Miyajima Island, Japan

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Miyajima Island, Japan

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Review of "Miyajima Island, Japan"

published 27/04/2016 | catsholiday
Member since : 03/03/2003
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Family and days of childminding now keeping me busy but I keep on rating more than writing. Thank you anyone who is kind enough to read then rate my reviews, especially those Es.
Pro A must see place in japan
Cons Crowds of others 'must seeing ' it
Is it worth visiting?
Transport links
Family Friendly

"Miyajima the island with the floating Torii gate"

Miyajima Island, Japan - the Torii gate

Miyajima Island, Japan - the Torii gate

~~~~~~~~ MIYAJIMI ISLAND ~~~~~~

Miyajima Island is one of Japan’s top three major scenic tourist spots for Japanese as well as foreign tourist hence it is always heaving with people.

~~~~~~~ WHERE IS IT? ~~~~~~

The island is not large about 30 sq km and is reached by a basic car ferry across Hiroshima Bay on the western part of the Inland Sea of Japan from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Pier which takes just 10 minutes.

The name of the island is actually Itsukushima but is more commonly known as Miyajima, which in Japanese means the Shrine Island because of the beautiful shrine and Torii gate which appears to be floating in the water as you approach the island so long as the tide is high enough.

~~~~~~~ WHY VISIT? ~~~~~~

There are many individual places on the island but the whole island is scenic and of course you have the deer that roam around trying to steal any food you buy or even eat any brochures you might have in your hand. It is the scenery along with the beautiful vermillion-lacquered shrine building, green forests in the background with the blue sea on a sunny day all combine to symbolize the Japanese sense of beauty.

The Japanese believe that the island of Miyajima is where God dwells. It is said that Itsukushima Shrine is built on the coast because the whole island is believed to be God's body and is sanctified.

You can stay on the island but we only went for the day so really explored the area of the island around the shrine and the shopping streets near the harbour area as there is so much to see around that small area.


~~~~~~THE TORII GATE ~~~~~~~

WE made our way through the throngs of people towards the Great Torii gate which is considered to be the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds. The first Otorii of Itsukushima Shrine was constructed in 1168 and was built about 200 meters offshore. The best time to see this beautiful Torii gate is where the tide is high as then it appears to be floating in the water and you get beautiful reflections too. Apparently at low tide you can walk around the site but we were there at high tide which we were pleased about as I preferred to see the gate floating rather than walk around it.

It is a bright orange colour and really stands out against the sea and does appear to be floating. Fortunately at high tide you can get photos without the hordes of folk getting into your photo which was an issue in Japan everywhere we went. The colour is chosen as it is believed to keep evil spirits away.

This gate stands firm even through earthquakes and typhoons because despite the fact is not buried deep in the seabed, it stands on 6 pillars, and both the main pillars and the small pillars combined with the box shaped upper part of the great Torii is filled with about 7 tons of stones and finally wedges have been driven into the intersections where the pillars and roof meet, absorbing slight movements and helping to balance the pillars and the roof.

The Torii gate was designated as a Specially Preserved Building on April 5, 1899 and a National Important Cultural Property on December 26, 1963.


This is truly a beautiful building built like its Torii Gate right in the sea so that at high tide the shrine itself is also in the sea. Tide was coming in while we were there so parts were in the sea and parts still on the mud where heron and other birds were enjoying hunting for food.

The shrine is built on a series on walkways that zigzag along the coast. The shrine is also painted in vermillion or orange lacquer which keeps evil spirits away and also serves to protect the wooden structure from the elements.

The shrine is more than 800 years old but parts have been added and repaired over that time. The history of the site is older and goes back 1400 years or more. It is a registered World Heritage Site.

Within this shrine there are many parts of interest to see but I am aware of the length of this review so will pick a few I liked best.

Along the open corridors hung beautiful lanterns . The originals made of cast iron were first dedicated by Terumoto Mori, a grandchild of Motonari Mori are now stored in the Treasure Hall.

These present lanterns are made of bronze in the early 1900 and are modelled on those of 1366.

Kagami-no-ikeor Mirror Ponds are three ponds that they say appeared in one night when Itsukushima Shrine was first built in the era of Emperess Suiko. The ponds acted as water reservoirs for fires that occurred when the tide was low, but they do also lend a unique character to the shrine.

As you walk along the raised wooden walkways there are a number of different shrines as well as stages all serving different deities and for different types of production and ceremonies. In truth the shrines were all very attractive but not that unique to pick any out and the stages were platforms , kind of wider wooden extensions of the walkways. You got slightly different views from each but none were remarkable in themselves to me they were parts of the building which as a whole was uniquely beautiful.

Naga-bashi or Long Bridge is just that a long wooden bridge that connects the Ushiro-zono or Back Enclosure with the Daikoku Shrine. This was not that attractive but is culturally significant as they believe that originally the main shrine in the sea was connected to the land with this and bridges similar.

I personally liked the Sori-bashi or Arched Bridge better and wow! What an arch. I can’t believe people manged to walk up and over it as it was seep. It is blocked of so no one does walk over it but it was impressive. I think I would have had to go on my hands and knees! According to the inscription on one of the ornamental caps of the railing posts, the current bridge dates back to 1557.

It I also known "Chokushi-bashi" or Imperial Messengers' Bridge and these people used the bridge on important festive occasions but apparently temporary stairs were put on the bridge to allow the messengers an easier path.

The West Corridor is about 200 metres so you can get an idea of the size of this shrine as this is just one of the corridors. I liked the gable ends to these covered corridors and they are known as "Kara-hafu" or Chinese gables and they do have that Chinese look about them.

The Noh Stage is the only one in Japan to rest upon the sea. Noh pays are tradition a Japanese plays but I have been reliably informed they are excellent for those suffering from insomnia!!

~~~~~~~ OTHER PLACES ~~~~~~~

As I said I though the entire complex was stunning and one beauty spot led to the next and it took some time to explore this shrine before we headed on and up to explore the Five Storied pagoda which we had seen from this shrine. We didn’t have a huge amount of time on the island so we missed some of the sight and didn’t visit the Toyokuni Shrine and Hall of One thousand Tatami mats and went straight to the pagoda

The Five-storied Pagoda or Gojunoto is actually more impressive from outside as it is the kind of traditionally shaped pagoda but five stories high standing on a hill about the shrine. This Pagoda was originally constructed in 1407 ,but was restored in 1533. The main deity here is the Buddha of Medicine, accompanied by the Buddhist saints Fugen and Monju.

Inside it is decorated with various auspicious Buddhist motifs and is quite splendid but the building as a whole is what I loved. It is a traditional Japanese style pagoda and one of only five examples in Japan. It apparently can resist earthquakes and typhoons and stands nearly 30 metres high with Japanese cypress bark shingles on the roof. Interestingly the central pillar of the pagoda goes from the peak of the roof only to the second story rather than of to the foundations.

~~~~~~ SHOPPING ~~~~~~~~

Our time, as I said was limited as we were on a group tour and as we had not eaten since breakfast we needed some food so headed for the cosy little streets and covered shopping area to see what we could find.

Omote-Sando is the main street from the port to Itsukushima Shrine and there are a lot of souvenir shops on both sides of the street as well as places to buy snack food .

Souvenirs they encourage you to buy are mini wooden rice scoops or Shamoji which they say was invented on this island. There are also mini tori gates and the usual rather twee Japanese stuff but we managed to avoid temptation as anything I did like was so stupidly expensive I felt I could live without it after all.

Oshakushi or the biggest scoop in the world which took 2 years and 10 months to make in 1983. This is a symbol of Miyajima is on display in this shopping street.

We decided to try a local speciality, Momiji manju, a bun with a bean-jam filling made in the shape of a maple leaf which was quite tasty.

Stalls also sold the specialities of conger eel and grilled local farmed oysters but having only just recovered from food poisoning I passed on those. My husband tried some other conger eel bun thing which he said was good.

I also tried a sweet potato ice cream which was delicious so I am going to make my own here soon having looked up a recipe on line.

Another speciality I gave a miss was Nigiri Ten which are sausage shaped boiled fish paste products. You can choose any of these types octopus and green onion, egg and bacon, asparagus and bacon, oyster, shrimp, lotus root, burdock, and also eel. I can’t say I was tempted!!

This is a lovely spot to visit and I think we only saw a small part of this island. It is a place that is very popular with the Japans and a place for Honeymoons as it is a romantic scenic spot. There are a number of small ryokan where you can stay as well as hotels so if you have time I would have liked to have at least one night here so as we could have explored further. We chose the tour as it was the cheapest way we could visit Japan and see what we wanted to but it did restrict our time in a number of places.

~~~~~~~ RECOMMENDED? ~~~~~~

I would say this is a must see destination if you are near Hiroshima. It is one of two World Heritage sites in the area, the other being the A Bomb site in Hiroshima city itself.

The island is beautiful, you do have to share the experience with hordes of other people because it is so popular but once you get over that and decide to enjoy people watching as well as the sites on the island. It is great having the deer come up to try and steal your food and I had to hold my ice cream above my head between bites. Some children had to be lifted up out of their way as they are quite persistent, even going into pockets of people passing by.

I am not sure how much the ferry costs as we were with a tour but I don't think you had to pay to visit the island but I think there was a charge for the actual shrine but again this was part of our tour so not sure of the price

Another item of interest is that the toilets at the ferry port were very clean and I would suggest using those as I didn't notice any anywhere else.

Thanks for reading.
27th April 2016

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Comments on this review

  • CelticSoulSister published 27/12/2016
    Sounds and looks amazing! Brill review!
  • LiveMusicLoverLyn published 19/06/2016
    An E review, sorry late rating
  • mikemelmak published 01/05/2016
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Product Information : Miyajima Island, Japan

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Listed on Ciao since: 23/04/2016