Image: Aerial view of Miyajima Island

Miyajima – The Holy Island

This post was last updated on February 1st, 2020 at 06:14 pm

Miyajima is one of the most famous highlights of Japan. This holy island is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is known for the torii, also known as the holy gate. This gate is one of the most photographed points in Japan. And that is not surprising because the gate, with the green island of Miyajima in the background, is one of the three best views in Japan.



This holy island is officially named “Itsukushima”. It is located in the Japanese inland sea, close to the city of Hiroshima, making it a popular day trip. Most people come here for the Torii, the holy gate, but the island itself also excels in beauty.


Miyajima has a number of beautiful walking routes, characteristic temples, and roaming (tame) deer and monkeys.


The biggest attraction here is the Itsukushima-jinja (see photo below)


Image of: Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima, Japan

Itsukushima-jinja Shinto Shrine in the water


Back to Basic in Japan

Miyajima is also the name of the only town, or actually village, on the island, it has only 2,000 inhabitants. You will not find modern buildings here like in Tokyo, but traditional small houses. You will also find many souvenir shops. The rest of the island is all about peace and, above all, beautiful nature. Miyajima and parts of the sea around it belong to the Setonaikai National Park and are therefore well protected.


History of Miyajima

The beauty of the island is partly due to a special history of Miyajima. According to the Japanese, the grounds of Miyajima are so sacred that “ordinary” people were not allowed to come to the island because they were afraid that this would harm the island.


Buddhists were allowed to come close. They sailed by boat to the torii to honor the island from there. A special rule but it did make sure that nature was preserved during all those years.


Today you are allowed to come to Miyajima but you still have to follow a number of (separate) rules. For example, you cannot die on the island (wasn’t our intention anyway!).


Image of: Cute Monkeys on Miyajima Island
Cute Monkeys on Miyajima Island


Miyajima on the UNESCO World Heritage List

The torii has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996. The torii was built as a gateway to a Shinto shrine (famous temples in Japan). This one is a building made of wood that stands in the sea.


Just like the torii, the sanctuary itself is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With low tide, you can view the base of the torii. During the high tide the torii seems to float above the water, one of the reasons that the torii is photographed so much.


Image of: Amazing beach in Japan
Miyajima also has an amazing beach!


Sightseeing in Miyajima

In addition to the world-famous torii and the beautiful island, there are more things to see and do on Miyajima. For example, you can climb Mount Misen. You can also reach this 500-meter high mountain with a cable car or take one of the three hiking trails.


The easiest route is the Daisho-in where you will find the Daisho-in temple complex at the start of the route. In addition to the Daisho-in, there’s also a five-story pagoda; the Goju-no-to.


Image of: Rocky coast at Miyajima island
The rocky coast of Miyajima Island


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