Miyajima is a small island outside of Hiroshima, declared as a Unesco World Heritage Site, and one of Japan’s most visited tourist attractions.
You have probably seen its star attraction, the floating Torii gate of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, on covers of guide books, tourist brochures, posters, and on Instagram.
The scene of the bright red floating gate on Miyajima Island is ranked as one of the three best views in Japan! The Three Views Of Japan, or Nihon Sankei, was declared in 1643 as Japan’s three most scenic sights – the Pine-clad islands of Matsushima, the Sandbar of Amanohashidate, and the Torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima. The Three Most Scenic Spots of Japan is celebrated on the 21st of July, the Nihon Sankei Day.
In 1168, Taira no Kiyomori (1118 – 1181), the leader and most powerful man in Japan during the late Heian Period, chose Miyajima to be the place for his clan’s family shrine. The result became Itsukushima Shrine, which is Miyajima’s most popular attraction today.
The island even got its name from this shrine, as “Miyajima” means “shrine island.” Miyajima Island has a long history as a holy site of Shinto Buddhism, and the highest peak on the island, Mount Misen, has been worshiped as a sacred mountain since the 6th century.
Another attraction that the travel books don`t tell you about is all the tame deer! We met a welcome committee of deer immediately after we got off the ferry, so cute and friendly. 🙂
They are all over the place and suddenly appear where you least expect them to be. And they are very cheeky!
They roam the streets of Miyajima, following people and snatching anything out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists. It seems they especially love to eat paper, maps and JR Passes in particular, so watch out. 🙂
This is our ultimate guide to visiting Miyajima Island, complete with a Miyajima itinerary with all the main attractions that the island has to offer.
What To Do On Miyajima Island –
The Ultimate Miyajima Itinerary
The map above: The highlights of Miyajima Island – A 1-Day Miyajima Itinerary (A-G)
1-Day Miyajima Island Itinerary
Floating Torii Gate, Sacred Mountain & Ancient Temple
This Miyajima itinerary can be done in a day, or a half-day (5-6 hours), depending on whether you will take the ropeway up to Mount Misen or hike up. If you want to hike up to Mount Misen, the hike itself takes about 2-3 hours.
A. Miyajima Ferry Terminal
All ferries from Hiroshima dock at the ferry terminal on the north side of Miyajima Island. From here you can easily walk to all the main sights of Miyajima. There are also taxis that can take you around Miyajima Island and if you want a more romantic and atmospheric way to do your sightseeing you can hire a hand-pulled rickshaw.
From the ferry terminal (A), turn right, and walk south to the busy Miyajima Omotesando Shotengai shopping street (B). Walking time: 5 min.
B. Miyajima Omotesando Shotengai
- Estimated time: 1 hour (depending on if you want to eat at one of the cafes and restaurants or just walk through the shopping street)
Miyajima has a nice and cozy center of narrow streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and small shops. The most popular street is the Miyajima Omotesando Shotengai. It is a bit touristy, but you will find lots of small souvenir shops here and cafes and restaurants serving Miyajima specialties.
Here you can buy everything from souvenirs, handicrafts, Japanese sweets, dumplings, cookies, and ice-cream. Make sure to try the grilled oysters and okonomiyaki (pancake), a specialty of Miyajima. We tried them all, except for the oysters.
You have to try the yummy Manju, a Japanese sweet/ cookie, or wagashi, which Miyajima is famous for. The Manju cakes are delicious! They come with different fillings like vanilla, chocolate, cream cheese, green tea, and the original one which is with bean paste.
In autumn, the autumn version, Momiji Manju, is particularly popular which is shaped into a beautiful maple leaf shape. You can find Manju cakes in several shops in Miyajima. The Momiji Manju dates back to the late Meji Period (1868 – 1912).
As you reach the end of the shopping street (B), follow the waterfront for a couple of minutes, and you will soon spot the floating Torii gate (C), Miyajima’s most famous attraction. Walking time: 5 min.
C. Floating Torii Gate
- Estimated time: 15 min
Miyajima’s star is the bright red torii gate that seems to be floating on the water at high tide.
The gate is 16 m tall and weighs 60 tonnes and is the shrine gate, or torii, of the Itsukushima-jinja shrine.
There has been a torii gate here since 1168, although the one you see here today dates from the late 1800s.
Every six hours, the tides around Miyajima will shift. To get the best pictures of the gate, you should time your visit to high tide to truly see the shrine and gate float above the sea. At low tide, you can, however, walk out to the gate and admire it upfront.
