Miyajima (also known as “Itsukushima”) is a small island located close to Hiroshima, and with its giant wooden torii, the world heritage site happens to be one of Japan´s most well-known and beautiful spots you can possibly imagine.
I strongly recommend you to visit this peaceful gem if you are travelling across Japan. The island is definitely worth a visit in so many regards, and also belongs to my personal top-3 sightseeing spots in Japan. You should take some time in order to discover the island´s beauty, especially as you will be able to witness a phenomenal sundown from here.
How to get to Itsukushima
Hiroshima –> Miyajimaguchi –> Itsukushima
If you are travelling by Shinkansen, simply get off at Hiroshima station, from there take the Sanyo JR to “Miyajimaguchi,” which takes around 30 minutes.
After arriving at Miyajimaguchi, you´ll have to board the JR ferry to the island. The ferry ride (unfortunately) takes only 10-15 minutes. If you are a proud owner of a Japan Rail Pass, the ferry will be also free of charge.
The Itsukushima shrine, built in 593, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1996 and almost seems to be floating on water. Well, if you happen to arrive around noon, the pillars of the building will be exposed due to low tide. It´s also a great opportunity to walk to the Torii, but in this case please make sure to wear proper footwear, as you will literally be walking on the muddy sea floor.
The shrine´s admissen fee in combination with the treasure hall is only 500 Yen, opening its doors already at 6:30 in the morning and closing depending on the respective season at around 5:30pm.
Misen is a sacred mountain and historic site. There are many legends and stories existing about this place. You should take the ropeway up to its top at 535m (1755ft), from which you´ll have a breathtaking view of the open sea and Honshu on the other side. The signposts are quite famous, whoever set it up surely is blessed by both wisdom and humour ;-).
You´ll have to pay 1000 Yen for the ropeway, 1800 Yen if you´d like to buy a return ticket as well. Alternatively, you can walk down again by foot, which takes around 1 hour depending on your pace.
Arriving at the top of Mt. Misen, you´ll be rewarded by a beautiful view, especially when it´s good weather. Thus I can just recommend you to pay the island a visit on a sunny day, it doubles the pleasure and experience immensely.
For me, I always decide to walk down myself, which is another great experience. The forest has a unique look and feel to it, due to a law that prevented trees from being cut down it is upmost dark and dense, even during daytime. So you should take the warning signs seriously, it indeed gets dark quickly in the late afternoon.
I haven´t been to a similar forest before. It´s simply beautiful and apart from the pathways it feels and looks almost untouched. As most visitors will take the ropeway in order to get back, you can enjoy your descent even more, passing temples and the Reikado Hall, in which monks keep an eternal flame (“kiezo no hi”) burning for 1200 years now. It is said that water boiled with this flame will cure all kinds of diseases.
If you can stay on the island until evening and sundown, you will witness an almost magical serenade of light, immersing the torii and the surrounding scenery into a colorful game of colors.
The beauty of nature. On these sainted grounds, you can definitely find and enjoy its very essence.
The Battle of Itsukushima
September 30th, 1555.
The natural forces hit the boats of daimyo Motonari Mori and his men as if trying to prevent them from an obvious suicide mission doomed to fail. And yet, despite of the raging storm, they set ashore at Tsutsumigaura, navigating surrounded by sheer darkness, without any lights for not being discovered by the enemy. With only 4000 warriors, he intended to fight the superior army of Harutaka Sue.
4000 versus 27.000 men.
In the early morning hours of October 1st, Mori carried out a surprise attack against the overwhemlingly advantageous enemy.
It turned out to be…successful.
The commander of the Sue force, Takakane Hironaka, fled to the mountains of Miya-jima, being chased by Mori´s men. Hironaka, his son and 100 of his men were killed in the battle that took place in the Komaga-bayasi forest.
The 35 year old general Harutaka Sue managed to escape to Oeura beach, but soon realized being on a hiding to nothing, without any chance to escape the island. He drank his last sake, danced the samurai dance and commited suicide with his sword.