Japan's Itsukushima Sacred Island
More frequently called Miyajima, Itsukushima island is located in Hiroshima bay and faces towards Seto Inland Sea. Owing to its great floating torii gate and Shinto shrine, this sacred island was ranked one of the three most beautiful sites of Japan and is a major touristic hotspot in the archipelago.
According to early 17th century Confucian philosopher Hayashi Razan, this little island located off Hiroshima’s coast offers one of the three most famous views of Japan (Nihon Sankei). The iconic great floating torii ⛩️ of Itsukushima shrine, designed site of the Unesco World Heritage List, was built in the sand and is famous for withstanding (almost) without a flinch the sea tides since its creation. It notheless underwent a 3 years and a half renovation works starting in 2019, and was freed from scaffoldings in December 2022, revealing its bright vermilion structure again.
An ancient sacred place
A holy island of Shintoism (the whole island actually being a Shinto shrine), Miyajima has long followed traditional specific rules and especially the tenets of kegare, that is to say avoiding "impurity" due to death or blood. As a consequence, there is no grave on the island, soon-to-be-mothers were evacuated before giving birth, and cutting trees was forbidden until Meiji Restauration in 1868.
Thereby Mount Misen, of which hikers are fond, is surrounded by a luxurious forest where red maples trees’ foliage is particularly beautiful in fall season. They constitute the core of Momijidani Park and are a famous feature of Miyajima along with the about five hundred shika deers roaming free on the island.
Accessing to Miyajima is very easy and facilitated by the presence of Hiroshima on the other side of the bay. From the city, several companies will bring you to the island. Some ferry ⛴️ lines (not JR) even connect the island and the Peace Memorial Park.
A preserved traditional atmosphere
The island is relatively small and the paths are very marked out. At the ferry station exit, tourists are oriented to a semi-pedestrian street bordered by souvenirs stores. From there, several attractions and visits are accessible depending on the time you can spend on Miyajima.
Some visitors choose to spend one night on the island, in one of its few hotels 🏨 or expensive ryokan traditional inns, to live a more intense experience. At night, the place is empty from tourists, and you can feel a much more authentic atmosphere, enjoying the view on the bay. Early morning, before the first ferries disembark their flow of tourists (a breaking record of 4.65 million in 2019!), the light also offers a timeless, beautiful immersion in serenity.
Miyajima boasts several specialties, especially the "Momiji 🍁-manju" (a maple-leaf-shaped cake filled with sweet red-bean paste), cooked oysters or rice wooden scoops.
Since 16 May 2009, Miyajima’s administrative city Hatsukaichi, has become twin city with Mont-Saint-Michel in France, another famous island site listed in the Unesco World Heritage.
In March 2021, the municipality voted a ¥100 (~US$0.68) tax, to pay in addition to the ferry's fare. It will be implemented in the next two years to endow the island's public toilets 🚽 maintenance.