The torii gate is lit up after dark, making it glow, giving it a mysterious atmosphere.
The gate is under renovation at the moment and is all covered in scaffolding. The gate’s renovation started in June 2019, and a completion date has not been set yet, although it is expected to last at least 2-3 years.
Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival
If you happen to be in Hiroshima in mid-August, you should definitely time your visit to Miyajima to coincide with the annual Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival. This is a spectacular firework show where over 5000 fireworks are launched above the water between Miyajima and Hiroshima. You can also watch the fireworks from the mainland-side.
This festival is very popular, and most Japanese wear their beautiful yukata (summer kimono) at the festival. We haven’t been to the Fireworks festival, but we were lucky enough to attend the peace ceremony in Hiroshima on the 6th of August.
Just follow the stream of people along the seafront until you reach Itsukushima Shrine (D) at the inner bay. Walking time: 2 min.
D. Itsukushima Shrine
- Estimated time: 1 hour
The Shinto shrine Itsukushima, or Itsukushima-Jinja as it is called in Japanese, that the floating gate belongs to, is pretty cool too!
The shrine has a unique pier-like construction so that boats could dock and worshippers could visit the temple without ever setting foot on the island itself. The island’s holy status meant that commoners were not allowed, and would instead approach the shrine by boat through the floating gate out in the sea.
The shrine consists of several buildings connected by wooden walking paths. Here you will find a prayer hall, the main hall, and a noh theater (traditional Japanese theater) stage.
If possible try to visit the shrine at high tide, when it is surrounded by water. At low tide, the water resides and the ground becomes muddy, but don’t worry; the walking paths will keep your feet dry and clean. 🙂
The shrine dates back as far as the late 6th century, but the present buildings you see here today were built in 1168.
The contrast of the blue sea, the green hills, and the vivid red shrine make for a stunning sight!
Miyajima Kangen-Sai Festival is a fantastic event held yearly at the Itsukushima Shrine where decorated wooden boats float on the sea outside the Itsukushima Shrine to sound traditional instruments like flutes, stringed instruments, and drums. It is an old festival, first introduced by the warlord Taira-no-Kiyomori in the 12th century.
The festival is held on the 17th of the sixth lunar calendar month, anywhere between end-July and early-August. This is the biggest festival at the Itsukushima Shrine.
- Opening Hours: 06:30 am – 18:00/ 6 pm, closes at 17:30 and 17:00 during winter
- Entrance Fee: 300 JPY = US$ 3 (adult)
- How to get here: Itsukushima-Jina Shrine is a 10 min walk from the Miyajima ferry pier.
- Itsukushima-jinja Shrine’s Official Webpage
From Itsukushima Shrine (D), head inland on the island by following the main road that leads up to some stairs where you will spot the Senjokaku Pavilion, and it’s red Five-Story Pagoda (E). Walking time: 3 min.
E. Senjokaku Pavilion & Five-Story Pagoda
- Estimated time: 15 min
There are several temples, pavilions, and pagodas scattered around Miyajima island.
If you follow the stairs up from Itsukushima Shrine, you will reach the large dark wooden Senjokaku Pavilion. Senjokaku means “pavilion of 1000 mats” as its size is approximately the size of 1000 tatami mats.
Senjokaku Pavilion dates back to 1587, built by Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 – 1598), a Japanese daimyo/ feudal lord and politician. He is regarded as one of the three great unifiers of Japan and was one of the most powerful men in the country. He built Senjokaku to honor fallen soldiers, but sadly the building was never finished before he died.
Senjokaku Pavillion has never been fully completed, and you will notice that it seems a bit raw and unfinished, lacking a proper ceiling and an entrance. It is still grand and atmospheric and has a lovely sea view. Sit down on the balcony in front of the shrine, have a well-deserved rest, and enjoy the view of the sea and the floating torii gate.
Senjokaku became a Shinto shrine in 1872 to honor its creator Hideyoshi.
Next to Senjokaku Pavilion stands the impressive bright red five-story pagoda at Toyokuni Shrine, from 1407.
- Opening hours: 08:30 am – 16:30/ 4:30 pm
- Entrance fee: 100 JPY = US$1 (adult, 50 JPY = US$ 0,5 (child)
- How to get here: Senjokaku Pavillion & pagoda is only a 2 min walk from Itsukushima Shrine and a 10 min walk from Miyajima’s ferry pier.
From Senjokaku Pavilion, follow the path through Momijidani Park, which is fantastic in November when its maple trees are in autumn colors. Follow the signs to Miyajima Ropeway (Momiji-Dani Station). Walking time: 15 min. Or you can take the free shuttle bus, which runs every 20 minutes from a stop near Iwaso Ryokan.
F. Miyajima Ropeway & Mount Misen
- Estimated time: 2 – 4 hours (depending on whether you take the ropeway or hike up the mountain)
The sacred Mount Misen is Miyajima’s highest mountain with its 530 m. You can either walk up to Mount Misen or take the Miyajima ropeway. I recommend that you take the ropeway as it is a spectacular trip with fantastic views.
Even though you take the ropeway, you still have to walk 30-min or so from the end of the ropeway (Shishiiwa Station) and up to the Misen mountain top. It is a lovely hike.
We made this trip at the end of November, and the fall colors were amazing! The whole mountain and valleys were covered in a sea of orange, yellow, red, and brown.
There is a summit observatory at the mountain top – Mount Misen Observatory. The view from the summit observatory is awesome, and you can have a rest at one of the wooden benches and soak in the 360-degree sea view. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Hiroshima city and the Seto Inland Sea.
Close to the Mount Misen Observatory, you will find several small Buddhist statues, shrines, and temples. At one of these temples, the famous Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi meditated for 100 days in the 9th century before returning to China. Kobo Daishi was a Japanese monk who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism in Japan and founded the Daishoin Temple on Miyajima in 806.
Kobo Daishi also lit a flame “Kiezu-no-hi” meaning the eternal flame, when he visited this site over 1200 years ago. The fire is still burning inside the Hall of the spiritual Flame, called Reikado. The flame was actually used to light the Flame of Peace in the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.
For us, the ropeway and hike up to Mount Misen was the highlight of Miyajima.
- Opening Hours Miyajima Ropeway: Up: 09:00 am – 16:00/ 4 pm, Down: 09:20 am – 16:30/ 4:30 pm (Dec – Feb), open until 17:00 up and final return 17:30 (Mar – Nov)
- Ticket price Miyajima Ropeway: 1010 JPY = US$ 10 (adult one way), 1840 JPY = US$ 17 (adult return), 510 JPY = US$ 5 (child one way), 920 JPY = US$ 9 (child return)
- How to get here: Miyajima Ropeway Station is a 15 min walk from Itsukushima Shrine and a 20 min walk from Miyajima ferry pier.
- Miyajima Ropeway’s Official Webpage
From Mount Misen, walk or take the ropeway back down to Momijidani Park (F). Walk east across the river and over to Daishoin Temple (G). Walking time: 15 min.
G. Daisho-in Temple
- Estimated time: 30 min
The main part of the Daishoin Temple is located at the foot of Mount Misen, although the temples and statues around Mount Misen are also considered a part of the temple.
Daishoin Temple was established in 806 by Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist monks who founded the Shikoku Buddhist sect. The temple has many attractions, like a cave containing images of the 88 different Shikoku Buddhist pilgrimage temples in Japan.
The coolest part of the temple is, however, the hundreds of statues surround the stairs leading up to the main hall. Altogether, it is said that the temple grounds of Daishoin Temple has more than 500 Buddha statues.
Walking up the stairs at Daisho-In, make sure to spin the metal wheels that line the stairs. The inscribed Buddhist sutra (blessings) on each wheel is said to be just as effective if you turn it as if they were read out loud.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- Entrance Fee: Free
- How to get here: Daishoin Temple is a 5 min walk from Itsukushima Shrine and a 15 min walk from the Miyajima ferry pier.
- Daishoin Temple’s Official Webpage
We have been to Miyajima Island several times, it is such a wonderful little island, and we love wandering the streets and beautiful parks accompanied by cheeky deer. Although the floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is cool and we always strive to get the perfect shot of the gate, the highlight of Miyajima for us is Mount Misen. The cable car trip up to this sacred mountain is awesome and we love hiking between the small atmospheric temples that line the mountain.
Even though you can easily do Miyajima on a day-trip or even a half-day trip, which most people do, it is well worth spending one or even two nights here to take in its sights. Miyajima has several fantastic traditional Japanese inns called ryokans. After the last ferries and sightseeing boats have left in the evening, you will have the streets and temples almost all to yourself.
You can easily fill a couple of days on Miyajima island with hikes, museums, kayaking, and more temples and shrines. See the section “Other Things To Do On Miyajima” below.
If you are short on time and want to explore Miyajima and Hiroshima in one day fully, check out this popular “Explore Miyajima & Hiroshima In A Full Day Tour.” On this tour, you get a knowledgeable English speaking guide showing you the highlights of Miyajima and Hiroshima and tell you the dramatic history of this part of Japan.
Other Things To Do At Miyajima Island
Miyajima has a nice aquarium, Miyajima Aquarium, which was greatly improved and rebuilt in 2011. Here you see and learn about the fish and sea life around Miyajima and the Seto Inland Sea. Oysters are a specialty of Hiroshima Prefecture and the area has many oyster farms. At the aquarium, you can learn how oysters are farmed.
The aquarium is a 10 min walk from the Itsukushima Shrine and a 20 min walk from the ferry pier.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Ticket price: 1420 Yen = US$ 14 (adult), 400 Yen = US$ 4 (child)
- Miyajima Aquarium’s Official Webpage
Miyajima Museum of History
There is one museum on Miyajima, the Miyajima Museum of History and Folklore. Its exhibitions are mostly about the history of Miyajima island, its shrines, and ceremonies, but also about the daily life of people living here.
The museum building is awesome too. Over 160 years old, it used to be the home of a wealthy merchant family who built their fortune on soya sauce.
The museum is located close to Itsukushima Shrine and about a 15 min walk from the ferry pier.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (last entrance is at 16:30). Closed on Mondays.
- Ticket price: 300 Yen = US$ 3
- Miyajima Museum of History’s Official Webpage
Owl, Dog & Cat Cafe
Miyajima has an owl, Shiba dog, and Bengal cat cafe, all three located in the same building. You get a free drink included in the ticket, and you get to see and touch the owls, dogs, and cats. The owls are tied to their branches so they will (hopefully) not attack you.
I must admit that I am of two minds about animal cafes. But in the end, the choice is yours to visit or not.
How To Get To Miyajima Island
Miyajima is accessed by ferry, and you can easily do this as a day-trip from Hiroshima. There are two ways of getting to Miyajima. Either by train and ferry from the ferry terminal outside of Hiroshima or by direct high-speed ferry from Hiroshima’s city center (from the Peace Memorial Park).
Direct High-Speed Ferry: Hiroshima Peace Park – Miyajima Island
We took the high-speed ferry directly from the Peace Memorial Park in the city center of Hiroshima. This high-speed ferry takes 45 min and is very convenient, especially if you are short on time since it departs directly from the Peace Park.
It is, unfortunately, not covered by the JR Pass, so you need to purchase tickets.
- 45 min boat ride
- Ticket price: 2200 JPY = US$ 21 (adult one-way), 1100 JPY = US$ 11 (child one-way), 4000 JPY = US$ 39 (adult round-trip), 2000 JPY = US$ 19 (child round-trip). Round-trip ticket is valid for two days.
Peace Park- Miyajima: Every half hour or so from 08:30 until 17:10
Return Miyajima – Peace Park: Every hour or so from 08:40 until 17:30
- Aqua Net Ferry’s Official Webpage
Train + Ferry – Free With JR Pass
You can also take a combination of train and ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima Island. This option is included in the JR Pass.
To get to the mainland ferry terminal, take the JR San-Yo Line from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-Guchi Station (a 30 min train ride). This is free if you have a JR Pass. From Miyajima-Guchi Station, the ferry terminal is only a short 6-min walk away.
Or take tram 2 from Hiroshima Station (not JR, so not free with the JR Pass, takes 70 min), which passes the Atomic Bomb Dome, and continues to the ferry terminal.
There are two ferry companies operating ferries between the mainland ferry terminal to Miyajima Island:
Both ferries only take 10 min to cross over to Miyajima Island, and they run frequently. The JR Pass can be used on the JR Ferry. If you do not have a JR pass, both ferries cost 180 JPY = US$ 2 one way.
- 30 min train ride + 5 min walk + 10 min ferry ride = 45 min
- Ticket price: 180 JPY = US$ 2 one way. The JR Ferry is free if you have a JR Pass.
- When: Every 20 min or so from 06:30 am until 22/ 10 pm
- JR West Miyajima Ferry’s Official Webpage
- Matsudai Miyajima Ferry’s Official Webpage
Where To Stay At Miyajima Island
It is well-worth to stay the night, or even two, at Miyajima Island to beat the crowds, enjoy a peaceful and quiet evening and have a chance to see the floating torii gate lit up. Most shops, cafes, and restaurants on Miyajima close around 18:00/ 6 pm, however, so make sure you have dinner before that or book a ryokan or hotel that serves dinner.
Miyajima has some fantastic Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns). The price for a ryokan stay is a bit on the steep side, but usually, a delicious breakfast and/or Japanese multi-course Kaiseki dinner is included, making it worth it. Staying at a Ryokan is a unique must-try experience when visiting Japan.
Kurayado Iroha Ryokan
This 5-star Ryokan perfectly mixes traditional Japanese style and hospitality with modern amenities. The design of the hotel and the rooms are stunning, stylish, and sophisticated. You can choose between normal twin beds and traditional Japanese futon beds. The rooms are huge, with lovely sea views, and they all have a private bathroom and a flat-screen TV.
The hotel cafe and restaurant serve freshly-ground coffee, Michelin star level lunch, and dinner, although dinner must be reserved in advance. The staff is super welcoming and speaks excellent English. The hotel’s star attraction is the rooftop Onsen/ hot spring bath, which is both outside and inside. Nothing beats sitting in the rooftop onsen tub while enjoying the view of the floating torii gate.
It is fairly expensive but worth it for this kind of excellent food and unique experience. The whole ryokan ooze luxury, even their bath products are from the best Japanese organic brand.
Click here for the latest prices
This 4-star Ryokan is one of Miyajima’s oldest and most popular Japanese inn, open since 1854. Here you can stay in beautiful private Japanese-style rooms with a fantastic garden. In between sightseeing and going for hikes on the islands, you can relax at the indoor and outdoor onsen/ hot spring baths and have a massage. Miyajima Ferry Terminal is only a 5-min walk away from this ryokan, but they also provide a free shuttle to and from the ferry.
The rooms have air-con, tatami floors, and futon beds, while some rooms (in the old historical wing) have shared bathrooms. Check out their karaoke room to have a fun evening. A traditional Japanese multi-course Kaiseki dinner and breakfast is served either in the hotel restaurant or in your room. Iwaso is the perfect place to experience a stay at a traditional Japanese inn. However, it is quite popular and is often fully booked, so book ahead.
Click here for the latest prices
Another nice ryokan in Miyajima offering Japanese-style rooms with a fantastic mountain view and view over the Miyajima Bay with the floating torii gate. After a full day of sightseeing, nothing beats soaking in the hotel’s onsen/ hot spring bath. This ryokan has both a public indoor bath and you can book a private bath in their outdoor onsen with spectacular views of Itsukushima Shrine and the floating torii gate.
You can also enjoy a lovely breakfast and traditional Japanese dinner at the ryokan’s restaurant. The rooms come with a private bathroom and a flatscreen TV. They will pick you up at the pier when you arrive on the ferry. Jukeiso has big family rooms where up to five people can sleep. A cozy and authentic ryokan stay.
Click here for the latest prices
A lovely hotel where you can choose between Western and Japanese-style rooms, where some have private bathrooms. One of the very few hotels on Miyajima with western rooms and beds. They also have big family rooms where up to five people can sleep.
You can have breakfast (western and Japanese) and dinner in the hotel restaurant. The hotel provides a free shuttle to and from the ferry terminal, or you can walk to the ferry terminal in 15 min, and a perfect location near the sea and all the main sights of Miyajima. The hotel has a nice Onsen/ public bath (indoor and outdoor) and even a foot spa cafe!
Click here for the latest prices
Miyajima Guest House Mikuniya
A cozy guest house where you can choose between private Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and futon beds or dormitory rooms with bunk beds and a shared bathroom. The staff is welcoming and will provide you with a list of recommended restaurants and hiking trails around the island.
A simple breakfast is included, but they do not serve lunch and dinner. However, you can bring and cook your own food in the shared kitchen, where they also sell beverages (with or without alcohol) and okonomiyaki. Itsukushima Shrine and Daisho-in Temple are only a 5 min walk away. You have a fantastic mountain view from your room. The guest house has a nice small onsen, a beautiful garden, and a cozy common area where you can play games and socialize with the other guests.
Click here for the latest prices
There you have it, our ultimate travel guide to Miyajima with all its highlights and attractions.
Miyajima makes for a perfect day, or a half-day trip, from Hiroshima. Check what else you should not miss when visiting Hiroshima here. Hiroshima and Miyajima is a part of our recommended 2-week Japan itinerary.
We used the Lonely Planet`s Japan travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the images below, and press the red “Save” button that pops up:
Have you ever met cheeky deer that eat paper? Or other cheeky animals? Is Miyajima Island on your Japan itinerary? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. We would love to hear from you! If you liked this article and found it useful, please share it on social media. Thanks! 🙂Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, and we will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at absolutely no extra cost to you! This helps us keep the content up to date, create new travel guides, and keep the website going. Thank you! ♥ For more information, see our disclosure here.