When planning a holiday to Japan most people think of Tokyo and Kyoto. If you are planning on extending your stay in Japan before or after completing your walk these are two great destinations to visit; however, there is a third destination that does not get nearly as much attention as it deserves – Miyajima Island.
Miyajima Island is located close to Hiroshima and offers a truly unique experience combining the best that Japan has to offer.
12th Century Torii Gate
The first thing you will notice on arrival by ferry is the giant orange Torii Gate in the water. It is an amazing sight and from a distance a lot of people think it is floating in the water! The Torii Gate dates back to the 12th century and has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times over the years, with the most recent version dating back to the 19th century. While the Torii Gate looks spectacular from the ferry, the best photo opportunities are once you get on dry land.
Most people don’t think of wild deer when they think of Japan, but Miyajima Island has hundreds of deer roaming the streets and you will see them as soon as you get off the ferry. They are exceptionally friendly and will come up to you for a pat (or most likely to get some food). The deer also appreciate a good selfie and are happy to photo bomb your pictures.
Food and souvenirs
When you arrive on the Island you will come across a very narrow street (Omotosando Shopping Street). This street is amazing for the variety of food available – both desserts and savoury! Don’t fill up on food from one place – there are lots of options. I recommend trying something new from each of the different stalls. And if you want to do any shopping while you are in Japan this is a great place to get some traditional souvenirs.
Omotosando Shopping Street
In addition to the Torii Gate, Miyajima Island is known for the Itsukushima Shrine and the 5 Storey Pagoda. The Itsukushima Shrine from a distance looks to be floating and once you get up close and walk through it you will see why as it is built over the water. The Torii Gate was actually built because of the Shrine and was considered the entry point for the shrine.
The 5 Storey Pagoda is the largest structure on the Island. Although you are unable to enter, you can get up close and take some great photos.
5 Storey Pagoda
Other things to see and do
If you have time, make your way to the highest point of the Island – Mt Misen. You can take a cable car to the top or if you are in the trekking spirit, walk to the top and get some great views of the Island.
View from the top of Mt Misen
How long to stay
You can do Miyajima Island as a day trip or you can stay overnight. If just going for the day, on arrival check when the last ferry is heading back, otherwise you may have to cuddle up with some deer overnight.
I did this visit as a day trip and spent around 4 hours on the Island, which was enough time to see all the main sights mentioned above, although I would have loved to stay the night and watch the sunset. While there are usually many day tourists, in the evening the area becomes much quieter and more peaceful. There are hotels and traditional guesthouses on the island if you wish to choose the overnight option.
How to get there
You first need to make your way to Hiroshima. If you are coming from Osaka or Kyoto this will be a 100 minute train journey to Hiroshima. Once in Hiroshima it is a 30-minute train journey to Miyajimaguchi then a 10 minute ferry to the Island. If you have a JR rail pass, the train trip and the ferry are included and it is no cost to get on the island.
Main photo: © Tomasz Wisniowski, Shutterstock