Miyajima Island: Travel guide to Miyajima Japan access to Miyajima from Hiroshima, Miyajima temples and Itsukushima Shrine with almost 200 Miyajima pictures.
Miyajima Island (official known as Itsukushima Island) floats like a diamond in the Inland Sea of Japan. From the misty beginnings of Japanese history Miyajima has been classified as one of the most scenic places in Japan. Out of respect for the Miyajima Gods no one dared to live there. For more than a thousand years, visitors who were mainly fishermen who left the Island at the end of each day.
The first shrine was founded in 593 AD. The land was regarded as so sacred that the famous Itsukushima Shrine was built over the water to avoid offending the Gods. When people eventually inhabit Miyajima Island they were forbidden to till the ground, give birth, die or be buried on the sacred ground. Even today there are no hospitals or cemeteries on Miyajima Island.
There are really two parts to Miyajima; the coast region which is the more popular part and contains the Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Torii, accommodation, shops and many temples and shrines. Then there is the other half, Mt Misen region, which contains some significant temples and shrines including the source of "Flame of Peace" for Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
To assist you in planning your visit to Miyajima we have created a suggested itinerary.
Suggested Miyajima Walk
This Miyajima map sets out several suggest walks to the main attractions on Miyajima. You can also see Miyajima's attractions in our Hiroshima map. It is best to visit the coastal areas of Miyajima during high tide or close to it, as only at this time do Itsukushima Shrine and Miyajima Torii appear to be floating on the water.
MIYAJIMA SHRINES AND TEMPLES
The Itsukushima Shrine extends out over the water so that at high tide it seems to be floating on the sea. It consists of the Main Shrine and many subsidiary shrines and buildings all connected by wide corridors and galleries. Itsukushima Shrine has been designated as a National Treasure.
In the water near the Itsukushima Shrine stands the world renowned Torii, Otorii, one of the largest in Japan. The view through the Torii framing Mount Misen in the background is one of the most photographed scenes in Japan.
Deer are a symbol of Miyajima and you can see them elegantly wondering around the island everywhere. It is believed that the Miyajima deer have lived on the Miyajima Island for 6000 years. Deer are believed to be a messenger of the gods in Shinto (Japanese native religion). Therefore, they are treated very well by the locals and are not scared of people.
Senjokaku Shrine - The Hall of a Thousand Tatami Mats
In 1587AD Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the warlord who unified Japan during this era, ordered the establishment of Senjokaku Shrine as a place where sutra-chanting would be held in honor of war casualties. While it is the biggest building in Miyajima, it has never been finished with its construction halting on Hideyoshi Toyotomi's death. Senjokaku is derived from its planned floor space, which is equal to the area of 857 tatami mats.
Goju-no-to is a vermilion red Five-Storied Pagoda built in 1407AD shows a splendid structural beauty which skilfully combines the beauty of Japanese and Chinese architectural styles. Goju-no-to is 27.6 metres high. Goju-no-to is located next to Senjokaku Shrine.
Located next to Itsukushima Shrine, Daiganji Temple is an ancient Shingon Buddhist temple with strong ties to Shinto shrines. It used to be in full charge of the repair and construction of temples and shrines including Itsukushima Shrine. Daiganji Temple is dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of eloquence, music, and wealth, and enshrines one of the three most famous Benzaiten statues in Japan in addition to many other valuable Buddhist statues.
Daishoin Temple is an ancient Shingon Buddhist temple built at the foot of the sacred Mt Misen. During the time of fusion period of Shintoism and Buddhism, this distinguished temple governed all priests in Miyajima and was in charge of religious ceremonies of Itsukushima Shrine. Its green, plant-filled precincts command a fine view and are very photogenic with its many decorated Buddhist statues.
Built by the priest Shukan in 1523, Tahoto is a pagoda with a height of 15.6 meters. Although constructed mainly in Japanese style, parts of the structure have Indian and Chinese architectural features. It presents the unique combination of a square shape on the lower level and a round shape on the upper level. During cherry blossom seasons, it shows a breath-taking scenery under spot lights.
Homotsukan (Treasure Hall)
built to store the numerous treasures and documents of the
Itsukushima Shrine in
1934. There are about 4500 items displayed including Heike Clan's
Buddhist sutras, swords, armour and gagaku costumes, and 130 of them are
designated as national treasures or important cultural properties.
Open: 8am-5pm, 7days
Kiyomori Shrine is built right down on the waters edge on a small island formed by the river on one side and the sea on the other. Kiyomori Shrine was built in 1954 to eulogize the achievement of the famous General Taira-no-kiyomori.
O-Shakushi (World's Largest Wooden Rice Scoop)
Miyajima is famous for its quality wooden rice scoops. This O-Shakushi is made of zelkova tree whose age is 270 years old. It is 7.7 meters long, 2.7 meters wide and 2.5 tons. It is displayed on the Omotesando Shopping Arcade.
Takikoji Alley stretches from behind Itsukushima Shrine to Daishoin Temple. There used be residences for priests and Imperial messengers of which latticed doors and "shikado" doors show a feature of the old-time houses of Miyajima.
Museum of Historical and Folklore Materials
Built in the 19th century, this museum was originally the residence
of a wealthy merchant. On display is an extensive collection of approx.
3000 folklore items.
Open: 8:30am-5pm, close Mondays & Dec 26-31
Mt Misen, the highest mountain on Miyajima Island rises 535 meters above sea level. Mt Misen is covered with a primeval forest which is part of the World Heritage listing for Miyajima. Mt Misen has been considered sacred and an object of worship since ancient times. The Miyajima Ropeway connects Shishiwa Station on Mt Misen with Momijidani Park, which provides magnificent view especially in autumn. Native monkeys welcome you at the ropeway station.
Shishiiwa Observatory and Mt Misen Observatory give you marvellous views of the Setouchi dotted islands.
Misenhondo Hall is the temple hall where Kobo Daishi performed Buddhist practice. It is said that Kobo Daishi founded the temple and performed the "Gumonji", a secret Buddhist practice for 100 days when he stopped over at Miyajima for looking for a sacred place on his way from Tang.
Kiezu-no-hi (The eternal flame) is one of the Misen's seven wonders. The holy fire which Kobo Daishi used as part of his religious training is burning even now after about 1200 years in Reikado Hall. It is said that the holy water boiled by this fire works for all sorts of disease. It was also used as the pilot light for the "Flame of Peace" of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Kannan Iwa (Ebb-and-flow rock) is another one of the Misen's seven wonders. The hollow of this strange rock sitting 500 meters above the sea is said to change its water level according to the come and go of the tide.
Kuguri Iwa (Duck-under Rock) - a spontaneous arch made of gigantic rocks
Kujira Iwa (Whale Rock) - a rock shaped like a whale
Kaisen Iwa (Scabies Rock) - it is said that an imprudent person catches a skin disease when he passes the rock, and that the scabies patient is cured when he touches the rock because it takes his disease off.
Funa Iwa (Ship Rock) - a rock shaped like a ship
Misen Primeval Forest is a spontaneous forest which has been preserved intact as the area of the shrine in the island of gods. Known as a natural botanical museum, it was designated as a natural monument in 1929, and as a site of the World Cultural Heritage in 1996.
Author: Craig Fryer