As one of Japan’s most scenic locations, a visit to Miyajima Island should be high on your list of things to do in Hiroshima. Miyajima is easy to reach from Hiroshima and a day trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima city is a great way to see a little more of Hiroshima prefecture. The trains from Hiroshima to Miyajima and the ferry from Miyajimaguchi to the island is also covered on the JR Pass. While most only visit Miyajima for a day, it’s the perfect place to spend the night and enjoy the peace, quiet and relaxation of a ryokan stay too.
What to do in Miyajima
Miyajima is known as one of Japan’s Nihon Sankei. It translates literally as Japan’s three most scenic places. A few centuries ago, the Japanese people selected Miyajima, Matsushima and Amanohashidate as the Nihon Sankei. Miyajima is probably the most well-known of the Nihon Sankei and the easiest to visit.
The official name of Miyajima is Itsukushima, however, it’s more commonly known as Miyajima, which is “shrine island in Japanese. This comes about because Miyajima is so closely related with the Itsukushima Shrine.
Here’s our guide to some of the best places to visit in Miyajima Island and how to get there.
How long do you need to visit Miyajima
Most people visit Miyajima Island from Hiroshima and spend either a half-day on Miyajima Island or a full day. Miyajima is easy to reach from Hiroshima, (and its one of the best things to do in Hiroshima prefecture) but you want to spend longer here and stay overnight. The Iwaso Ryokan, built in 1854 is highly recommended (Check Availability here) or there are several other options on the island
Best Things to do in Miyajima
The Floating Torii entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine
As the main item to do on the top of everyone’s list to visit Miyajima is visit the “floating tori” and the Itsukushima Shrine then the first thing you need to do is check the tide timetables and ensure that you’ll be able to see the shrine gate at your favourite state of the tide, or if you’re lucky both low and high tide. You can check the tide tables here.
As the Itsukushima Shrine is considered to be a Shinto shrine and the boundary between the spirits and the human world. The 16 metres tall, vermillion coloured torii or shrine gate is best seen at high tide when its surrounded by water. The colour is distinctive and is seen in other places in Japan like the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, its thought to keep evil spirits away, so entering through the shrine gate purifies you of evil spirits before you enter the shrine itself.
There has been a shrine gate here since 1168, although the first documented record of a shrine is from 811, the current Torii has been here since the 1800s. This shrine gate weight 60 tonnes and is made from cedar. From June 2019 its undergoing repairs and is unlikely to be visible.
However, its also interesting to see up close when the tide is low.
The Itsukushima-jinja Shrine
This Shinto shrine has origins back to the 6th century and it’s almost pier-like structure dates back to the sacred status of the island. Commoners were not allowed on the island and so had to approach the shrine by boat through the Torii.
Daisho-in Shrine and Temple
Just 5 minutes from the famous UNESCO world heritage site the Itsukushima Shrine and on the beginning of the hiking trail to Mount Misen, is the Daisho-in Temple. The Daisho-in shrine is unique in Japan. It’s part of the Japanese Shingon sect of Buddhism and has a san mandala laid out by Tibetan Buddhist monks. The temple is said to have been founded in 806 by the monk Kukai. There are thousands of images of a deity called Fudo, and 30 plus statues of Kannon, the goddess of compassion.
Misen Ropeway – Miyajima Cable Car
The Mount Misen Ropeway or Cable Car goes from the base station in Momijidani Park to the top station on Mount Misen. To reach the summit of Mount Misen (and the observation deck) however, you’ll need to hike on a further 20 minutes or so. The journey is split, with the first half of the journey in one cable car to the mid-station of Kayatani and from there to the top station Shishiiwa.
The Mt Misen ropeway journey takes 15-20 minutes and costs 1,000 Yen one way, or 1,800 yen round trip for adults. The ropeway on Miyajima is open from 0900 – 1630.
Hike to the top of Mount Misen
We loved our hike up through the forest of Miyajima’s tallest mountain. There are 3 different routes to the top, the Momijidani trail, the Daisho-in trail and the Omoto trail.
It’s easy to take one trail up and another down or to combine a one way trip on the ropeway with a hike. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to hike to the top of Mount Misen.
Mt Misen rises just 500 metres from the Seto Inland Sea but gives glorious views over the area.
Visit the Shishiiwa Observatory on Miyajima
Located right next to the Miyajima midway station on the ropeway of Shishiiwa is the Shishiiwa Observatory. Views are different from here than from the view at the observatory at the top of Mount Misen, but this is considerably easier to get to – with little walking required. If you have taken the ropeway up you can hike to the top of Mt Misen from here too. There’s a restaurant here where you can stop for a bite to eat too.
