INTRODUCTION TO MIYAJIMA
Miyajima Island is considered to be one of the 3 most beautiful spots in Japan and there is no lie to that statement. From verdant forest with deer meandering around to its famed Tori gate, Miyajima is a sight to behold. Below is the top recommended sites to see on Miyajima.
Taking the ferry to Miyajima is like stepping into Japan’s spiritual world and that is because the famous Tori gate stands at the threshold between modern life and one’s personal spiritual retreat. That and during high tide the gate looks like it is floating in the water. But don’t worry, during low-tide plan to get your feet wet, fill your shoes with sand and traipse around the tori gate. Just make sure that you plan your trip there so that you see O-Tori during low and high tide. It is worth it.
2. ITSUKUSHIMA JINJA
Imagine a floating shrine and then you can begin to vicariously experience Itsukushima Jinja. It is built over the bay area so during high-tide it appears to be floating on water. Make sure to check it out because it was built nearly 1500 years ago and truly feels like you are walking in Japan’s past. You will also get a really good look at O-Tori from it too.
Tahoto is a two-storied pagoda built nearly 500 years ago. In old times the Buddha of Medicine was worshiped here but it has since moved. If you plan on spending a half-day on Miyajima than you might want to skip out on this because it involves a bit of a hike. But you will see it from a distance and it is still very beautiful.
4. OMOTO PARK
Walking through Omoto Park is like walking through a fairy tail. The rocks are laced with a verdant moss and the deer bathe in the parks serenity. It leaves you with a placid feeling. The park graces the base of the mountain so make sure to hike up a bit because you will be treated to a beautiful view of Miyajima. Be careful of the deer. If they are hungry they will try and eat your map. I don’t know why they like the taste of maps…
5. DAISHOIN TEMPLE
As you continue to meander around Miyajima you may come across Daishoin Temple. It is one of the most famous temples on the island and is the center of the Shingon Buddhist school of Omuro. Make sure to check out the Niomon Gate as it has statues of two kings that are said to ward off evil spirits.
6. GOJUNOTO (5 STOReY PAGODA)
We were already tired from hiking around the mountain but when we reached the 5-storey pagoda on our way back it was like all our aches and pains suddenly vanished. It was so finely crafted it’s no wonder the Japanese are known as perfectionists. If there are three things to do on this island, hiking to this pagoda is one of them.
7. TOKOYUNI SHRINE
Tokoyuni shrine is located right next to the 5-story pagoda so you might as well venture to it while gazing upon the pagoda. It was built several hundred years ago by the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi who is considered to be one of the three unifiers of Japan. It was designed to be a library for the monks on the island.
8. WALK THROUGH THE OLD TOWN
The old town has many shops and restaurants where you can try the local cuisine. I remember franticly looking for unago meshi (more on it below) and constantly finding myself at the next ice-cream stall. The town is also built in a traditional style so if you were unable to see a traditional area of Japan anywhere else, it may be nice to walk around the town for that reason alone.
9. TRY UNAGO MESHI
No matter where you go in Japan at least one Japanese person will ask you if you have tried such-and-such food there. Unago meshi is the food to try on Miyajima. It is a locally caught eel that is soft and has a lot of texture (http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/culinary-heritage.html). It is grilled with soya sauce and, as per usual, is put on rice. So don’t worry, you don’t have to eat it raw.
I went to Miyajima for two reasons. One, I wanted to visit the “3 most beautiful places in Japan.” Two, it has that famous tori gate in the water. All the other gems that this island had to offer pleasantly surprised me. To top it off it is an easy half-day/full-day trip from Hiroshima.
You can also check out my blog post about YAKUSHIMA—a mystical Japanese island south of Kyushu.
Have you been to any islands in Japan? If you have let me know below.