Nestled in the tranquil waters of the Seto Inland Sea lies Miyajima, an island revered for its breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. At the heart of Miyajima’s allure is Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its iconic “floating” torii gate. This mystical island, also known as Itsukushima, offers visitors a unique blend of spiritual tranquility, historical depth, and scenic beauty.
The Enchantment of Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine, dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto, deity of seas and storms, has been a place of worship since the 6th century. However, the current structure, known for its distinctive red torii gate, dates back to the 12th century, courtesy of Taira no Kiyomori, a powerful clan leader. The shrine’s design, with its pier-like construction, was intended to respect the island’s sanctity, ensuring that pilgrims could visit without disturbing its divine purity.
The Floating Torii Gate: A Symbol of Harmony
The grand torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine, standing majestically in the sea, creates an illusion of floating at high tide. This iconic gate serves not only as the boundary between the spirit and the human world but also symbolizes peace and harmony between nature and mankind. It’s a sight that captivates photographers and travelers, especially during the high tide when the waters reflect its grandeur, and at sunset, when it silhouettes against the vibrant sky.
Miyajima: Island of Gods
Miyajima’s landscape is dotted with lush forests, wild deer, and historical monuments. They make the Miyajima a haven for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike. The island’s scenic beauty is accentuated by Mount Misen. It is the highest peak offering panoramic views of the surrounding sea and islands. According to legend, Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, ignited the eternal flame on Mount Misen, which continues to burn at the Daisho-in Temple.
Cultural and Seasonal Highlights
Miyajima is not only famous for Itsukushima Shrine but also for its cultural festivals, such as the Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival and the Kangensai Festival. Each season brings a new reason to visit: cherry blossoms in spring, lush greenery in summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and serene snowscapes in winter.
Miyajima tours from Kyoto
Miyajima is easily accessible from Hiroshima, with ferry services from Miyajimaguchi to the island. The journey offers a prelude to the island’s serene beauty, preparing visitors for the spiritual and cultural discoveries that await.
From Kyoto, it is common to take the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Miyajima tours from Kyoto are also available. For example, Kyoto Departure – 1 Day Hiroshima & Miyajima Tour is a very popular tour. JTB, one of the largest travel agencies in Japan, operates this tour.
Miyajima and Itsukushima Shrine embody the essence of Japan’s natural beauty and spiritual depth. A visit to this sacred island is not just a journey through scenic landscapes but a voyage into the heart of Japanese culture and history. It’s a place where the divine and the earthly realm meet, offering moments of reflection, peace, and wonder.