Snapshot: Miyajima

“The Itsukushima Shrine, which gives the island its real name, dates from the 6th century and in its present form from 1168. Its pier-like construction is a result of the island’s holy status. Commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and had to approach the shrine by boat, entering though the floating torii out in the bay.” Lonely Planet

Miyajima is a small island about an hour from Hiroshima in Japan, famous for its floating torii gate and the World Heritage Itsukushima Shrine. The island is officially named Itsukushima, but is commonly known as Miyajima (Japanese for ‘shrine island’).

We spent a full day here – admiring the torii gate, exploring Itsukushima Shrine, strolling through the quiet streets, catching the cable-car up Mt Misen and hiking to the summit. Here are some photographs from our visit.

At high tide, the famous torii gate seems to float on the water. It’s ranked as one of Japan’s three most scenic views (along with Matsushima and Amanohashidate), but at low tide, the torii gate is actually surrounded by mudflats.

Like the torii gate, the main buildings of Itsukushima Shrine are built over water. It is a photographer’s dream with its picturesque orange columns. I loved all the details and the variety of lanterns that we saw. We were also fortunate to catch a glimpse of a traditional wedding – a westerner marrying a Japanese girl. It was beautiful to watch all the rituals involved.

Wild deer on the island have become so accustomed to tourists that they will eat out of your hand; including your guide-map, as we discovered. We explored the small winding streets and gradually made our way up to the rope-way cable car, which took us up Mt Misen.

Mt Misen is considered sacred and has been an object of worship since ancient times. Near the summit there are temples relating to Kobo Daishi, a great Buddhist priest. En route we saw mountain shrines, cherry blossom trees and a waterfall, and, at the top, there were fantastic views and huge boulders to clamber across.

It was a fantastic walk – as was the stroll back through the quiet streets at dusk. Lanterns were being lit; as was the torii gate, which was now surrounded by mudflats at low tide. It was a lovely atmosphere and a perfect end to a fun day. I would highly recommend a visit to Miyajima.


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