Translated by Hilary Keyes
Writer, translator, designer, weirdo.
Miyajima Island is famous for Itsukushima Shrine with its sacred torii gate floating on the ocean. However, there are many more wonderful places and views to Miyajima! Daishoin Temple, Momijidani Park, Toyokuni Shrine are just some of them!
Miyajima is an island in Hiroshima prefecture and a must-see spot when sightseeing in the area. Many travelers make a point in visiting this island along with Hiroshima itself. Home to Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO recognized World Cultural Heritage site with its 1400 year old history, to places to purchase wonderful souvenirs and to spots where you can meet wild deer up close, this is an island full of fascinating attractions.
There are beautiful, colorful leaves here in the fall. In addition, in every season there are many other unique things here that would make a trip to Miyajima a memorable one.
The symbol of Itsukushima Shrine is the vermilion 16 meter tall torii gate with a 10 cm circumference brace. When the tide is out, it is even possible to walk about the base of the torii on the sea floor. If you are interested in this fascinating opportunity, there is a table outlining the ebb and flow of the water available in the information center at the shrine itself. And if you are able to, by all means feel free to touch the actual shrine gate itself too when you walk out to it.
Near this shrine you will also find Toyokuni Shrine, which was built under the orders of one of the most famous figures in Japanese history, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Although designated a national Important Cultural Property, this shrine was actually never completed and stands as is to this day. Lacking walls and even ceiling boards, one of the highlights of this location is the 116 pillars that are still standing.
Across from Toyokuni Shrine you will find another of the amazing attractions on Miyajima, the 27 meter tall Five-storied Pagoda. This has also been designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. The pillar inside is topped with golden ornaments and illustrations, making this a particularly luxurious structure.
Walking from the exit of Itsukushima Shrine will bring you straight to Asebi Hodo Nature Walk. This 700 meter long nature trail passes from Omoto Park through to Daishoin. Climb to the top of the stone stairs and you will be able to see the great torii, Senryokaku, the five-storied pagoda and the two-storied pagoda - nearly all of the famous sites on Miyajima squeezed into a fabulous sweeping view.
Miyajima's busiest district is Omotesando and its surroundings. In Miyajima's Omotesando shopping district you will find souvenir shops and restaurants standing side by side offering Miyajima sakushi (*1) and other folk crafts and local specialties like oysters cooked in the shell, momiji manju (maple leaf shaped cakes), soft serve ice cream and many other items.
And, once you have walked through Miyajima's Omotesando shopping street, you will come out near Itsukushima Shrine again and find along the coast a sight that would not be out of place in Nara - a deer viewing place. Although, compared to the deer in Nara, those living on Miyajima are much more assertive, so if you are planning on a picnic or walking around while carrying food, please be careful.
*1 Shakushi: Bamboo ladles, a regional specialty in Miyajima.
Although you can fully enjoy the four seasons in this park, it is at its finest and most popular with sightseers during the fall, thanks to its abundance of beautiful momiji or Japanese maple leaves. It is that famous because only in this location can you see the wonderful sight of roughly 200 Japanese maples as they turn for the autumn.
Momijidani Park is connect to Misen via the Miyajima Ropeway. With a walking time of roughly 1-2 hours through the Misen Primeval Forest and passages along the Seto Inland Sea, taking in the scenery through the ropeway is an extravagant way to spend your time.
The last stop of the Miyajima Ropeway is Shishiiwa Station, where you will find couples making vows at the Chikai no Hi Monument and where you can try making your own heart-shaped momiji manju. And if you head to the Shishiiwa Observatory, you will be treated to another stunning view that you simply cannot miss out on. If you are on a tight schedule, this is the best choice as you can enjoy similar views to those that are found at the summit of the mountain.
After exiting the Asebi Hodo Nature Walk, you will find yourself at Daishoin Temple. Daishoin was founded by the Buddhist monk Kukai and as such is one of the oldest temples in all of Japan. There are many things to see here, from the Kannondo's (temple dedicated to Kannon) Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the Tibetan Mikkyo sand mandala, to the Hall of Souls where the Undying Flame is located. And, although it is a historical temple, here you will also find a sense of humor in the added figures of popular modern characters like Anpanman and Ultraman.
With so many incredible things to see, Miyajima is simply an ideal place to visit!