Miyajima and Itsukushima shrine


Friday, December 4th, I get up early to go to visit the island of Miyajima. Doris also wants to visit the island and we decide to spend the day together. Forty minutes by tram and ten minutes by ferry and here we are on the sacred island of Miyajima. It is forbidden to be born there, to die there and to cut trees. The island is a World Heritage Site by Unesco and that is understandable. The vegetation is lush and the various temples and shrines housed in the island are beautiful.

Rain and sun blend when we land. A beautiful rainbow seems to draw a bridge between Miyajima and Hiroshima. The small village and the beach immediately confirm the beauty of the island.

View of the island from the ferry - Miyajima - © Claire BlumenfeldThe beach and the village of Miyajima - Miyajima - © Claire BlumenfeldMiyajima is also home to a large population of wild deer roaming free through tourists, not scared and who do not hesitate to try to steal food. It is quite strange to see the tourists being photographed with a small group of deer in the foreground.

What makes Miyajima famous is Itsukushima Shrine and its floating torii (as it seems to float on the water at high tide) on the shore. The sanctuary dates from the 6th century. (The current sanctuary dates from 1168). Due to the sacred status of the island, visitors at the time were not allowed to stay on the ground. The sanctuary was built on stilts with many pontoons. Visitors had to pass under the floating torii and dock on the pontoons.

The torii and the sanctuary are beautiful and very impressive. The architecture is remarkable and the ubiquitous red color contrasts with the blue of the sky and the green of the mountain. Doris and I cross the sanctuary feeling like we are in the past. The sacred side of the island seems to be physically present at our side.

The floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine - Miyajima - © Claire BlumenfeldItsukushima Shrine - Miyajima - © Claire Blumenfeld

A traditional bridge very rounded (it had to be difficult to climb on it!) Appears at the turning of one of the buildings of the temple and I have the impression to find myself within The Journey of Chihiro (from Master Hayao Miyazaki) . One of the goals of my trip to Japan is to try to find in reality the famous Yubaba bathing establishment. At least I already found the bridge. The only thing missing is the building and yôkais everywhere and that will be good.

We also come across a traditional wedding that is held in the sanctuary and is open to the public. The bride wears a kimono all white and a very large headdress on the head. Three musicians play traditional tunes using small flutes and a mouth organ (the man at the back of the picture). An officiating monk and young maids are busy bringing things or drinking. The ceremony is very formal and it doesn’t appears really fun.

Sounds of Miyajima – Traditional wedding :


We also visit the Senjô-kaku, a huge building built in 1587 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (one of Japan’s unifiers during the Sengoku period, a period of military conflict and social turbulence in Japan that stretched from the mid-15th century to the end of 16th century). The building, a huge open hall, was built so that every month Buddhist sutras can be sung to console the souls of soldiers who died in the war.

The place is impressive in size and in its entirely wooden structure. Beautiful old paintings are hung on each frame of the ceiling. I wander a long time among the gigantic pillars letting me soak in the atmosphere of the place.

Inside the Sensô-kaku - Miyajima - © Claire Blumenfeld

Completely open to the outside, the Senjô-kaku can also have a nice view of the village of Miyajima. A five-storey pagoda is also located next door.

Village view from inside the Sensô-kaku - Miyajima - © Claire Blumenfeld

Doris and I then leave in search of a meal. A walk through the main commercial and therefore touristic village allows us to taste different specialties of the island: Momiji Manjû, cupcakes in the shape of maple leaf (momiji in Japanese) stuffed with red beans paste and fried, a pure delight! (Later in the day, I also tested cheese-filled versions and cream, it’s still good!). The momiji  cakes are everywhere in Japan but the “fried” version is specific to Miyajima. Next stop at a stand of kebabs and oysters. I’m testing a bacon-asparagus skewer. Not bad but not great either. We finish our culinary journey in a small restaurant serving Okonomiyaki. These are omelette or pancake species stuffed with various ingredients. Those of Miyajima are made with noodles. It’s very good.

Full, we attack the ascent of Mount Misen, 530m above sea level. The climb in the lush forest is very beautiful but the path is made of stairs! 530m uphill stairs, it’s not a party of pleasure. Fortunately the climb takes only one hour (against the good hour and a half indicated on the panel at the beginning of the climb). The view from the top is very beautiful, especially as the weather is completely clear. You can see the islands around and almost see Shikoku on the horizon.

A nice little temple is not far from the summit. Lost in the middle of the forest at 500m altitude, the place is a little unreal. We go down on the other side to reach the shrine of Itsukushima again. It’s high tide! The torii and the sanctuary have their feet in the water.

The floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine at high tide - Miyajima - © Claire BlumenfeldItsukushima shrine at high tide - Miyajima - © Claire BlumenfeldWe stay with Doris on the island until night falls and then we take the ferry back to the shore of Hiroshima. Dinner in a small restaurant for a traditional meal and we leave each other, as I sleep tonight in another guesthouse right next to the ferry port of Miyajima. (The guesthouse will also be much less friendly than the one in Hiroshima where I spent my previous two nights, a bit of a shame).

This day was truly a success. The island of Miyajima is really beautiful and I had the opportunity to spend a whole day discussing many different things in English with a young Chinese, very friendly and with the same affinities as me. Thank you Doris for crossing my path!


  1. Super ! Encore de bien belles visites dis donc ! C’est marrant la coiffe de la mariée tout de même ^.^ En tout cas les lieux ont l’air particulièrement enchanteresques ! (et oui ce mot n’existe pas)
    Mais alors, si j’ai bien compris, les gens du village doivent retourner sur le continent pour accoucher ?

    1. Oui Miyajima était vraiment très belle. La coiffe de la mariée est vraiment grosse, assez impressionnante. Le kimono est tellement serré que la mariée ne peut se déplacer qu’à petits pas. D’après ce que j’ai compris oui, les gens doivent retourner accoucher sur le continent. Par contre, il est apparemment interdit d’y mourir. Mais je vois pas comment c’est possible. Il est possible de mourir sans être prévenu à l’avance (accident ou autre)… Qu’est ce qu’il se passe alors ? Les gens sont maudits ? Mystère 🙂

  2. Là encore ton voyage au Japon me rappelle de très bons souvenirs. J’ai dormais sur l’île dans un superbe Ryokan.
    Mais pour ma part, je n’ai pas fais l’ascension des 530m d’escaliers. A voir tes photos, je regrette…
    Cette île est superbe. A marée basse j’était aller sous le Torii.
    Et moi aussi j’avais assisté à un mariage. Les mariés étaient assez souriant. Et j’avais pu voir une cérémonie avec notamment une représentation d’un personnage légendaire.
    Tu as dû le voir, il y a une statue à la gare du ferry, coté Hiroshima. Tu vois ?

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