Arriving at Miyajima is entering a different world and a different time. With a myriad of ancient temples, shrines and stunning landscapes, the mystical island of Mijamiya became our spiritual retreat for a couple of days.
Miyajima is located in the Seto Inland Sea and has been worshiped as a “divine island” since ancient times. Considered one of the three most famous beauty spots in Japan, the World Heritage Miyajima island is sure to inspire.
Built at the foot of the holy Mt. Misen, Miyajima‘s highest peak, the ancient Shingon Buddhist temple is a large complex of fascinating buildings on many different levels. The temple features a variety of buildings including the Kannon-do Hall, the Maniden Hall, Hakkaku Manpuku Hall, a tea room and a cave filled with 88 icons that represent the temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
The 500 Rakan statues of Shaka Nyorai’s disciples lining the steps to the temple are not to be missed. Each one is totally unique which makes it very impressive.
At the centre of the stairway leading up to the temple is a row of spinning metal wheels that are inscribed with sutra (Buddhist scriptures). Turning the bells as you walk up is believed to have the same effect as reading them. Therefore, you don´t need to have any knowledge of Japanese to benefit from the blessings that the reading of sutra is believed to bring.
Senjokaku (Toyokuni Shrine) & Goju-no-to Pagoda
Also known as the Hall of a Thousand Tatami Mats, the old wooden pavilion was our shady haven from the sun. It may look bare from the outside but once inside, you can´t help but marvel at the mosaic of paintings covering the ceiling.
We rested for a while, enjoyed the serenity of the place and got some fresh air amidst the magnificent natural scenery. Within walking distance is the five-story pagoda Goju-no-to.
Nihonjika, the Japanese deer
Considered sacred messengers from the gods, the Japanese deer are deeply revered and respected in Japan. You can see these friendly animals wandering at will among the ancient temples and shrines, sitting or sleeping under trees everywhere in the island.
With its red pillars and white walls, the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine is a World Heritage Site famous for its floating torii. At low tide, a sandy beach appears and visitors can walk right up to it. At night, the 16m-tall vermilion gate seems to float serenely above the water. The solemn beauty of it when illuminated is indescribable.
Momiji Manju- Specialty of Miyajima
Apart from sampling delicious grilled oysters (Miyajima is one of the top producers of oysters for the entire country), we couldn’t leave the island without tasting fresh Momiji manju, a traditional maple leaf shaped cakes filled with mashed sweet bean paste. They can be sold as a single treat or in packs as you can see pictured bellow.
This signature cookie of Miyajima is sold almost everywhere on the island and you can even watch the baking process through big glass windows. We bought a couple of boxes at Fujiya shop. There are many varieties of fillings such as chocolate cream, cheese cream, custard cream, matcha cream, almond cream…I particularly loved the cheese and cream ones.
Dining in Miyajima
Mame-tanuki restaurant is one of the few places which opens its doors late on the island. With an izakaya style, the restaurant will satisfy your belly after a moonlit stroll around the island.
Miyajima Guesthouse Mikuniya
Can you imagine having the mystical island of Miyajima all to yourself? In the late afternoon, when the tourists leave, the island seems to be enchanted. Don´t miss the opportunity to savor the sunset view behind the Torii gate or to watch it totally lit up underneath the stars.
There are numerous traditional inns and ryokans on the island. Miyajima Guesthouse Mikuniya makes for a very pleasant base from which to explore the island. It has Japanese style tatami rooms with ocean views and a beautiful serene garden. Mikuniya family´s genuine warmth will make you feel instantly at home.
How to get to Miyajima
Trains depart from Hiroshima station every 15 minutes for the 26-minute ride to Miyajimaguchi (JR Sanyo line). Alternatively, you can take tram line number 2 from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi (not covered by the Japan Rail Pass). From Miyajimaguchi it is a 2-minute walk to the ferry pier. You can ride on the JR Ferry for free with the Japan Rail Pass. It takes 10 minutes to reach Miyajima island.