One of the most unmissable sights of Japan is the floating shrine and torii gate of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima). But the island doesn’t just stop at the edge of the inlet. Miyajima is a great place to escape and there are plenty of things to do, including forest trails, more shrines and temples, and a fun shopping street.
Where is Miyajima?
Miyajima is only half an hour from Hiroshima, so the island is perfect for a day trip. But if you can stay overnight, do. You will be able to enjoy the island at its quietest and — provided you don’t sleep in — catch the sunrise before the hordes of tourists arrive on the first boat.
Tip: To make the most of your time in Miyajima, we suggest arriving by mid-morning so that you can see the shrine both at high and low tide, at the start and end of your day.
Getting to Miyajima
First, you’ll need to get to Hiroshima before hopping on a boat to the island. Take a look at our Tokyo to Hiroshima article to see the cheapest ways of getting there from the capital.
Train and boat
The quickest and cheapest option is to take the JR San’yō Line from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi Station. The train takes just under 30 minutes and costs ¥420. It is also covered by the JR Pass. Alternatively, you can take the Route 2 streetcar from the city center. It is slightly cheaper at ¥270, but the journey takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.
From Miyajimaguchi Station, you can take either of the ferries, both costing ¥180 and taking 10 minutes. Catch the soonest one, or the JR ferry if you are using a JR Pass.
Cut out the train and tram and take a boat from Hiroshima Peace Park, which is ¥2,200 (45 minutes) one-way or ¥4,000 for a return journey. For an extra ¥100, you can include the short ferry trip to Miyajimaguchi Station and go back to Hiroshima via train.
If you’re coming from Osaka or Kyoto, you’ll first need to get to Hiroshima and then follow the above instructions. You can catch the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka, which costs around ¥10,000 and takes only 1 hour and 20 minutes. From Kyoto station, it is 20 minutes more and about ¥2,000 extra.
You can go the slow route and save some money by hopping on a bus. Prices start from ¥3,200, but it can take between 5 and 7 hours to get there.
If you don’t feel like watching the clock to squeeze the most out of your day, leave the worrying to someone else and jump on one of these tours.
There are several tours you can do from Hiroshima. There’s the less effort ones where you stay on the boat and see Miyajima from the sea. Or if you are tight on time, you can combine both Hiroshima and Miyajima sights into one full-day Hiroshima–Miyajima combo tour.
Staying overnight on Miyajima
As mentioned before, the best way to escape the crowds of Miyajima is to be there when the boats have gone and everyone is back in their hotels in Hiroshima.
Luckily, Miyajima has plenty to offer when it comes to accommodation. If you are looking for the Cheapo option, check out the cheerful ryokan Sakuraya. For those looking for a treat, try the beauitful Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto.
Miyajima’s top attraction: Itsukushima Shrine
A shrine that needs no real introduction, Itsukushima Shrine floats above the sea at high tide and thanks to its giant vermillion torii gate, is one of the most famous sights in Japan.
The area has been worshipped for centuries: in 1168, it was chosen to be the site of the clan’s family shrine by Taira no Kiyomori — the most powerful man in Japan at that time.
The shrine is now a national treasure and has a series of special features to help it survive the rising seas. Stone lanterns were once used as weights to stop the corridors rising, but they have since been replaced with bronze versions — you can still see the originals in the Treasure Hall. No nails are used in the floorboards and small gaps remain to let water flow out.
Even if the wooden building is by the sea, they still had to think about fire safety. That is why there are three round ponds built into the ground around the shrine; they were once used for fires that started when the tide was low.
The shrine has a purification hall, high stage for dance performances, corridors, arched bridges, three shrines, and the only Noh theater stage in Japan that rests on the sea. The main shrine’s style dates back to the Nara period and is dedicated to the three Munakata goddesses.
The shrine is illuminated at night, but cannot be entered after sunset. Entry costs ¥300 or ¥500 if you want to visit the treasure hall as well.
The Great Torii Gate
The Great Torii Gate is accessible by foot from the bay itself, with incredible views from the surrounding areas. The first giant torii was built in 1168 with seven successors through the years. The current one, made from natural camphor tree and standing at 16.6 meters tall, was built in 1875. Repair work began in 2019 to spruce it up. It finished in November 2022 and is now once again viewable.
At low tide, you can admire the view from up close by walking out to see the gate. While you’re there, try to throw a coin through the arches for good luck. There are often deer strolling around and a small river with stepping stones that offers a great viewpoint.
The gate is illuminated from sunset, and if you can stay on the island, or at least wait until one of the later boats, the view as the tide comes back in is truly beautiful.
More Miyajima highlights
Omotesando Shopping Arcade
After stepping off the ferry, you will find your way strolling through the Omotesando Shopping Arcade, lined with souvenir shops, cafes, and even fresh-oyster stalls. The shops sell everything from traditional crafts to cute trinkets and is a great place to pick up souvenirs.
The street is famed for its giant rice paddle. Crafted from an ancient zelkova tree, it is over 7 meters long and almost 3 meters thick. Apparently inspired by a dream of Goddess Benzaiten playing a lute, Buddhist monk Seishin carved a wooden rice paddle and taught the people of the island how to make them. Now you can admire a giant one, buy medium-sized ones, and even have your caricature painted on one.
