While the Itsukushima Shrine is the main tourist draw to the “Shrine Island” Miyajima, there are lots of other attractions that make Itsukushima a popular destination. As a commuter ferry takes you on the short trip across Hiroshima Bay, you are welcomed by the Great Torii and a promise of many more discoveries to come. Go souvenir shopping at Miyajima town, visit the oldest temple complex on the island at Daishō-in, or head to the top of sacred Mount Misen.
Long regarded as an Island of Gods on the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Miyajima has always been known for its virgin forests and ancient temples, a place steeped in history and tradition. It is best enjoyed by staying overnight (ideally in one of its ryokan, traditional Japanese inns) when the daytrippers have left and a peaceful calm blankets the island.
The Old Town
Stretching between the ferry pier and Itsukushima Shrine, a number of narrow streets and pathways make up old Miyajima town. On the main Omote-Sando shopping street, small shops line the intimate walkway selling everything from tacky souvenirs to traditional arts and crafts. Food is also central here, with many restaurants and snack stalls serving local delicacies (Hiroshima oysters are a favourite).
Explore the area in the evening for a completely different feel – as if transported back in time to the Japan of old.
Daishō-in (大聖院) is a Buddhist temple complex situated at the base of Mount Misen on the northern side of Miyajima. The oldest temple on the island, it is one of the most important sites of the Shingon Buddhism sect. A short walk away from the busier tourist sections of the old town, Daishō-in tends to be bit quieter and less visited than the more popular Itsukushima Shrine but is definitely worth the detour. The serene atmosphere of the many temples with abundant stone carvings and statues make for a welcome break from the crowds.
The highest point on Miyajima is Mount Misen (弥山). Considered a sacred mountain, you can reach its 535m summit via several trails from the village that wind through primeval forests, or take a scenic cable car. From the terminus, a short hiking loop leads to the top where an observation deck provides a 360-degree view of the mainland and Seto Inland Sea. Since ancient times, the mountain has been an important destination for religious visitors.