Itsukushima Shrine(厳島神社), Miyajima(宮島)

Tram 2 waiting for passengers at Miyajimaguchi

Miyajima is a calm and picturesque island of Hiroshima Prefecture. Even though its actual name is Itsukushima(厳島), it is popular by the name Miyajima. This island is famous for its floating Tori gate of Itsukushima Shrine. We stayed at Hotel New Hiroden near Hiroshima station after our first-day visit to Hiroshima city. It was on a clear Saturday of April that we boarded the tram to Miyajimaguchi.

To Miyajima

From JR Hiroshima Station, take Tram No.2 to Miyajimaguchi(¥280 one way). It will take 70 minutes to reach the ferry terminal at Miyajimaguchi. For about half an hour, the tram ride was very slow as usual: waiting for the traffic signals, making frequent stops etc. But after Hiroden-nishi-Hiroshima stop, tram speed was just like an ordinary train. Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi, there were manually operated ticketing gates. We showed our tram tickets to the staff. Ferry services are available at a 2-minute walking distance from the tram station. Two major companies are offering ferry services- JR and Matsudai. Ride on those huge ferries is another great experience while in Miyajima. Round trip ride on ferry costs ¥410 for adults. We can feel the cool sea breeze and watch the beauty of the surrounding green mountains along with the views of Miyajima and the floating Tori gate at various distances while approaching the island. The ten-minute ride takes us to the island of Shrines, Miyajima. Once we step our foot on the land of Miyajima, we can feel the nature: thick woods, greenery, sea, wild deer, and so on.

Beware of the Wild deer of Miyajima

We can see wild deer all around the coastal areas of Miyajima, but not many as we could see in Nara Park. And apart from Nara Park where we can give some deer biscuits from the local shops, here we could not spot any such shops. Even feeding them is not encouraged in Miyajima. Apparently, those deer will be scanning you for some eatables, near or even within your bag or coat pockets. We lost some city maps kept in our backpack pockets while we were busy with taking photographs. So, please take care to keep your valuable documents inside your bag safely.

Along the streets of Miyajima

Walking along the streets if Miyajima, we can spot many souvenir shops and restaurants on both sides. We will reach in front of the shrine Tori gate with lion-dog guardians which mark the entrance of Itsukushima shrine grounds. Every single spot along the coast gives you nice views of the floating gate from various angles. You can spend enough time along the seashore or even walk a bit inside(even with kids), where the tides are not so powerful.

Check the high and low tide timings before going

There will be low tides and high tides, usually two times every day, which will give entirely different views of the floating Tori gate and the shrine. When it is high tide, we can view the Tori gate in its floating state, while during the low tides, the bottom part of the Tori gare should be exposed and visitors can walk up to the foot of the gate. People use to pick up clams during the low tide timings. It’s better to check the tide predictions before heading to Miyajima. You can check it here(give on official site of Miyajima) under the high tides and low tides menu or here (which seems easier).

Floating Tori at Miyajima

Itsukushima shrine

Itsukushima Shrine and the associated Tori gate are built inside the sea lifted upon wooden poles. Reconstruction of these wooden poles will be done part by part. The shrine building and the Tori gate 200 meters distance from the shrine will be floating in the seawater during high tides. Tori gate could be seen in its floating state even at other timings, except at low tides. There is an entrance fee of ¥300 to enter the shrine. The vermillion painted shrine building is really vast and we can walk along through wooden pavements lifted on wooden pillars. The shrine area constitutes the main shrine and some small shrines inside it. A bridge, an Amulet office and a stage are also present here. A treasure hall is located outside the shrine building at the opposite banks.

Hokoku Shrine

Hokoku shrine
Inside the Hokoku Shrine

Just opposite to the narrow road running beside the Itsukushima shrine complex, we can see steep stairs up to a hill where another minor shrine of Itsukushima is located. Hokoku shrine which is also part of the Itsukushima shrine is a huge floor space with lots of wooden pillars and paintings. With an entry fee of ¥100, visitors can enter inside it, have some really calm time and take enough photos. We have to remove our shoes and wear the room chappals provided there before entering the shrine. They will provide polythene bags for putting your shoes which has to be carried in our hands. A five-storied pagoda which is also part of Itsukushima shrine could be seen just behind this shrine.

Even though almost all the Japanese shrines have common elements which won’t be interesting after visiting so many, this shrine located inside the sea will be an entirely different experience of visiting Japanese shrines.