Japan has so many natural and architectural icons it should make every other country jealous: Mount Fuji, Himeji Castle, Jigokudani Monkey Park, Fushimi Inari, Kinkakuji… the list is endless. However, one such icon could be heralded as the best of the lot: the Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima.
The iconic Itsukushima Shrine is located on Miyajima island, just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. I enjoyed some time in Hiroshima although it was more dark tourism rather than anything to be enjoyed. However, I was looking forward to visiting the Itsukushima Shrine, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is hard to explain why a floating torii gate is so special. Maybe it’s just the aesthetics? Whatever it is, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Miyajima each year to spend some time at this famous shrine and perhaps hike up to the top of nearby Mount Misen to get awesome panoramic views over the area.
I must admit I have a preference for the colour red. That is why I so adore the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, I guess. But the scenery of the Itsukushima Shrine also gives it an ambience unlike anything else I have visited, as there are walkways around the shrine that are elevated above wetlands and marshes, and the when the tide rolls in the walkways themselves appear to be floating somewhat.
You can experience this shrine in just a few hours, as a half-day trip from Hiroshima mainland, and entry costs only 300Yen per person, which in my opinion is great value. However, you should plan your visit according to whether you want to see the floating torii gate at high tide or low tide. Obviously the gate only ‘floats’ when the tide is in, yet when the tide is out you can walk up to the gate and even touch the base with your hands – just remember to wear suitable footwear!
If you want to see the gate in both high tide and low tide, then you will need to spend the whole day at Miyajima, which may mean a very late end to your day. There are little shopping alleys nearby selling souvenirs and some good food if you need to pass the time, and accommodation around Miyajima seems cheap enough if you didn’t want to get back to the Hiroshima mainland.
For more information on the grandiose Itsukushima Shrine and for the best way to visit please check out this informative piece from JapanGuide.com. Alternatively, this blog from Michaël Van Broekhoven will give you an added insight to the marvels of Miyajima!