journey from China to Mt Misen.
In this spot, Kukai recited the Gumonji-practised Kokuzo mantra 1 million times – a practice of the Shingon Buddhist school.
Intriguing and fascinating, wander around the Daisho-in Temple while losing all track of time…
…and listening to the sounds of drumming and chanting from a Buddhist monk breaks the silence in the background, creating a soothing atmosphere.
A little taste of Miyajima
Where is Miyajima Island?
Getting there from Hiroshima
Although the journey isn’t too long from Hiroshima, you need to take a train and a ferry to Miyajima Island. This is a comfortable trip for the day if you have extra time on your travels.
Hiroshima to Miyajima-guchi Station
Make your way to platform 1 at the JR Hiroshima Train Station for the JR line to Miyajima-guchi Station (¥480 one-way).
The cramped train, mostly with locals and some foreigners, travels through numerous outer suburbs, which eventually thins out.
Reaching Hiroden-Miyajima-guchi train station 30 minutes later to a pleasant surprise as…
…the station’s walls are graced with the loveliest Japanese traditional art.
Miyajima-guchi Station to Itsukushima Port
Once out of the Hiroden-Miyajima-guchi train station, it’s a quick walk of only five minutes to the port, but follow the crowds until you reach the Miyajima Port. I doubt anyone gets lost along the way.
A short wait for the island’s ferry sees the next leg of today’s journey.
Did I mention there is always a queue in Japan? The ferry terminal isn’t any different and bustling with loads of visitors to Miyajima.
The ferry to Miyajima Island (¥220 one-way) leaves every 10 minutes, with the trip lasting only 10 minutes.
At the time of writing, prepaid travel cards are not accepted, so buy the ticket from the machines at the ferry terminal.
Becalmed Hiroshima Bay presents a pleasant ferry trip, making this a great escape from the city for the day to explore Miyajima Island.
Return ferries from Itsukushima Port to catch a train at Miyajima-guchi Station leave every 10 minutes. Check this link for schedules.
Where to eat
Enticing food is everywhere along the main Omotesando shopping street and main areas of Miyajima Island, so you won’t go hungry.
Miyamia Island is famous for fresh oysters and extremely popular with locals and tourists. As an oyster lover, sampling oysters is high on the list. Another of Miyajima’s must-try foods is the age Momiji – a deep-fried momiji manju (Japanese sweet dumpling).
Also, try the tasty but interesting cheese and bacon on a stick (¥400) from one of the small food stalls along the Omotesando shopping street.
Shimauma (Zebra) Bakery
Once out of the Miyajima ferry terminal, go in the opposite direction to the hordes of people heading straight for the Itsukushima Shrine and take a coffee break with a sweet cake at the Shimauma (Zebra) Bakery in the Hotel Miyajima Villa.
The professional staff are very polite and accommodating, in the lovely peaceful ambiance, devoid of tourists.
Did I mention that I love delicious fresh oysters?
Stop at the Miyajima Hanayashiki oyster restaurant along Miyajimacho to indulge in the juiciest, fattest, largest oysters I have ever tasted in my life. Yes, even better than Sydney Rock Oysters or New Zealand Oysters, in my humble opinion.
Lightly warmed over searing hot coals exuding enticing fresh aromas, typically, two monster oysters sell for around ¥500. Add whatever sauce you need from the counter or a little fresh lemon juice, but believe me, neither is necessary as the taste of these morsels is sublime. Be prepared to queue, as the oysters here are wonderful.
Numerous street stalls, bars, and restaurants on the island sell Miyajima oysters at similar prices, although oysters do vary in size.
Gebura Sister Bar
For a fabulous refreshing alcoholic drink with the famous scrumptious Hiroshima Lemon Syrup and glace lemons, stop by the Gebura Siter Bar along Miyajima’s main street, Omotesando shopping street.
Expect great service from busy staff, an enjoyable vibe in a modern bar, reasonable prices for Miyajima, and delicious moorish drinks. Alcoholic drinks start from ¥700 with a refill of your reusable cup at only ¥200. If lucky enough to be here during Happy Hour, then a refill of any alcoholic beverage is only ¥100.
It’s not all about the drinks and ambiance at a bar, but also about meeting friendly people. An American-Vietnamese vlogger just flew in from the US, and although quite shattered, he still filmed vlogs for his audience, while savouring his beverage. Met friendly Ayana and her mum from Hiroshima, who mentioned the happy hour prices, before enlightening us about Japan.
Coming next: Best of Okayama, Japan
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.