Famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide appears to float on the surface of the sea, the ‘shrine island’ of Miyajima is a laid-back world less than an hour off the coast of Hiroshima.
With green mountains, a sparkling sea and woodlands roamed by wild deer and monkeys, Miyajima is incredibly picturesque. Rising above it all is the sacred peak of Mount Misen. You can hike to the 530-metre summit or glide up in a cable car - both will reward you with stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea.
The 1,500-year-old Itsukushima Shrine is Miyajima’s star attraction. Just offshore and marking the entrance to the shrine is the iconic giant torii gate which appears to float on the sea at high tide, casting a wonderful reflection on the water. At low tide, you can walk right up to the ‘Great Torii’ for a closer look at one of Japan’s top three views.
Other sights include Daisho-in, a beautiful 9th-century Buddhist temple with numerous prayer halls and carved images. The stone pathway leading up to the temple is lined with hundreds of tiny Buddha statues. The bright red Five-Story Pagoda, with its Japanese and Chinese influences, is equally impressive - especially in the spring when surrounded by pretty cherry blossoms. Next door lies Senjokaku, the ‘Pavilion of 1000 mats’, which has a wooden ceiling covered in large paintings.
Whilst here don’t forget to sample the local delicacies. As well as maple leaf-shaped bean paste buns known as Momiji-Manju, Miyajima is known for its oysters which some consider to be the best in Japan.
For a chance to experience a more peaceful side to the island, stay overnight at a traditional ryokan inn. After the day trippers have left, you’ll get to explore in a more tranquil environment and see the shrines and temples beautifully illuminated.