Miyajima is one of the most scenic places in Japan. Called the “Island of Gods”, it is best known for its shrine and its big torii gate. But the island offers so much more. Check out this article to find out 15 things you can do in Miyajima!
1. See the Great Floating Torii
The Great Floating Torii is a 16-meter gate that appears to be floating on water when the tide is high. On the other hand, when the tide is low, tourists are able to go right next to it. The gate is considered the boundary between the human and the spirit worlds. It has resisted earthquakes and typhoons even though its foundation is not very deep. It was designated as a National Important Cultural Property of Japan. The gate looks the best during sunset when the warm colors make it seem out of this world.
2. Climb Mount Misen
Mount Misen is a sacred mountain in Miyajima and also the tallest one on the island. The mountain has very beautiful vegetation is abundant in wild animals such as deer and monkeys. The animals are used to people and can be seen up close. The top of the mountain offers panoramic views of the surrounding Seto Inland Sea. On days with clear weather, the distant Shikoku Mountain Range can be also seen. The top can be reached by several hiking trails or by cable car.
3. Explore Omotesando Street
Omotesando Street is the busiest place on the island, being packed with souvenir shops and restaurants. Besides keychains, t-shirts and plushies there are many traditional Miyajima souvenirs, like wooden rice scoops, an item Miyajima is famous for. After buying the souvenirs of you choice you can relax while eating a delicious meal, such as nigiriten. Nigiriten is a dish made from boiled fish paste with various flavors: green onion, egg, bacon, asparagus, lotus root, etc.
4. Visit Miyajima Aquarium
Miyajima Aquarium has on display more than 13.000 sea creatures from the Seto Inland Sea, as well as the waters all over the world. The Finless Porpoise dolphins are the symbol of the aquarium and are very friendly towards the visitors. Besides observing the exhibitions, people can also interact with some of the creatures, play with them and feed them. Visitors can also enjoy watching shows involving penguins and sea lions.
5. Eat momiji manju
Momiji manju represents the area’s most loved souvenir. Manju is a Japanese sweet made from and flour, rice powder and buckwheat while momiji refers to the colored autumn leaves. No, the sweets are not filled with dried leaves but are made in the shape of leaves. The fillings vary from the traditional sweet bean paste to cream cheese, chocolate, custard or powdered tea flavored cream. The momiji manju first appeared in Miyajima and was created to represent Momijidani, a well-known maple leaf viewing spot.
6. Visit Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine is the shrine that houses the Great Floating Torii gate but has many other interesting points that make it worth visiting. First constructed more than 1400 years ago, its buildings are recognized as a World Heritage Site. The long corridors with vermillion colored pillars add to the peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can also see various sub-temples, a few bridges, three ponds and a Noh stage. The shrine, the same as its famous torii gate, also appears to be floating on the water. The best views can be enjoyed when the tide is high.
7. Enjoy delicious oysters
Miyajima is renowned for its delicious oysters. Oyster farming has been practiced for more than 300 years in the area. They can be found at absolutely every restaurant on the island and are well known for their size, juiciness, and tender texture. Besides enjoying an oyster dish at a restaurant, visitors can also participate in the Miyajima Oyster Festival which is held every year in February. The festival lasts two days over a weekend and oysters prepared in different ways are sold at low prices.
8. Visit Daisho-in Temple
Daisho-in is a Shingon temple located on the sides of Mount Misen. The temple has a close connection to Japan’s Imperial Family as Emperor Toba made a personal prayer hall inside it. Emperor Meiji also stayed at the temple in 1885. The temple has many interesting spots to visit: halls, statues, monuments, a cave, a tea room and several Mani wheels, which are believed to bestow blessings on the one who spins them.
9. Go on a rickshaw tour
Visiting the city with a rickshaw is also another good way of exploring. The staffs are very knowledgeable about the region, so you will also find out interesting information about the places you see. The staffs also know less popular attractions that do not show up in guides but might still be worth paying a visit. Rickshaws can be found in front of Miyajima ferry terminal. The tours can last from 30 minutes to as much as 3 hours and pass many interesting spots.
10. Stop by the Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center
The Traditional Crafts Center is located near the Miyjima Pier and is a good place to learn about the history and the customs of the island. Here, visitors can see a variety of Miyajima handmade items like clay bells, engraved utensils, trays or papier-mache. Visitors can also learn how to cook momiji manju, the island’s famous sweet or can create wooden rice scoops. Instructors are available to help through the projects.
11. Visit the History Museum
The building was constructed in the 1830’s as a family’s personal residence but was later given to the Miyajima municipality. The municipality then created the museum with the aim of teaching visitors the history of the island. Artifacts related to Itsukushima Shrine, paintings, woodcraft and tools used back in the day by people in their everyday lives are on display. The facility has over 3.000 items.
12. Go kayaking
The waters that surround Miyajima are perfect for kayaking! Various tours can be organized which are lead by an experienced guide. This way, even beginners can feel safe and enjoy the ride! You can go around the island or kayak around Itsukushima Shrine when the tide is high. You can even pass through the Great Floating Torii. A course lasts for a half day and begins with a short presentation of the equipment.
13. Relax on the beach
Tutsumigaura is a one-kilometer long beach located in the northeast of Miyajima. The beach is a very popular relaxing area, with many people coming for sunbathing, swimming, camping or for enjoying various water sports or making a barbecue. The beach has all the required facilities such as toilets, washing areas, and restaurants. There are also shops where you can rent necessities like umbrellas, sports equipment, and barbecue items.
14. Enjoy seasonal beauty
There are many beautiful sights to see in spring and autumn. There are over 1300 cherry trees around Itsukushima Shrine and along the walking trails on Mount Misen. Amazing views can be enjoyed of the vermillion shrine combined with the pink blossoms. Autumn brings another kind of beauty with its colorful trees. The best place to see autumn colors is Momijidani Park, an attractive garden located along a river at the foot of Mount Misen. There are over 200 maple trees that create a painting-like image, attracting many tourists every year.
15. Go on a night cruise
Night cruises are organized by a couple of companies that offer amazing views of the island at night. Itsukushima Shrine and the Great Floating Torii are illuminated as soon as the night comes, creating an astonishing image. Both the shrine and the gate look even more interesting at night. The cruises pass through the gate when the water allows it. A tour lasts 30 minutes and can be operated even in rainy weather, as the boats are roofed.
Have a good trip and travel!