A day trip to Miyajima Island

Miyajima island is located, as one might expect for an island, just off the coast of Honshu – about forty minutes from Hiroshima which makes for an easy day trip. Miyajima is revered as one of Japan’s holiest sites, and home to several important Buddhist and Shinto shrines (Miyajima actually means “shrine”).

When we arrived we were met by the world’s most adorable welcome committee – Miyajima’s famous deer, which wander the streets by the ferry port to the delight of visitors. They are quite used to humans, and very friendly!

Stroking a deer from Miyajima Island
Meeting the deer of Miyajima Island

We sat down to check our map under a sign which told us we must absolutely, totally not feed the deer. Unfortunately, I don’t think the deer read the memo, as they made light work of Craig’s map.

Miyajima Island deer eyes up Craig's map
“What’s that you’ve got there in your hand? It looks tasty”
The Miyajima Island deer ate Craig's map
Craig’s Map: 0 Deer: 1

A third of a map lighter, we left the deer and made our way to the tori gate. This famous “floating gate” sitting just off the sea wall is one of the icons of Japan, and graces many a travel guide cover. When the tide is in, it looks as if it is sitting on top of the waves.

Floating gate of Miyajima Island
The floating tori gate of Miyajima Island

At the peak of Miyajima island is Mount Misen, which has been a holy Buddhist site for over a thousand years after being consecrated by a monk. Getting to the mountain is a steep hike through dense, shaded forest. Or you can do what we did, and get the cable car.

The cable car to Mount Misen on Miyajima Island
Cheating, and taking the cable car up to Mount Misen

The view from the peak is stunning – a breathtaking look across the bay to favourite fishing spots and uninhabited islands.

View from Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
The stunning views from Mount Misen
The view from Mount Misen, Miyajima Island
Looking out across the bay from Mount Misen

We’d been fortunate enough (unlike with Kyoto) to time our trip for a beautiful spring day. We sat savouring the warm spring breeze and congratulating ourselves on picking such a perfect afternoon for our visit.

At the top of the hill is also a squat little temple, which contains a holy fire that has burned for over 1,000 years and is designated as a “lovers sanctuary”. The flame was used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima’s Peace Park, and the room was filled with eye-watering smoke from the fire and the candles lit in prayer.

A temple on top of Mount Misen, Miyajima Island

Mount Misen temple
Candles lit at the temple on top of Mount Misen

Since gravity was on our side this time, we opted to hike back down the hill. A wise choice, as the forest path was pretty steep and we spotted a few people puffing their way in the opposite direction.

As we neared the bottom of the hill, we stumbled into the Daisho-In temple – a Shingon Buddhist temple which is considered one of the most honoured in Japan. We walked up the steps into the complex, running our hands along the daihannyakyo sutra prayer wheels that lined the stairs; doing so is supposed to bring us fortune.

Daihannyakyo prayer wheels
The Daihannyakyo prayer wheels at the Daisho-In temple

Inside the main hall were over 1,000 little wooden carvings known as Fudo myo-o, which apparently were donated by temple worshippers.

Fudo myo-o statues
Incense burns in front of the Fudo myo-o statues

Heading back down, we took a side path and found ourselves in amongst hundreds of tiny statues, all wearing hats!

Rakan statues at the Daisho-In temple on Miyajima Island
The Rakan statues at the Daisho-In temple on Miyajima Island

I had assumed we’d somehow arrived at a garden gnomes football convention, but actually these were Rakan statues who depict disciples of the Buddha. They all had different facial expressions and looked very pleased with their knitwear!

Miyajima Island was an easy day trip that had it all: a hike, beautiful scenery and a bit of culture. A perfect way to make the most of Japan’s lovely spring weather!

If you want to go to Miyajima Island
  • The journey is a straight train from Hiroshima station to Miyajimaguchi, which takes about 25 minutes and can be done using the Japan Rail pass.
  • From Miyajimaguchi, there is a JR ferry (also included in the rail pass) which is clearly signposted from the station and leaves frequently. The journey is about ten minutes.
  • The cable car costs ¥1,000 (about £6.50) per person for a one way trip.
  • Maps are available when you arrive on Miyajima Island. Don’t feed yours to the deer.

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4 Comments

  1. During our RTW trip, Japan was our first stop and we also opted to do a day trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima. And we ALSO elected (smartly) to take the cable car up to the top of the mountain (though did the extra hike to get to the very top, which I was less enthused by) and then hiked back down (which wound up taking us way longer than anticipated and, given that we were there in August when humidity is at its peak, was actually not much fun for us either). I loved the deer and the tranquil atmosphere on the island, but I also loved the momiji manju cooking class we did at the top of the cable car stop… do they still offer that? It was so random but so much fun (& delicious too!).

    June 19, 2015
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      Hi Steph!

      It’s such a nice way to spend a day, isn’t it? Smart choice on the cable car 🙂

      We didn’t see any cookery classes being advertised, which is a shame as I would have signed up like a shot! Maybe it’s a seasonal thing? We visited in April which is perhaps less busy.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      June 22, 2015
      Reply
  2. Amalia said:

    Hi! Thanks for sharing this post (and the cute deer). May I know how many hours did you approximately spend on Miyajima excluding travel time? I’m planning for a trip on November but am still torn on whether Miyajima should be a full-day trip or a half-day trip..

    June 3, 2016
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      Hi Amalia
      We spent most of the day there, but you could spend a half day if you were very tight on time. This will of course impact the kind of experience you have there.
      During our day we had time to see the floating gate, visit the top of the island and have a lunch break and chance to admire the views, and hike down with another stop at a temple before taking a bit of a walk back to the ferry with a snack break. I think you’d struggle to fit all of this in to a half day, but you could take the train up to the top and back down again which would be quicker if you aren’t bothered about seeing a second temple.
      If you have time to make it a full day (and enjoy hiking!) then it’s very worthwhile so you don’t feel rushed and can explore the island properly at a relaxed pace.

      July 21, 2016
      Reply

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