Stay in a Ryokan in Miyajima
Most people visit Miyajima for a day or half-day from Hiroshima, but if you’d like to experience the peace of the island before and after the day-trippers arrive, then there are a variety of places to stay here. The Iwaso Ryokan has been here since 1854 and is quite stunning. Individual Japanese style rooms have gorgeous individual designs, focusing on specialities of the area. Some rooms have private bathrooms. You’ll find indoor and outdoor onsens here too. There is no Wi-Fi here, but enjoy the peace while you can. Check out availablility and enjoy a little luxury here.
Check out our guide to staying in a Ryokan and get all our hints and tips on ryokan etiquette here.
Five storey Pagoda
The five-storey Pagoda was originally built in 1407, restorations followed in the 1500s and its stunning in the bright vermillion colour. Its to be found close to the entrance of the Itsukushima Shrine and stands more than 27 metres in height. It’s one of only 22 five-stored pagodas in Japan. The five-storied pagoda is decorated with dragons, Japanese patterns and carved pictures.
It’s not possible to go inside the pagoda, but you can visit the “hall of one thousand tatami mats, the Senjokaku.
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This popular park is just 20 minutes’ walk from the pier where the Miyajima ferry docks. It’s at the foot of Mount Misen and a popular place to visit with the deer of Miyajima.
Momijdani Park is popular in autumn for viewing the fall foliage as its home to more than 500 Japanese maple trees.
Feed the deer in Miyajima
Around 500 wild Japanese deer wander the island of Miyajima. They’re unafraid of humans, and you’ll want to hang onto your bags and food, as they
’re not just curious but also will eat most things and follow you for a long way if they sniff food in your bags.
These whitetail deer are friendly and they won’t hurt you. According to the Shinto religion, they’re sacred, holy and messengers of the Gods.
Popular also as a fall foliage viewing point, Omoto Park is also popular as a Japanese Cherry blossom viewing point. It’s close to the Miyajima aquarium.
This shrine was founded in 1523 and is the only shrine building in Japan with a sextuple 3-storied roof. It’s older than the main shrine, the Itsukushima shrine to which it belongs.
The Miyajima Aquarium
The aquarium at Miyajima has been open since 2011 and costs 1400 yen for adults to enter, it contains more than 13,000 marine animals from 350 different species from the Seto Inland Sea. The aquarium is open from 0900 until 1700.
The Miyajima History Museum
This history and folklore museum of Miyajima contains many historical artefacts and documents relating to the local area. You’ll also find Japanese gardens here that explain the significance of the garden and an understanding of how Miyajima became a UNESCO World Heritage site. The museum is closed on Monday but opens all other days from 0900 until 1700.
The Okinadou Confectionery Store
It’s here, in this very famous confectionery store that you’ll find the popular Japanese specialities of Momiji Manju – the maple leaf-shaped bun with a filling. This store is the first in the world to provide it with a cream filling, although traditionally it’s filled with red bean paste.
Closed on Thursday but open all other days from 0900 until 1900.
Map of Things to do on Miyajima Island
What to Eat on Miyajima
Eat Oysters from Miyajima
Oysters on Miyajima come from the Seto Inland Sea that surrounds Miyajima. You’ll probably notice the oyster beds on the ferry on the way over. Miyajima oysters are supposed to be bigger and juicier than oysters from the rest of Japan, so you’re in for a treat.
There’s an oyster festival here every February, but you don’t have t wait for that to enjoy Miyajima oysters. There are several restaurants on the island and also snack bars where you can pick some specialities up. We loved the Oyster Curry Bread – a bread roll stuffed with curry and oysters. It was excellent! If you’re looking for a sit-down meal, then Yakigaki No Hayasai is recognized for its raw oysters as well as oysters barbecued on the grill. Kakiya is renowned as the place to try fried oysters, or oysters done 5-ways in the Kakiya set.
This speciality seafood – it translates as conger eel, is very popular on Miyajima Island. Anago-meshi is grilled eel is served over white rice. The grilled eel is topped with a further piece of eel that has been toasted over charcoal and flavoured with soy sauce. Try it at Fujitaya or Mame-Tanuki.
Eat Momiji Manju on Miyajima
Sold mainly as souvenirs of the area, these are maple leaf-shaped cakes usually stuffed with red bean paste, although you can get other fillings such as matcha and chestnut too.
Source: User: (WT-shared) NY066 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
How to get to Miyajima
If you’re visiting Miyajima from Hiroshima simply take the JR train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi station. You then take a ferry from Miyajimaguchi to the island.
If you want to take a day trip to Miyajima from Kyoto or Osaka then you’ll need to pass through Hiroshima and change trains there. All the travel from Hiroshima including the ferry is possible on the JR Pass (get yours here) – read about where else you can use the JR Pass here.
What will you do on Miyajima?
We visited Miyajima from Hiroshima, where we stayed in the fabulous Court Hotel (check prices here.). We petted the deer, ate Oysters, hiked up to the top of Mount Misen and enjoyed the views from the Mount Misen Observatory. We very much enjoyed the Torii and low and high tide and travelled here all courtesy of our JR Pass.
So what are your plans for Miyajima island?ASocialNomad is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates..