Although Miyajima Island, outside of Hiroshima, is most famous for its bright red torii gate that floats in the sea, in my opinion, the ropeway and hike up to Mount Misen is equally spectacular.
The sacred Mount Misen is Miyajima’s highest mountain with its 530 m and is covered with primeval forest. You can either walk up to Mount Misen or skip the most uphill part of the hike by taking the Miyajima ropeway. Once you get to the top, there are several hikes to explore and you have a spectacular view across the sea all the way to Hiroshima.
Mount Misen is especially stunning during spring when the valley and mountain are covered in a sea of pinkish cherry blossoms, and in the autumn when the leaves turn every shade of brown, red, orange, and yellow.
By the way, for more about Miyajima island and Hiroshima check out our recommended Miyajima itinerary and Hiroshima itinerary. These travel guides are packed full of everything you should know when visiting this area of Japan, including all the essential sights and activities.
And if want some more help with planning your Japan trip, our recommended 2-week Japan itinerary is a great place to start!
Table of Contents:
Brief History Of Mount Misen
Mount Misen became a holy mountain when Kobo Daishi, one of the most famous Buddhist priests of all time in Japan, visited the mountain top in 806 and established the Daishonin Temple at the mountain’s foot.
Other prominent people who have visited Mt Misen include Japan’s first prime minister, Ito Hirobumi (1841 – 1909). Ito Hirobumi came from a line of samurais, was educated in London, and became a central figure in opening up Japan to foreigners and adopting western ideas during what is known as the Meiji Restoration. On his visit to Miyajima and Mt Misen, he stated:
The view from the summit of Mt Misen represents the genuine value of Miyajima, one of the three most scenic spots of Japan.
Mt Misen, together with Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1996.
Mount Misen At Miyajima Island
We made the trip to Mount Misen at the end of November, and the fall colors were stunning! The whole mountain and surrounding valleys were covered in a sea of orange, yellow, red, and brown. The view from the ropeway and the top of the Misen mountain was fantastic.
For us, the ropeway and hike up to Mount Misen was the highlight of Miyajima!
Here we will guide you through the trip to Mount Misen with the Miyajima ropeway, step by step. Enjoy your trip and hike to the mountain top!
Attractions On Mt Misen
Mount Misen has several highlights and attractions, as it has been worshiped as a sacred mountain since the 6th century. It took us by surprise that there were so many shrines, temples, and Buddhist statues at the mountain top.
Here is an overview of Mt Misen’s main attractions (A-F):
The map above: The ropeway and hike up to the sacred Mt Misen on Miyajima, and what to see at Mount Misen
A. Momijidani Park
To get to the Miyajima Ropeway station, called Momijidani Station, you must walk (or take the free shuttle bus) through Momijidani Park. The park is lovely all year round but is particularly beautiful during autumn with its autumn colors.
I felt like I was walking through a Japanese landscape garden as Momijidani Park has all the classic elements of these types of gardens – a red bridge crossing a calm river, a pond housing colorful carp fish, moss-covered stones, lovely stone stairs, big trees, and lanterns. We met several cute and friendly deer along our stroll through the park, snacking on the trees and bushes.
At the end of Momijidani Park, you have to choose – take the ropeway or hike up to Mt Misen. The hike up takes about 1 hour.
Walk through Momijidani Park, follow the signs, and you will get to the start of the Miyajima Ropeway – Momijidani Station. Walking time: 7-10 min. Alternatively, you can take the free shuttle bus through the park.
B. Miyajima Ropeway
We opted for the ropeway to get to Mount Misen, and the view from the ropeway was fantastic! It is one of the best ropeway rides we have taken in Japan, except the Alpine Route, of course, which is the ultimate ropeway ride.
To get to the start of Miyajima Ropeway, you must walk through the lovely Momijidani Park to the Momijidani Station, where the ropeway departs. A nice 10-min walk, or 7 min if you run a little (like the sign says, see picture below). 🙂
There is also a free shuttle service from/ to the bus stop at the Momijidani Park Entrance (behind Itsukushima Shrine, near Iwaso Ryokan) and Momijidani Station, where the ropeway departs. The shuttle bus leaves every 20 min, from 09:50 am.
The Miyajima ropeway consists of two intervals. The first one is a 10-min cable car ride from Momijidani Station (starting point) to Kayatani Station (371 m above sea level). This is a circulating type of ropeway consisting of several gondolas, each with 6-8 seats, that leaves at 1-minute intervals.
The second ropeway interval takes you from Kayatani Station and all the way up to Shishiiwa Station (433 m above sea level), where you can enjoy the spectacular view from Shishiiwa Observatory. This last ropeway ride takes about 4 minutes and is operated by two big 30-seater gondolas that leave with 15-min intervals.
So altogether, the ropeway ride takes 14 min or so, giving you an amazing view of the sea, mountain, forest, and Miyajima island.
The top station, Shishiiwa Station, has a large station building with facilities like a cafe, restrooms, vending machines, and a big air-conditioned room perfect to have a rest, cool down, and have a snack and something to drink, especially if you have hiked all the way up. Close to the ropeway station, there is also a lovely viewpoint where you have a great view of the sea, the surrounding islands, and Hiroshima.
C. Hike From Ropeway End Station (Shishiiwa Station) To The Mount Misen Top
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 where you follow a well-marked hiking trail, about 950 m long.
From the top of the cable car, Shishiiwa Station, follow the hiking trail until you get to the main hall – Misen Hondo. Walking time: 20-30 min (950 m).
D. Misen Hondo – Misen Main Hall
After having walked on a well-marked hiking trail from the top end station of Miyajima ropeway, Shishiiwa Station, for about 15-20 min (650 m), you get to an open area housing several temple buildings. One of these buildings is the main hall of Mt Misen – Misen Hondo.
The main hall of Mount Misen was built by Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist priests. He founded this temple and performed “Gumonji,” a sacred Buddhist meditation for 100 days in the 9th century.
Kobo Daishi was one of the most important Japanese Buddhist priests who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism and built the Daishoin Temple on Miyajima in 806.
The main hall that you see here today is a rebuild from 1955.
Mt Misen has a mysterious aura to it, and you will find several mysterious sights scattered around the mountain top coming from ancient tales. These are called Misen’s seven wonders.
E. The Seven Wonders Of Mount Misen
1. Reikado – The Eternal Flame
Apparently, Kobo Daishi lit a holy fire, “Kiezu-no-hi” meaning the eternal flame, when he visited this site over 1200 years ago. The flame is still burning inside a small temple building called Reikado, next to the temple’s main hall, Misen Hondo.
This flame was actually used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.
It is said that the holy water boiling in the pot above the fire helps against all sorts of diseases.
2. Mandara-iwa Rock
A big rock with Sanskrit inscriptions by Kobo Daishi, the famous Buddhist priest, himself. You can find this rock right behind the Misenhond Main Hall. However, the rock has a round and slippery surface and is marked with a do not enter sign.
3. Kan-man-iwa Rock
A circular rock in the shape of a bowl with a round hole in the middle. The whole in the center of the rock is filled with water. Although the rock is about 500 m above sea level, apparently, the rock’s water level rises at high tide and goes back down at low tide. Very mysterious!
4. Ryuto-no-sugi – Lightning Cedar Tree
The remains of an old burned cedar tree that, according to the tales, could be seen as a mysterious light from boats out at sea off the coast of Miyajima. The light was especially clear and big on the eve of Lunar New Year. Only the trunk of the tree is left, and it is completely turned into black coal.
5. Syakujyo-no-ume – Holy Plum Tree
A holy plum tree. The tale about this plum tree took root in the exact spot where the famous Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi’s crosier was once placed when Kobo founded this sacred place.
6. Hyoshigi-no-oto – Wood Clapper Sound
Apparently, you can hear the “click-click” sound of a wooden clapper coming from out of nowhere around midnight. Maybe the ghost of a Buddhist monk? However, the tale is that the sound is made by a tengu – a legendary supernatural creature found in Japanese folk religion, often pictured as a bird of prey with a very long nose. This creature is believed to be dangerous, living inside Mount Misen, and people are warned not to be outside if hearing this noise, or they can get cursed and bad things will happen.
7. Shigure-zakura Cherry Tree
A special cherry tree that sadly has been cut down, and you can no longer see it. This tree apparently always used to be covered with dew, even on dry and sunny days.
From Reikado (temple housing the eternal flame), follow the stairs to the right of the building, taking you uphill past the Sankido temple building. Continue on uphill until you get to Mount Misen Observatory at the mountain top. Walking time: 5-10 min (280 m).
F. Mount Misen Observatory
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.
The modern observatory building has three levels – restrooms on the first floor, a shaded middle area with benches perfect for a break, and an open-air viewing platform on the rooftop. The viewing platform on the top floor is a fantastic place to take photos as you get a 360-degree view of Miyajima’s sea and surrounding islands.
After having visited the mountain top and its observatory, you can walk the same route back to Shishiiwa Station (a 30 min hike) and take the ropeway back down (15 min ropeway trip). Or you can walk back down to Miyajima center, a 30 min – 1-hour hike downhill.
How To Get To Mount Misen
There are two ways to get to the top of Mt Misen, the ropeway or hike up. The easiest and most spectacular way to get to Mt Misen is to take the Miyajima Ropeway up to its top station Shishiiwa Station (433 m above sea level), a 15-min ropeway ride. From the top station, you just have to walk 30-min on a well-marked hiking trail (0,7 km) to the top of Mount Misen.
Option two is to hike all the way up to Mount Misen, a 1,5-2 hour walk. A great exercise!
Hike Mount Misen
If you want to exercise and get your heart rates up, you can hike up the top of Mount Misen, which takes about 1,5 – 2 hours (one way). There are three hiking trails up and down Mount Misen:
- Momijidani Trail – The shortest and the steepest, mostly surrounded by forest, so the view is not that great.
- Daisho-in Trail – The nicest view and not as steep as the other two. It starts at the Daishoin Temple.
- Omoto Trail
You can sometimes see deer and monkeys along the trail.
You can choose to walk back down the hillside path to Itsukushima Shrine (a 1-1,5 hour walk) or take the ropeway down from Shishiiwa Station.
Practical Information Miyajima Ropeway
- Opening Hours Miyajima Ropeway: Up: 09:00 am – 16:00/ 4 pm, Down: 09:20 am – 16:30/ 4:30 pm December – February, open until 17:00 up and final return 17:30 March – November
- 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 to Mount Misen: Miyajima Ropeway Station is a 15 min walk from Itsukushima Shrine and a 20 min walk from the Miyajima ferry pier.
- Miyajima Ropeway’s Official Webpage
That’s it, our ultimate guide to Mount Misen and Miyajima Ropeway. It is a fantastic mountain trip! The view and attractions on the mountain top make this trip worth it, no matter whether you choose to take the cable car or hike all the way up.
For us, Mt Misen and taking the Miyajima Ropeway was an even bigger highlight than Miyajima’s most famous attraction, the floating torii gate. But we are from Norway, and we love the mountains! 🙂
Check out what else you should not miss when visiting Miyajima in our recommended Miyajima itinerary.
Miyajima is a part of our recommended 2-week Japan itinerary, which you can read here.
Read next, our articles about Hiroshima:
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