A Trip to Miyajima Island and its Floating Shrine “Itsukushima-Jinja”

Itsukushima Shrine is a prestigious shrine located in Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture. It is said that the shrine has about 1500 years of history. The entire island of Miyajima enshrines the god of Itsukushima Shrine, therefore, a large Torii gate stands on the sea. The shrine is also famous for its cultural assets such as Heike-nokyo, designated as a national treasure. The shrine itself was designated as world heritage site in 1996.


How to get to Miyajima

The siland of Miyajima is a popular one-day trip destination from Hiroshima. From Hiroshima Station, take the JR San’yo line until Miyajimaguchi station, which will take you about 30 minutes. From there, you can take the JR Miyajima ferry. There are departures about every 15 minutes. The good news is that the ferry trip is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass!

The ferry also has an observation deck that will allow you to take scenic pictures of your arrival on the island. The trip is quite short: about 10 minutes.

Itsukushima Shrine

Hirabutai

Miyajima’s giant red torii has become famous all over the world, and the floating shrine is the only one of its kind in Japan.  The whole island is considered sacred, and in old times, the people had to go under the torii by boat before being allowed to set foot on the island. Most of the buildings at Itsukushima Shrine stand on the sea and it looks like as if the shrine is floating on the sea when the tide is high. 

Itsukushima shrine enshrines the goddess Itsukushima-hime-no-mikoto, which is the shinto name of the Japanese Buddhist goddess Benzaiten. Miyajima is on of its three main places of worship in Japan, along with Enoshima Shrine on Enoshima island and Hogon-ji temple on Chikibu Island. Benzaiten temples are always on islands or near the water, because she is a goddess of the water and ‘everything that flows’: knowledge, music, arts, money, love… She is especially worshipped by artists.

The goddess Benzaiten on ‘The foundation of Miyajima’ by Utagawa Yoshitora, 19th century.

No nails are used in the construction of Itsukushima Shrine.

The decorative shrine.
The shrine is as beautiful as it is vulnerable to sea winds and typhoons. In fact, it’s been damaged by natural disasters several times. To prevent this, the shrine is built in effective ways. The most surprising fact of this is that the shrine uses no nails in it’s construction, because of their high potential to rust. Each section of flooring has a gap in between the joint spaces to allow the wood to absorb water and expand.  

The perfect arched bridge.

Main sights

Among the main sights, there is of course the huge torii. For new points of view on it, read our article: 3 Different Ways to Look at Miyajima’s Great Torii.

Hirabutai
Among the buildings at Itsukushima Shrine, Hirabutai opens towards the Torii gate on the sea and is the largest area of all. You can get a glimpse of just about everything when standing here. Hirabutai is surrounded by Mt. Misen’s beautiful green foliage.

The Noh-stage
There is also a noh theater stage that floats on the sea when the tide is high. This stage was built about 400 years ago and designated as an important cultural asset. It’s still being used as a stage today.

The visit doesn’t end there

Very much like in Nara, deers freely roam around the island.

Itsukushima shrine is the main attraction of the island, but there are many more things to do and see:

Map

1-1 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi city, Hiroshima Pref

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AUTHOR

miki iwai

miki iwai

Writer

I love Japanese traditional culture and travelling all over Japan. I also like to see Noh performances, doing calligraphy, and reading/making Japanese poems called “Tanka.” Through writing, I’d like to introduce a unique culture that only exists in Japan.

Information

Address 1-1 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi city, Hiroshima Pref
Hours 6:30~18:00(Until 17:00 during winter)
Access 10 min by ferry from Sanin Mainline Miyajima-guchi. 15 min walk from the port.
Phone 0829-44-2020
Website http://www.miyajima-wch.jp/jp/itsukushima/index.html