Miyajima Island, with its Itsukushima floating torii gate – one of the most iconic views in Japan – is full of fun, adventure and history!
We live about 45 minutes away from one of the most iconic spots in all of Japan. Miyajima is one of the top destinations in Japan for good reason: it is a sacred island, with shrines and temples dating back over 1,200 years; the giant torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is one of the three classic views of Japan; and there is shopping, hiking, food and entertainment to keep you coming again and again.
We have been to Miyajima several times, and I feel like we have just scratched the surface. In fact, if you aren’t careful you may miss out on some of the best things on the island! This guide is to help you make the most of your time so you can make sure you see everything you want. Be sure to check out our top 15 things to do in Hiroshima!
The Torii Gate
A boundary between the worldly and the divine, this torii gate is one of Japan’s most famous views. During high tide it gives the appearance that it’s floating. During low tide you are able to walk out and around the gate, and even touch its base! Interesting fact, its not embedded in the ground, it stands under its own weight!
Temples and Shrines of Miyajima
This shrine appears to be floating and was the means for pilgrims to visit without touching the sacred island. They would steer their boats through the torii gate and disembark on the raised platforms.
Considered the most sacred temple on Miyajima, this temple complex is located on Mount Misen and has many maple trees that make it very popular in the fall.
Reikado Hall is part of the complex; this is where you will see an eternal flame that has been burning for over 1200 years! This flame was the pilot light for the “Flame of Peace” at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
Daiganji used to run the Itsukushima shrine before Shintoism and Buddhism were separated during the Meiji Restoration. Known as one of the most famous Benzaiten temples, it only opens to the public one day a year, June 17!
This “pavilion of 1000 mats” is massive! Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the great unifiers of Japan, began building this as a Buddhist library. He died before it was ever completed. It was later converted into a Shinto shrine and dedicated to him. You can see another one of Hideyoshi’s temples by going to the Yogen-in temple in Kyoto, famous for it’s bloody ceiling.
This 5-story pagoda was built in 1407. Part of Toyokuni Shrine, but a quintessential Buddhist element, the pagoda is a reminder of how intertwined Buddhism and Shintoism are.
Mount Misen is a sacred mountain that hosts numerous shrines and temples, beautiful foliage and the most breathtaking views of Hiroshima Bay – but first you need to climb it!
Follow the signs to the ropeway to either start the hike or ride the gondola.
Hike or ropeway?
In order to reach the peak, you are going to have to hike a little. The two ropeways will take care of most of the work for you, if you so desire! Besides saving you time and effort, the ropeways will treat you to inspiring views of the island that you can’t get otherwise. The first ropeway holds up to 6 people and goes up the steep mountainside, looking towards Hiroshima.
The second ropeways is nearly horizontal and can hold about 30 people. This is the ropeway that gives you a panorama of Hiroshima Bay. It may be hard to believe, but the view from the peak is even better!
After you get off of the second ropeway, walk out through the visitors center and go to the right, passing the restrooms, and you will find a trail that takes you to the peak. It looks steep, and is, but don’t be intimidated – the hike goes quickly. The views around you will provide a great distraction, too!
When you reach the shrines you aren’t far from the top. Enjoy the unique rock formations and views from the observatory once you summit!
Shopping on Omotesando Street
Omotesando street is the main street, packed with souvenir stores and restaurants. We have spent a lot of our time here, but beware – if you aren’t careful with your time, it’s all you’ll do! We now know what we like to eat on the island and are able to quickly go through when we come back to visit.
Home of rice paddles, or Shamoji. Here you will be able to see the world’s largest rice paddle. Most of the stores have rice paddles to buy – buying one on Miyajima is supposed to bring you luck!
One of our favorite shops is the Sugi Bee Garden. Here you can buy almost anything made of honey! Our favorites are the fruit and honey drinks. You can have it hot or cold, and there are a number of flavors!
If shopping is why you go to Miyajima, plan on it taking a couple of hours. It’s a fun atmosphere, strolling down Omotesando street, trying different foods and looking in all the stores.
Eating on Miyajima
No matter what you eat, watch out for the sika – these reverenced deer wander freely and will gladly help themselves to your food! There are so many that the island is often called “deer island”.
These maple leaf treats are filled with sweet bean paste, cream, chocolate, ice cream, or even cheese. A popular and must-try treat when visiting Miyajima!
This popular comfort food has two different styles: Osaka okonomiyaki and Hiroshima okonomiyaki. Made with cabbage, noodles, seafood, meat, eggs, vegetables, sauce and other ingredients, it is delicious and filling!
I told Matt I didn’t want a steam bun the first time he bought them. Needless to say he needed to go and buy himself another one after I ate his, it was so good! You can get beef, seafood or vegetarian. Beef is my favorite!
Food on a stick
Nigiri-ten is a popular fish paste product wrapped with bacon, shrimp, lotus root or oyster. The kids enjoy eating the bacon/cheese one!
They also have chocolate-covered bananas with sprinkles on a stick! Not traditional, but delicious!
Oyster farming is very popular in the Hiroshima area and they are known to have some of the best and freshest oysters. You’ll have several places to choose from while walking down Omotesando street.
There are a number of ice cream shops on the island, but only one sells deer poop ice cream! Across from the ferry terminal near the Bengal Cat Cafe, you can get ice cream with chocolate pieces that look like deer poop! Fitting for deer island…be sure you don’t step on the real thing!
There is also one shop on the island that sells Cremia. It is amazing soft-serve ice cream that you should eat every chance you get!
If you have time…
Filled with the marine animals from the the Seto Inland Sea. They have 350 species including, penguins, otters, porpoises and sea lions.
Bengal Cat/Owl Cafe:
Japan is famous for its animal cafes. Right as you walk off the ferry across the courtyard is a Bengal cat and owl cafe.
When you enter the cat area, you’ll find a jungle theme filled with a dozen Bengal cats! Go to the vending machine and choose your beverage, then sit down and watch and play with the cats as they roam. Or play “I Spy” and see how many cats you can find hiding around the room!
A great place to relax and enjoy a beautiful Japanese park. Being one of the most popular maple leaf parks in Japan, with over 200 maples, the fall is an excellent time to take your trip to Miyajima’s Momijidani Park!
Plan your trip:
Best times to visit: Spring with the cherry blossoms or fall with the fall colors.
Morning or evening?
Do you prefer a sunrise or sunset? If you can make it for sunrise you will most likely be one of just a few people there. Sunset will find you in a crowd of people vying for the best vantage point to take pictures of the gate.
How to get to Miyajima
From Iwakuni it’s about a 45 minute drive, depending on the time of day you go. There is plenty of parking in the area with varying prices. A flat daily rate of ¥1000 or so is common.. You can also take the train. For ¥500 it will drop you off near the ferry station and only takes about 25 minutes!
From Hiroshima, depending on where you are coming from it can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to drive to the port for Miyajima. Again, there are plenty of parking options once you get there. The train is a great option as it’s only about 25 minutes from the Hiroshima Station and only ¥410 each way on the JR Sanyo line. This can be used with your Japan Rail Pass.
There are two different ferry companies: JR and Miyajima Matsudai Kisen. You can use your Japan Rail Pass with the JR ferry, so make sure you choose the right one when purchasing your ticket. Or you can purchase a roundtrip ticket for ¥360.