Some of the nicest treats to try are momiji manjū, a maple-leaf-shaped cake with red-bean paste inside (there are a few other fillings these days, including custard and chocolate). They were originally made by hand but are now made by impressive machines that you can see in action through the shop windows. Try them fresh — the best way to do this is deep fried and on a stick from one of the shops along the way.
Around the corner is Machiya Street, an old fashioned row of 1950s style shops and cafes — perfect if you need a pick-me-up or a break from walking.
Five-story pagoda and Senjōkaku Hall
Pagodas and palm trees don’t often go together, but this surreal bonus is yet another feather in Miyajima’s photogenic cap. Just behind Itsukushima Shrine, the pagoda and accompanying hall are hard to miss, with five stories of height and a hall the size of a thousand tatami mats. Dating back to 1587, Senjōkaku Hall was never fully finished after being commissioned for chanting Buddhist sutras for fallen soldiers and so is surprisingly sparse.
With no real entrance or finished ceilings, it feels abandoned. This is in complete contrast to the colorful pagoda which actually predates it. Entrance is ¥100.
Forever playing second fiddle to Itsukushima, Daishō-in is a beautiful temple with plenty of buildings to explore and hat-wearing Buddhas to admire. It sits slightly higher up the island with great views of the bay.
The temple is one of the most prestigious of the Shingon sect in western Japan and has long been a prestigious site. Kōbō Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Sect, is enshrined here. Exploring the different buildings will lead you to many unusual sites, like the 500 rakan (disciples of Buddha) statues — all with unique facial expressions (and many knitted hats) — and the 1000 figurines of the Buddhist deity Fudō.
There are countless collections of deities and disciples surrounding the different areas, all with their own unique charm. The Niomon Gate is particularly spectacular as is the Maniden Hall, where prayers are accompanied by a taiko drum each day. On your way up the stairs be sure to spin the prayer wheels for blessings. There is also a relaxing tea room to enjoy if you need a break.
The temple forms the start of the Daishō-in hiking trail, which leads to the summit of Mount Misen. It a great starting point, especially as the path offers great views of the bay and torii gate.
Hiking Mount Misen
There are three main hiking trails up Mount Misen, plus a cable car if you’re short on time. The first two trails take you through the wild, ancient forest. Here you’ll see giant rocks and withered trees that create a cool escape from the heat. You’ll also see the great hall, Misen Hondō, a short distance from the summit.
The first of these two is great for seeing the autumn leaves. The Momijidani route takes 1.5–2 hours and is 2.5 km long. The route follows the river and is the shortest of the trails, but with some of the most beautiful scenery.
The second is the Daishō-in trail. It is a little longer, at 3 km, and has a waterfall and a host of Buddha statues along the 2000-step route.
The longest of them all is the Omoto route (3.2 km), which starts at Omoto Shrine on the far side of the bay and joins with the Daishō-in route toward the top. You can stroll through century-old fir trees in Komaga Forest and see Iwaya Taishi, the cave where Kōbō Daishi once secluded himself. This route has a few more risks, so do be careful and make sure you have the correct starting point.
The cable car departs from Momijidani Ropeway Station and takes you to Shishiiwa Observatory, where you can enjoy incredible views across the bay. From there, there is a suggested 1-hour walking route which includes the Misen Hondō and eternal flame, Dainichi-dō Hall, the mountain summit, and the Kannon-dō Hall, among other smaller sights along the route.
The ropeway has a great little map for the primary sites here, so you can pick and choose what you would like to see. The ropeway costs ¥1,100 one-way or ¥2,000 return. It runs between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with some seasonal changes. You can catch a free shuttle bus to and from the ropeway station from the entrance to Momijidani Park.
Nature walks on Miyajima
If you’re happy strolling in nature, there are two great nature paths you can take to explore the natural scenery of the island. From Momijidani Park, you can walk about 750 meters to Daishō-in Temple with great views of the five-story pagoda and Itsukushima Shrine on the Momijidani route (obviously great in autumn).
Alternatively, the Uguisu route is almost 2 km and takes you from the residential area, through the forest, and to the ropeway stop, with plenty of cherry blossoms if you go in spring.
The Asebi walking path follows the route from Omoto Park to Daishō-in and is also great for cherry blossom viewing. The Tsutsumigaura route connects Momijidani and Tsutsumigaura, taking you through the forest.
There are plenty of ceremonies and rituals that take place on the island throughout the year, with some drawing incredible crowds. Take a look at our full event list so you don’t miss out.
- The Kangen-sai in August is one of Japan’s three major boat festivals and the biggest held at Itsukushima throughout the year. It involves a ritual lantern greeting of boats, ceremonial music performances, and spectacular views of the boats lit with firetorches arriving at the gate.
- There are several firewalking ceremonies throughot the year, including the Hi-watari Festival at Daigan-ji Temple on Nov. 3, and the Daishō-in Firewalking Ceremony that takes place at 11 a.m. on Apr. 15 and Nov. 15 at Daishō-in Temple. It features a purification ceremony and firewalking by monks and worshippers.
- The fire prevention festival, Chinkasai, takes place in the early evening on the final day of the year, with people burning homemade torches and giant ones in front of Itsukushima Shrine.
- If you’re a fan of oysters, the best time to visit is during the second weekend of February for the low-price oyster-selling celebration.
There are plenty of smaller events too to keep an eye out for on your visit, including the Memorial Service for Kitchen Knives, as well as national festivals like Setsubun and the Hina Doll Festival.
This article was originally published in June 2017. Last updated: November 2022. Information subject to change.