Tips for your Trip to Miyajima
If you are visiting Hiroshima, a visit to Miyajima (it literally means “Shrine Island” and is correctly known as Itsukushima) is a must.
Miyajima is considered as one of the top three scenic spots in Japan and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yes, it is a rather touristy island, but it makes a nice day-trip from Hiroshima.
The number one attraction of the island is the red (actually it’s orange) shrine gate, “The Great Torii”, which is an extremely popular photo spot, and you will see pictures and posters of it all over Japan.
Here are my tips for your trip to Miyajima / Itsukushima
Getting there from Hiroshima!
The island is a train trip on the Sanyo line from Hiroshima station. The cost for a round trip ticket is JPY 820 . Get off the train at Miyajimaguchi station and cross the road to the ferry stop. The JR ferry takes 10 minutes to make the crossing and costs JPY 180 per way.
If you have the JR Rail pass you are lucky – the pass includes both, the train and the ferry to Miyajima.
Ferries leave about every 10-15 minutes so don’t worry about the schedule. No need to make a booking for the ferry in advance.
Be there early!
If possible, get to the island before the tourist crowds, especially tour groups, arrive. The first ferry leaves the terminal at 7:15 am.
After 8:00 am it gets really packed and I visited on a week day so I don’t even want to imagine how it is on a weekend or on a public holiday.
Get a map!
In hindsight I think I wasn’t really prepared for my trip to Miyajima. I didn’t know that there is more to see and do than visiting the famous gate and deer.
Once you leave the ferry, make sure to pick up one of the free guide maps from the information counter. On one page you will have a short description of all the sights, distances between them and some recommended sightseeing courses on foot. The map is a great help!
Enjoy the deer, but watch out!
Wild deer roam freely around Miyajima, and when they are not trying to eat your map, having a nibble on your handbag or attempting to share a snack – they are rather cute.
They are used to humans and not scared. You may touch them and take photos (but be respectful and careful).
Admire the Great Torii!
The Great Torii is impossible to miss, as it’s the first thing you see when approaching the island by ferry. I recommend to check the board to see the timings for high and low tide.
During the high tide it appears to be floating in the sea and at low tide you can walk out to it and pass through the gate.
If you have the time, walk past the shrine gate a couple of times during the day in order to see the different settings at low and high tide.
How much time to spend on the island?
This greatly depends on what you want to see. If you just want to take some pictures of the deer and the Great Torii, then 1-2 hours are more than enough.
If you plan to see some of the other monuments, shrines and temples and/or plan to hike some of the trails towards Mount Misen, then you will definitely need a full day.
Hiking trails, rope-way and Mt. Misen!
You can take a rope-way up to the hilltop, either one way (JPY 1000) or round trip, or alternativly hike up.
From there you can enjoy spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea and primeval forests.
Be aware that the rope-way only goes up to 430 metres above sea level, to Shishiiwa Station.
If you want to go all the way up to the summit of Mount Misen, the only way is to hike (and it’s pretty steep).
If you opt in for the hike, make sure to wear the right shoes! The trails can get very slippery.
I wore my Converse, slipped and fell down a few steps on my bumb. Ouch!
I also recommend to bring water, some snacks or packed sandwiches with you. Some of the hikes can take up to 2 hours and the scenery through the forest offers some great spots for a picnic break.
Food and Souvenirs!
The Omotosando shopping street between the ferry terminal and the shrine is a popular spot for buying souvenirs, having a meal or picking up a snack. Certainly it is a very touristy area and needless to say, overpriced.
I tend not to eat in tourist places, however the street is a good area to try some of the local snacks.
If you are into seafood, you should have Oysters. You will find them at every corner.
Another snack that I recommend trying is “momiji manjyu”, a small cake in the shape of the maple leaf, traditionally filled with sweet red azuki bean paste.
Despite the tourist crowds I had a great day at Miyajima Island. I enjoyed playing with the deers, the hike through the forest and of course – seeing the floating gate!
It might be well worth to spend a night on the island, in one of the hotels there. In that case you will be able to enjoy a quiet evening after all the day trippers have left.